Sherry Chen Hearing

Hearing and Rally Day Action Plan

Hearing: March 14 and 15, 9am to finish. 100 E 5th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (See Map)

Rally: March 14 and 15, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. ​Around the Federal Courthouse. 

Documents: Press Release. English Flyer. Chinese Flyer

Falsely accused of spying, award winning scientist Ms. Sherry Chen’s life was turned upside down.

Case Background

Case Timeline

2013

2013-06

7-hour Marathon Interrogation

Chen was interviewed in her office by two security agents from the Department of Commerce. It was a 7-hour marathon interrogation with no food, water, or break after Chen had worked for half a day. The two agents told Chen that she could not tell this interview to anyone, and that..Read More

2014

2014-10

Publicly Arrested and Falsely Charged

Six FBI agents took her away in handcuffs in front of her colleagues. The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an indictment with a punishment of 25 years in jail and $1M in fines. The original charges included accusing Chen of stealing data, intentionally exceeded authorized access to a database and..Read More

2015

2015-02

Fatal Flaws Found By Chen’s Lawyer and Dismiss Requested

Chen’s lawyer, Peter R. Zeidenberg, a partner at Arent Fox in Washington, defended her case. He found fatal flaws in the case and filed three motions pointing out these flaws and request DOJ to have the case dismissed.

2015-03

Increased to 8-Count charge

The prosecutor went back to grand jury to fix the problems and came back with eight charges and added another prosecutor on his team.

2015-03

All charges dropped

After extensive interviews of witness including almost all of Chen’s coworkers, search of the history of Chen’s bank account statements over twenty years since she came to the US, personal and official email accounts, computer activities, the government decided to drop all the charges against Chen in March 2015.

2016

2016-03

Termination For Same Unfounded Reasons

Despite dropped charges, Department of Commerce still fired Ms. Chen over many of the same issues raised in the case that has been dropped a year earlier.

2016-04

Appeal to DOC’s Decision Filed to MSRB

Within 30 days of the DOC’s decision, Ms. Sherry Chen and her lawyer filed the appeal to that decision for its wrongful termination, racial discrimination and retaliation.

2017

2017-03

MSPB Hearing

Ms. Chen’s appeal will be heard on March 14 and 15 at the Federal Courthouse, Cincinnati, OH.

Justice For Sherry Chen. Justice For All

Sherry Chen, a U.S. Citizen and award winning hydrologist, continues her legal battle with the government -- Department of Commerce on March 14th and 15th at Federal Courthouse in Cincinnati OH. She is appealing DOC's decision for wrongful termination, racial discrimination and retaliation.

In 2014, Sherry was falsely charged by Justice Department as a spy for China; however, no evidence was found after extensive search made by the prosecutors. The Justice Department dropped all charges without explanation right before she was scheduled to go on trial.

Charges were dropped but Sherry's life was turned upside down. She has been terminated by Department of Commerce for the same unfounded reasons. She has been in debt for over 200,000 dollars due to legal fees. The false charges permanently stained her reputation and deprived her of a normal life.

Sherry Chen has been wrestling with the government in the legal battle for equality, fairness and justice, for herself, for you and for all.  

Let's rally for justice for Ms. Sherry Chen during her MSBP hearing.


 

All Sides About The Case

If you’re looking everywhere for spies, you will find spies everywhere, even where they don’t exist.

"The Password"

(Source: The New York Times, 5/9/2015)

The agents accused Mrs. Chen, a hydrologist born in China and now a naturalized American citizen, of using a stolen password to download information about the nation’s dams and of lying about meeting with a high-ranking Chinese official.

As a government employee, Mrs. Chen would have had full access to the database. But she didn’t have a password; the government began requiring passwords in 2009, after the last time Mrs. Chen had used it. So she asked a colleague, Ray Davis, in the adjacent cubicle, for help. Mr. Davis, who had already provided the password and login instructions to the whole office, emailed the password to her.

When Mr. Davis was later questioned by Commerce officials, he said he did not remember giving Mrs. Chen a password. Mrs. Chen said she did not remember receiving one. And neither believed they had done anything wrong, according to reports of their interviews.

The password, however, would come to haunt her. Nearly a year after Ms. Lee’s tip, Mrs. Chen was visited at her office by two special agents from the Commerce Department. They interrogated her for seven hours about the password, and her 15-minute meeting with the Chinese official.

