TIME Crime

6 Chinese Nationals Charged With Stealing U.S. Trade Secrets

A logo sign outside of a facility operated by Avago Technologies in Allentown, Pennsylvania on April 12, 2015
Kris Tripplaar—Sipa USA/ AP A logo sign outside of a facility operated by Avago Technologies in Allentown, Penn. on April 12, 2015

Federal officials are concerned about China stealing U.S. technology

Three Chinese nationals who earned advanced degrees from the University of Southern California and three others have been charged with stealing wireless technology from a pair of U.S. companies.

Federal prosecutors say Hao Zhang, Wei Pang and Huisui Zhang met at the university and conspired to steal technology from Skyworks Solutions Inc. and Avago Technologies soon after graduating in 2006. Both companies are publicly traded chip suppliers for Apple’s iPhones and manufacture other communications-related products.

A 32-page indictment charging the six with economic espionage and trade secret theft was unsealed after Hao Zhang was arrested Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport after arriving from China to attend a scientific conference. The five others are believed to be in China.

Federal officials say foreign governments’ theft of U.S. technology is one of the biggest threats to the country’s economy and national security. They are particularly concerned with China.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Tuesday the U.S. government takes “economic espionage” very seriously.

“This case demonstrates that the U.S. is committed to protecting U.S. companies’ trade secrets and their proprietary business information from theft. This is an important issue for the United States,” he told reporters in Washington.

A spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Chinese consulate in San Francisco was unaware of the indictment and declined to comment.

The indictment alleges that the three USC alums began plotting in late 2006 to steal trade secrets from the U.S. companies where Hao Zhang and Wei Pang worked.

Months after their 2006 graduation, Wei Pang sent an email to China discussing the trio’s plan to use purloined U.S. trade secrets to set up a factory in China to manufacture technology that eliminates interference from wireless communications, according to the indictment. Wei Pang boasted in the same email that the technology is worth $1 billion a year in the phone market alone, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that the men stole “recipes, source code, specifications, presentations, design layouts and other documents marked as confidential.”

Hao Zhang made a brief court appearance Monday in Los Angeles and remains in custody. It’s unclear if he is represented by an attorney.

The USC graduates received encouragement and support from officials at the state-run Tianjin University, according to the indictment.

In 2006, Hao Zhang worked for Skyworks Solutions Inc. in Woburn, Massachusetts, and Wei Pang took a job in Fort Collins, Colorado, with Avago Technologies, which has headquarters in San Jose, California, and Singapore.

Wei Pang allegedly sent an email to two other defendants soon after, forwarding notes he took during a work meeting in 2006.

“My work is to make every possible effort to find out about the process’s every possible detail and copy directly to China,” Wei Pang is alleged to have written.

Hao Zhang and Wei Pang quit their U.S. jobs in spring of 2009 to become professors at Tianjin University, a prestigious Chinese college 130 miles southeast of Beijing. The men worked with administrators and a graduate student to establish a Chinese company to make the technology.

Avago executives became suspicious of the Tianjin team when they saw Hao Zhang’s patent applications for technology created by the company, according to the indictment.

Richard Ruby, Wei Pang’s former boss at Avago attended a conference in China in late 2011 and toured the new Tianjin lab created by the defendants, according to the indictment. During that tour, he recognized technology stolen from Avago and confronted Wei Pang and Jingpin Chen, a college dean, the indictment stated.

Wei Pang and Jingpin Chen denied stealing any technology, according to the indictment.

Jingpin Chen is also named in the indictment along with Zhao Gang and Chong Zhou. None of the defendants in China could be reached for comment.

TIME Transportation

False Alarm Sends Panicked Passengers Onto LAX Tarmac

It's not clear how the rumor ended up on the public address system

About 20 people fled onto the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday after an announcement mistakenly warned of a gunman on the loose.

The false alarm appeared to be linked to an incident outside Terminal 2, where police responding to a possible suicide attempt detained an unarmed man, according to the Associated Press. LAX Police Sgt. Belinda Joseph said he was apprehended and taken to a hospital, but “someone said that there was a man with a gun, which was not true.”

Passengers waiting to board exited the terminal onto the tarmac through emergency doors, but police say they remained “under observation” while near the planes. The incident was over in about 15 minutes.

