BOSTON — Charles M. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, was charged on Tuesday with making false statements about money he had received from a Chinese government-run program, part of a broad-ranging F.B.I. effort to root out scientists suspected of stealing biomedical research from American laboratories.
Dr. Lieber, a leader in the field of nanoscale electronics, was one of three Boston-area scientists accused on Tuesday of working on behalf of China. His case involves work with the Thousand Talents Program, a state-run program that seeks to draw talent educated in other countries...
...Federal prosecutors said on Tuesday that Dr. Lieber made false representation to questions about his participation in the Chinese program to the United States Department of Defense. He is also charged with misrepresenting his involvement in Thousand Talents and his affiliation with Wuhan University of Technology to officials at the National Institutes of Health.
According to charging documents, Dr. Lieber was paid up to $50,000 per month in salary and $150,000 per year in living expenses by Wuhan University of Technology. He was also awarded more than $1.5 million by the university and the Chinese government to build a laboratory in Wuhan.
Researchers are legally obligated to disclose such payments to their academic institutions.
A representative for Dr. Lieber could not immediately be reached for comment....NBC indicates this is the shakeout from a Boston-wide investigation, including a PLA lieutenant who was studying at Boston University. Here are details from NYT on that:
...Yanqing Ye, a physicist who had been studying at Boston University until last spring, was also charged on Tuesday, accused of lying to authorities about her status as a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army. Ms. Ye, who was charged with visa fraud, making false statements, acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy, is in China and was not be arrested...This is moving a bit fast for me to understand what is happening, but here are my priors:
- I do believe it is clear that there is a Chinese government-wide priority to use whatever means available to obtain economically- and militarily-important scientific and engineering IP from the US.
- I am very skeptical as to the FBI's ability to distinguish between scientists who were stupid (i.e. broke laws accidentally) and those who were evil (those who intended to break laws and transfer science/technology illegally.)
- I believed this before the current Administration, I note
- I suspect that this effort on the part of the FBI will be broadly unproductive for everyone involved.
"The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious," Harvard said in a statement. "Harvard is cooperating with federal authorities, including the National Institutes of Health, and is initiating its own review of the alleged misconduct."
The university added that Lieber has been put on "indefinite administrative leave."Bonkers.
UPDATE 1:48 PM: The Justice Department press release, and the actual indictment. After reading the indictment, it sure seems like the FBI has Professor Lieber dead to rights on lying to the FBI agents who visited him.
CJ's advice: Don't talk to the cops. If you must talk to the cops, don't lie. (Also, don't talk to the cops without a lawyer. But better yet, don't talk to the cops.)