Mrs. Chen says she was living a nightmare. Peter R. Zeidenberg, a partner at Arent Fox in Washington who represented Mrs. Chen, said he believed it was telling that the government went after Mrs. Chen for using a colleague’s password, but not after the colleague who gave it to her — and to the entire office. (Neither Mr. Davis nor anyone else currently employed at the National Weather Service would comment for this article.)

Mr. Adams, her former colleague, said he thought that Mrs. Chen’s Chinese background played a role. “If this had been you or me or someone of European descent who borrowed someone else’s password,” he said, “they would have said, ‘Don’t do this again.’ ” He added: “This is the gratitude the government has shown for her hard work and dedication as a federal public servant. It’s shameful.”

“Why,” Mr. Zeidenberg said he asked, “if she’s a spy, is she coming back from China and telling her colleagues that ‘I met this guy in China and this is what he wants to know’? Why is she telling the guy in China, ‘Here’s my boss’s phone number’? Why is she asking for a password over email? Why would you do that?”

(Source: CBS 60 Minutes, 5/15/2016)

When Chen got back to Ohio, she asked her boss for publicly available information, which she did send to her former classmate. She also searched this government database. Since she wasn't a regular user, Chen borrowed a password from her colleague. Sharing passwords was common in the office. She never sent information from the database to China but federal prosecutors charged Chen with illegally accessing and stealing restricted information.

Prosecutors also charged her with lying about the password. Chen initially denied that a colleague had emailed it to her but she remembered after investigators showed her the email. Her colleague, Ray Davis, initially forgot too.

Peter Zeidenberg: He wasn't charged with misremembering or failing to remember giving her the password. He only remembered it when they showed him the email and he said, literally, "Oh God, that was almost a year ago. I forgot all about that."

(Source: The New York Times, 9/15/2015)

In her search to answer his question, Mrs. Chen asked supervisors for relevant data and at one point searched the National Inventory of Dams’ password-protected website, using a password provided by a colleague. Mrs. Chen never found any information relevant to her classmate’s query, but did download information that was relevant to her work forecasting flooding along the Ohio River, which she never used or shared.

Her use of a colleague’s password to download data from a government website became a major component of the government’s espionage case against her, as well as her dismissal.

The other reasons for the dismissal repeated earlier claims regarding use of the co-worker’s password, which the co-worker had made available to everyone in the office, and even emailed to Mrs. Chen in this case.

Mrs. Chen’s lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg, a partner at the firm Arent Fox, said he planned to help Mrs. Chen respond to Ms. Furgione’s letter. He said if her gravest offense was breaking policy, it is telling that the colleague who provided the password is not being disciplined.

“He gave her the password. He was the supervisor in charge of these passwords,” Mr. Zeidenberg said. “He didn’t know this was a grave offense. So why did they expect her to know?”

Termination

(Source: The New York Times, 9/15/2015)

Government officials say they intend to fire a Chinese-American hydrologist who was prosecuted but eventually cleared of espionage-related charges.

The hydrologist, Sherry Chen, an employee of the National Weather Service, received a letter over Labor Day weekend notifying her that the government planned to fire her for many of the same reasons it originally prosecuted her.

Representative Ted W. Lieu, a Democrat of California, said in an interview on Tuesday that the decision to fire Mrs. Chen was “outrageous” and a “saving face issue” for the agency.

“Their allegations against her do not rise to the level of a termination,” Mr. Lieu said, adding that Mrs. Chen had no previous disciplinary record and had in fact received top reviews and awards for her government service. “If she was not a Chinese-American, she would not have been arrested, indicted and would not now be in the process of being fired.”

(Source: NBC News, 9/16/2015)

Zeidenberg said that for the government to drop charges as an espionage matter, but then pursue termination as an employment matter was "not appropriate."

Chen, a hydrologist, was accused last October of using a stolen password to download information on the nation's dams and reservoirs from a secure database, which coincided with a meeting with a top Chinese official. She pleaded not guilty to multiple counts in February, and the charges were dropped in March. Chen received the letter from the National Weather Service about possible termination, dated Sept. 4, earlier this month.

(Source: Asian American Press, 9/12/2015)

We find it disheartening to hear that Sherry Chen was fired while waiting on administrative leave, but our organizations still hope we can right this wrong and work with the Justice Department to ensure that incidences like hers never happen again,” concluded Kwan.

Decision To Appeal

(Source: The New York Times, 5/9/2015)

“I could not sleep,” Mrs. Chen said in a recent interview. “I could not eat. I did nothing but cry for days.”