[AP]

TIME Transportation

FAA Confirms Spy Plane Caused LAX Chaos

Cold War Spy Plane
AP A U.S. U2 reconnaissance plane taking off at the U.S. airbase in Osan, south of Seoul, South Korea.

Federal aviation authorities say the security situation at Los Angeles International Airport last week that scrambled computers and caused flight cancelations was actually just a Cold War-era U2 aircraft passing overhead at high altitude

The FAA confirmed Monday that a U2 spy plane flying over Southern California last week scrambled computers and caused overall confusion at Los Angeles International Airport, resulting in flight cancellations and delays.

The Cold War-era plane confused aging computers when it flew over LAX on April 30, the FAA said. Even though the plane was flying almost twice as high as commercial airliners, the FAA said in a statement that “the computer system interpreted the flight as a more typical low-altitude operation and began processing it for a route below 10,000 feet.”

Commercial planes and the jet were miles apart with no risk of collision. But according to the FAA, “the extensive number of routings that would have been required to de-conflict the aircraft with lower-altitude flights used a large amount of available memory and interrupted the computer’s other flight-processing functions.”

The problem was resolved within an hour, although LAX reported that 50 flights were canceled and 455 experienced delays. Precautions are being made so that facilities using older computer systems will have increased available memory to prevent similar situations in the future. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta also said Friday that all 20 centers in the country will be running on a new computer system by next March.

[NBC News]

TIME Aviation

Computer Glitch Grounds Flights at LAX

The ground stop lasted for about an hour on Wednesday afternoon and affected several other airports in Southern California, Nevada and Utah. Flight delays are still being reported

Updated 7 p.m. ET

Due to a computer malfunction the Federal Aviation Authority issued a ground stop for all departing flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) that lasted for about an hour. Flights began departing again at around 3:20 p.m. PT.

Shortly after 2 p.m. local time LAX announced on Twitter that flights were allowed to land but not to depart at LAX. Some incoming flights were reportedly being diverted to other unaffected airports, the Los Angeles Times reports. Seveal other airports were also affected, according to CBS, including those in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

It remains unclear how many flights altogether were affected by the glitch.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Transportation

The Electric Toothbrush Bomb Scare at LAX

Baggage handlers at Los Angeles’ LAX airport sounded the alarm about an object vibrating in a bag that turned out to be a toothbrush. The police cleared the bag and no evacuations were ordered and no delays were reported

Officials were given a fright Wednesday when baggage handlers at Los Angeles’ LAX airport raised alarm about an object vibrating in a bag.

Los Angeles International Airport police were on the scene at terminal two by about 11:25 a.m., the Los Angeles Times reports. Units from the Los Angeles police bomb squad and fire department cleared the package by 12:06 p.m. The mysterious buzzing object turned out to be … an electronic toothbrush.

No evacuations were ordered and officials reported no delays as a result of the bomb scare.

LAX baggage handlers were accused last month of running what authorities believe was likely the biggest baggage theft operation in the airport’s history.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME NFL

The 49ers’ Aldon Smith Is Arrested at LAX After Talking About a Bomb

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) reacts after sacking Chicago Bears quarterback Jason Campbell during the first half of their NFL football game San Francisco
Beck Diefenbach—Reuters San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith reacts after sacking Chicago Bears quarterback Jason Campbell during an NFL football game in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2012

The star linebacker's checkered history with law enforcement continued over the weekend after he was arrested for suggesting during a random screening with security officials that he was carrying a bomb before heading to the gate area

San Francisco 49ers’ star linebacker Aldon Smith’s checkered history with law enforcement off the field continued on Sunday, after the 24-year-old Pro Bowler was arrested after suggesting to security officials at the Los Angeles International Airport that he was carrying a bomb.

After being randomly selected for secondary screening, Smith reportedly became “belligerent and uncooperative with the process and with the TSA agent, making a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb before proceeding toward the gate area,” Sergeant Karla Ortiz said in a statement.

Smith was later arrested at his gate by airport police officers and taken into custody and booked for felony false report of a bomb threat. He was later released on Sunday evening on $20,000 bail, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a press release. “As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment.”

Sunday’s incident was the latest in a growing list of ugly incidents involving Smith since he joined the league three years ago. The linebacker sat out five games in the 2013 season in order to receive treatment for substance abuse after being arrested and charged in September on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and possessing marijuana.