Still, she says, she wants her job back. “I know they treated me unfairly, but I’m proud of my service,” she said. “The forecasting model is very important. I miss my colleagues. I miss my work. It’s my life.”

(Source: The New York Times, 9/15/2015)

On Tuesday, Mrs. Chen said she was devastated to learn the government did not intend to reinstate her.

“I have no choice but to get legal representation to respond to this trauma once again,” Mrs. Chen said.

(Source: Mercury News, Bay Area News Group, 8/11/2016)

In an interview, Chen said one of the worst parts of the ordeal was when agents marched her — shackled — past her co-workers. “I felt so ashamed,” she said. “That was something I only saw on TV, when criminals are taken away.”

(Source: Los Angeles Time, 11/18/2015)

Chen said she was arrested at work by six FBI employees. The National Weather Service has not allowed her to return since, she said.

“My career, my normal life and my reputation that had been built over two decades is gone,” she said.

(Source: Daily Democrat News, 2/17/2016)

“Suddenly, there were six FBI agents,” Chen said, a 60-year-old hydrologist. “One showed me an arrest warrant. Another one put me into handcuffs.”

In an interview, Chen said one of the worst parts of the ordeal was when agents marched her — shackled — past her co-workers. “I felt so ashamed,” she said. “That was something I only saw on TV, when criminals are taken away.”

Sherry's Lawyer

(Source: CBS 60 Minutes, 5/15/2016)

Peter Zeidenberg: I think prosecutors are feeling pressure to bring these cases. I think investigators are excited about bringing cases that may be high profile.

Attorney Peter Zeidenberg is a former federal prosecutor who represents both Xiaoxing Xi and Sherry Chen. He believes both American citizens are collateral damage in the government's war against Chinese economic espionage.

Peter Zeidenberg: No, I'm not suggesting that it is. What I'm suggesting is, notwithstanding that fact, before you put handcuffs on someone and take 'em away that you've gotta make sure that you've got your case together. And that the facts add up.

Bill Whitaker: And in these cases?

Peter Zeidenberg: The facts didn't add up.

Four months after Xi's arrest, his lawyer Peter Zeidenberg pointed out the inconsistencies to the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia. Three weeks later, they dropped the case. Zeidenberg sees disturbing parallels with Sherry Chen's case.

Bill Whitaker: So how did she get in trouble?

Peter Zeidenberg: The story started when she went to China to visit her parents. She had a somewhat happenstance meeting with a former classmate of hers, a vice minister in the water ministry.

Peter Zeidenberg: He wasn't charged with misremembering or failing to remember giving her the password. He only remembered it when they showed him the email and he said, literally, "Oh God, that was almost a year ago. I forgot all about that."

Bill Whitaker: Wasn't that Sherry's reaction as well?

Peter Zeidenberg: It was.

Bill Whitaker: Why the disparate reactions from the government?

Peter Zeidenberg: You know, the fact is Sherry Chen is a Chinese American and her colleague was Caucasian. And with Sherry, everything she did, they looked at as somehow nefarious or somehow corrupt.

(Source: The New York Times, 5/9/2015)

Mrs. Chen says she was living a nightmare. Peter R. Zeidenberg, a partner at Arent Fox in Washington who represented Mrs. Chen, said he believed it was telling that the government went after Mrs. Chen for using a colleague’s password, but not after the colleague who gave it to her — and to the entire office. (Neither Mr. Davis nor anyone else currently employed at the National Weather Service would comment for this article.)

A week before trial was to begin, Mr. Zeidenberg requested a meeting with Carter M. Stewart and Mark T. D’Alessandro, two United States attorneys for the Southern District of Ohio.

“Why,” Mr. Zeidenberg said he asked, “if she’s a spy, is she coming back from China and telling her colleagues that ‘I met this guy in China and this is what he wants to know’? Why is she telling the guy in China, ‘Here’s my boss’s phone number’? Why is she asking for a password over email? Why would you do that?”

Mr. Zeidenberg says the prosecutors listened. On March 10, the day after their meeting, they dismissed the charges.

“Thank God,” Mr. Zeidenberg added.

(Source: NPR News, 8/16/2016)

The case is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 24, 2017. In court Tuesday, Ho's lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg of the law firm Arent Fox, argued that Ho should in the meantime be freed on bail.

The judge ordered government prosecutors to identify by Friday any cases in which Chinese-Americans were released on bail and then fled the country, Zeidenberg says.

Zeidenberg declined to discuss other details of Ho's case, because the litigation is ongoing. But in an interview with NPR, he argues that broadly speaking, it fits a pattern of racial discrimination.

Zeidenberg has defended several Asian-American scientists facing espionage-related charges, and he says his clients have been targeted because of their ties to China.

"If their ties were to France or their ties were to Italy or Scandinavia, their conduct would never come under the radar of the [Justice] Department. It's a bright red flag," he says.

A former federal prosecutor, Zeidenberg adds that he understands the challenge presented by Chinese economic espionage. But he believes his former colleagues are overreacting. "They have been way too quick to pull the trigger on these cases and others," he says. "They see conspiracies and patterns and malevolent conduct, when there isn't any."

(Source: NBC News, 9/16/2015)

In an email to NBC News, Chen's attorney Peter Zeidenberg called the letter "extremely disappointing," adding, "We will be contesting it vigorously."

Zeidenberg said that for the government to drop charges as an espionage matter, but then pursue termination as an employment matter was "not appropriate."

In Xiaoxing Xi's case, Zeidenberg was less certain about what would unfold, and said he was waiting to see i Xi would get his job back in the physics department at Temple University.

"That is our hope," Zeidenberg said. He added that "no determination has been made" as far as any legal recourse against the government.

(Source: Dayton Daily News, 3/11/2015)

On Tuesday, prosecutors filed a document with Dayton’s U.S. District Court asking Judge Thomas Rose to dismiss the eight-count indictment a day after defense attorney Peter Zeidenberg met with U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart in Columbus. Rose granted the dismissal Wednesday.

“(Prosecutors) dismissed the case as a result of our discussions, and I think they’re in agreement that the case lacked merit and wasn’t appropriate in proceeding,” Zeidenberg said Wednesday. “I don’t think anything is going to change that analysis.”

Zeidenberg and co-counsel Thomas Zeno had argued in court and in filings that the government overreached in trying to tie Chen to a colleague in China and seeking to bring up that connection to a jury.

“They, originally, thought that this could be some kind of a case of espionage and it turned out that it wasn’t,” Zeidenberg said. “She never provided any information that wasn’t public to anyone.”

Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to present “background noise” evidence about China when the charges only addressed that Chen used a co-worker’s password to access and download information from the National Inventory of Dams.

Zeidenberg said Chen even referred a Chinese colleague to Deborah Lee, the chief of water management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, for more non-sensitive data.

“The government has an awesome amount of power and discretion,” Zeidenberg said. “Prosecutors are careful and judicious. Occasionally, mistakes are made. What I think is really remarkable, and frankly, commendable, is that in this case the government was willing to listen with an open mind, and then act.”

“I hope that she is able to get her job back and be reinstated,” Zeidenberg said, adding that he wished Chen had never been charged, had her life derailed for six months and exhausted her savings to hire attorneys.

Zeidenberg said Chen would not comment, but he said she is relieved that the case is over and hopes to work again. He said it has been “an incredibly traumatic event, and it has been an extremely difficult and painful time” for his client.

Former Federal Prosecutors Comment

(Source: The New York Times, 5/9/2015)

“They came across a person of Chinese descent and a little bit of evidence that they may have been trying to benefit the Chinese government, but it’s clear there was a little bit of Red Scare and racism involved,” said Peter J. Toren, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in computer crimes and industrial espionage.

“The government thought they had struck gold with this case,” said Mark D. Rasch, a former Justice Department espionage and computer-crimes prosecutor who reviewed the case. “The problem was the facts didn’t quite meet the law here.”

“If you’re looking everywhere for spies, you will find spies everywhere, even where they don’t exist,” said Mr. Rasch, the former computer-crimes prosecutor.

"Providing further more uniform Justice Department oversight and support for these types of cases should improve the selection and handling of these cases," Nelson Dong, a former federal prosecutor and now a national security legal expert based with Dorsey and Whitney in Seattle, told NBC News. "More importantly, that will hopefully reduce the likelihood of misjudgments that could otherwise cause such profoundly damaging effects on innocent people."

What Colleagues Said

(Source: The New York Times, 5/9/2015)

Mr. Adams, her former colleague, said he thought that Mrs. Chen’s Chinese background played a role. “If this had been you or me or someone of European descent who borrowed someone else’s password,” he said, “they would have said, ‘Don’t do this again.’ ” He added: “This is the gratitude the government has shown for her hard work and dedication as a federal public servant. It’s shameful.”