In October, Smith was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, which stemmed from an incident that erupted during a party at his home, where he reportedly discharged a weapon in the air and was stabbed during a fight.

TIME Crime

LAX Baggage Handlers Pilfered From Luggage for Months, Police Say

LAX Luggage Thefts
Nick Ut—AP A passenger enters the terminal Thursday March 27, 2014 at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. Police say six people were arrested Wednesday March 26, 2014, after officers served more than two dozen search warrants after a months-long investigation into baggage theft at Los Angeles International Airport.

Baggage handlers pilfered electronics and jewelry among other possessions for months, authorities say, in what is perhaps the largest baggage theft operation in the history of the airport. Many of the hot items, whose monetary value is yet unknown, ended up on Craigslist

Authorities said Thursday that they suspect at least 14 baggage handlers at Los Angeles International Airport of stealing thousands of dollars of items from luggage over the course of months.

In what is probably the largest baggage theft operation in the history of the airport, handlers stole electronics and jewelry among, other possessions, police said. The thieves allegedly sold many of the items that they stole from secure areas of the airport on Craigslist, the Los Angeles Times reports. Police do not yet know the total monetary value of everything stolen.

Police have arrested six LAX workers and detained another eight workers after obtaining 25 search warrants for the homes and lockers of the suspects. “We have multiple companies that deal with baggage at the airport for airlines. But one company had more reported thefts in their terminals than the others and so we began investigating their baggage workers,” Los Angeles International Airports Police Chief Pat Gannon said, according to the Times. “At any airport there are always theft of baggage, but we knew this was prevalent at Bradley and Terminal 4.”

Despite the number of suspects, authorities believed that there wasn’t a conspiracy. “I think there was a lot collusion but not an organized ring,” Gannon said. “The investigators believe there was a group who took advantage of the opportunities.”

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME celebrities

Kanye West Pleads No Contest in Assault Case

Kanye West attends the Givenchy during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2014-2015 on March 2, 2014 in Paris.
Dominique Charriau—Getty Images Kanye West attends the Givenchy during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2014-2015 on March 2, 2014 in Paris.

After pleading no contest to charges, the rapper was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and 24 private therapy sessions for anger management after he assaulted a photographer at Los Angeles International Airport last July

Rapper Kanye West was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and serve 24 months of probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor battery on Monday.

West was charged with assault after getting into a rumble with a photographer at Los Angeles International Airport last July. The photographer, Daniel Ramos, claims West punched him and tried to take his camera. West has also pleaded not guilty to criminal battery and attempted grand theft. He did not appear in court on Monday, but entered his plea through an attorney, according to the Associated Press.

Photographs from the incident show West grabbing the photographer ‘s camera; during the pretrial hearing Monday in Los Angeles the photographer said he believed the rapper should “be sent to jail.” According to WPGC, a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, the judge also ordered West to spend one day in county jail. He is also required to attend 24 private therapy sessions for anger management and make an undisclosed monetary restitution. The amount will be disclosed on June 17.

[AP]

TIME photo essay

Space Shuttle Endeavour Exclusive: A Timelapse of the Final Ride

350,000 photos shot over the course of 6 days reveal an exclusive look at the Shuttle Endeavour's final journey through Los Angeles.

Gene Cernan and Tom Stafford did not give a thought to a 12-year-old photographer named Scott Andrews in the early morning hours of June 3, 1966. The two astronauts had just strapped themselves into the cockpit of their Gemini 9 spacecraft — a tiny pod into which they were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, nose-to-instrument panel, atop 109 ft. of Titan missile. Sometime that morning, massive tanks of aerozene 50 and nitrogen tetroxide would mix and explode in the belly of the Titan, producing an eruptive thrust of 430,000 lbs. and hurling the men into orbit. Two launch attempts had been scrubbed already, and for this third one, the back-up astronauts — Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin — had left a teasing little note in the cockpit: “We were kidding before, but not anymore, get your…uh…selves into space, or we’ll take your place.”

Cernan and Stafford did get into space that day, and when their Titan lit, at 6:38 AM ET, Andrews was there, watching his first-ever manned launch, snapping and snapping and snapping away. He came back for Gemini 10 as well, and then 11, and then 12, and nearly all of the Apollos, and Skylabs and shuttle missions that followed. By college, he was photographing the launches professionally. The only three manned liftoffs he missed in his long career were two of the 135 shuttle launches and that of the ill-fated Apollo 13 — a break both in his own streak and the Apollo program’s run of luck. “[Flight director] Chris Kraft later told me that he wished he’d flown me down there himself,” says Andrews, now 58.

There are no manned American flights for Andrews to shoot these days, of course. The final shuttle flew in 2011 and NASA has no coherent timeline for putting humans back in space — or even a coherent idea of where it wants to send them when it does. The shuttles are now little more than museum pieces: Enterprise sits on the deck of the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York’s Hudson River; Discovery is on display at the Smithsonian Institution; Endeavour is at the California Science Center (CSC) in Los Angeles; and Atlantis is now preparing for its unveiling at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

But there was a sense of grandeur in the act of retiring at least one of the ships — though it took a certain kind of vision to find it. Andrews provided that vision. Getting Endeavour to the CSC required not just the familiar piggyback flight atop a heavy-lift 747, but also an improbable, winding crawl through 12 miles of city streets from Los Angeles International Airport to the museum itself. Andrews, along with his son Philip and former Apple software engineer Stan Jirman went along for the ride, capturing the journey in a stop-action video that conveys the extraordinary complexity of Endeavour’s final trip.

The video begins with the stacking of the shuttle atop the 747 transporter at the Kennedy Space Station in Florida and the later unstacking at Los Angeles Airport, then follows the earthbound orbiter on the slow crawl along the avenues, side streets and residential roads of L.A. The 6-and-a-half minutes of footage are just a tiny fragment of what was supposed to be a 36-hr. trip and turned out to take four days — and from the look of the video, it’s a wonder it didn’t take much longer. Endeavour crept along in a motorcade attended not just by police and news crews, but by a swarm of tree-wranglers and cherry-pickers, who came along to prune back or pull aside overhanging branches, power lines and suspended signs. With a 78-ft. wing span and a 58-ft. high tail, Endeavour required a lot of this impromptu path-clearing — not to mention the complete removal of hundreds of trees in advance of the trip. The city has promised that for every tree uprooted, three or four younger, healthier ones will be replanted.

Andrews and his team left none of this unrecorded. Their 12 cameras captured about 500 hours — or six terabytes — of data over the course of the four days, nearly all of which they spent on the flat-bed crawler with the shuttle, getting about four hours’ sleep out of every 24. “We were up almost constantly,” says Andrews. “It was a total blur.”

And that was only the first part of the job. The team knew they wanted to run their video at an eye-friendly 24 frames per second, meaning they needed just over 9,500 frames, which they had to select from the more than 350,000 they shot. That work fell to Jirman, who devoted about 100 man hours and 22 CPU days to choosing the images, stitching them together and painstakingly deflickering the frame-to-frame transitions, which included smoothing out the constant changes in lighting, especially those between night and day. Most of the work was done on a MacPro processor that consumes 700 watts when it’s really cranking — not counting the power the two 30-in. monitors burn. Jirman estimates that paying a Pacific Gas & Electric rate of $0.38 per kilowatt hour, he ran up a $178 electric bill just to keep the computers running.

Scott Andrews
Scott Andrews

The video record that resulted from all this effort has helped turn what plenty of people in the space industry viewed as a funeral procession into something of a grand promenade. The shuttles will never fly again, but they have a different kind of value now. The things they did and the stories they tell can inspire and shame in equal measure—prodding us to make our way back into space and forcing us to explain ourselves if we don’t. The same is true of the men who flew the early missions. Just last Saturday, the very same Stafford and Cernan, now 82 and 79, flew to Lake Forest, Ill., to attend a rousing 85th birthday celebration for Jim Lovell, the Gemini 9 back-up and the commander of the Apollo 13 mission Andrews missed. All of the men are still active, all of them still travel and work (Lovell only grudgingly agreed to give up flying his own plane last year) and all of them, having done their generation’s bit to make America a space-faring nation, jolly well expect this generation to carry that effort on. That’s a message Endeavour’s victory lap ought to send too.


Scott Andrews is a photographer based in Washington D.C. His son, Philip Scott Andrews, is also a professional photographer based in Chicago. Stan Jirman is a software engineer at Lytro in San Francisco.

Jeffrey Kluger is an editor-at-large at TIME, overseeing the magazine’s science, health and technology reporting.


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