Asked whether he thought Mrs. Chen should get her job back, Mr. Adams, her former colleague, said he was torn. “I want her to get her job back as soon as possible,” he said. “But on the other hand, I also hope she never goes back there again. After the way she was treated, she should be concerned that the government hasn’t given up the ghost.”

(Source: The New York Times, 9/15/2015)

Ms. Furgione referred to a former employee of the National Weather Service, Thomas Adams, Mrs. Chen’s former boss at the agency, who had emailed Mrs. Chen, asking her to send him data he had left behind.

However, Mrs. Chen’s supervisor at the National Weather Service told federal agents that the data Mrs. Chen had provided Mr. Adams was not “considered proprietary data.”

Members of Congress Statement

(Source: NBC News, 5/27/2016)

US Congressional leaders and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocacy organizations including Committee of 100 and OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates have called for a US Department of Justice investigation into whether National Weather Service hydrologist Sherry Chen may have been targeted for her race and national origin in now-dropped charges of alleged economic espionage.

"We respectfully request an investigation to determine whether race was a factor in the case," stated a diverse coalition of 22 members of Congress, including Ted Lieu, Judy Chu, and Mike Honda. "We also would like to know whether there is any written or unwritten policy, program, pattern or practice of race (or other civil rights classifications such as religion, gender and national origin) being used by federal agencies in targeting federal employees for arrest, surveillance, security clearance denials or other adverse actions."

Referencing other high profile cases of alleged espionage by Asian Americans like those of Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, Dr. Haiping Su, and Dr. Wen Ho Lee, community leaders say they're concerned there may be a wider pattern of racial profiling, violating Americans' civil and constitutional rights.

"We strongly urge the Department of Justice to do all that is possible to establish appropriate controls, procedures and rules that require reasonable oversight of government investigators and prosecutors," OCA Chief Executive Officer Ken Lee said in a statement. "We fear that absent these controls, in the rush to curtail suspected espionage or information leaks, a failure to exercise proper restraint of racially based suspicions will lead to many more Sherry Chens in the future."

(Source: Bits New York Blogs, 5/21/2015)

Twenty-two members of Congress have asked Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to determine whether race played a factor in espionage-related charges brought against a Chinese-American hydrologist and are asking her to investigate whether there is a practice of targeting federal employees based on their race or national origin.

Representative Ted W. Lieu, a Democrat of California, said in an interview Tuesday that he was concerned that the investigation of Sherry Chen, a 59-year-old National Weather Service employee who was targeted in a high-profile espionage case that was dropped shortly before a trial was set to begin, may be indicative of a broader racial profiling campaign against Asian-Americans.

“There’s been a history of discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans, and the recurrent theme is one of suspicion,” Mr. Lieu said. “We now have Sherry Chen’s case, and I want to make sure our federal government does not discriminate against any Americans, especially federal employees.”

In a letter to Ms. Lynch, Mr. Lieu and 21 members of Congress said they were responding to a recent article in The New York Times that reported federal agents investigated Mrs. Chen as a possible Chinese spy, found no evidence, but still arrested her for lesser charges that could have led to 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Mr. Lieu, as well as members of Asian-American rights groups, are asking for Mrs. Chen’s reinstatement, including five months’ back pay and a public apology.

“We are all in favor of catching the bad guys when the bad guys do something bad, but we are seriously concerned that the F.B.I. and company are jumping to conclusions, not based on any evidence, but on racial profiling,” said George Koo, a member of the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American advocacy group formed in 1990 to promote relations between the United States and China.

“Whenever the relationship is poor, Chinese-Americans suddenly become suspected spies for China,” Mr. Koo said in an interview. “Sherry Chen is just the latest example.”

In the letter to Ms. Lynch, Mr. Lieu and other members of Congress, including California Democrats Barbara Lee, Michael M. Honda, Judy Chu and Mark Takano, said they were particularly concerned that a government insider-threat program, introduced in response to leaks by Edward J. Snowden in 2013, might have led to spurious investigations.

Mr. Lieu noted that it was a government employee who first reported Mrs. Chen. “Federal employees are trained that naturalized citizens are more suspicious and that people who speak a foreign language at home are more suspicious,” he added. “Well that would also apply to me, and I find it offensive.”

Mr. Koo of the Committee of 100 said Asian-American groups hoped to help Mrs. Chen get her job back.

(Source: NBC News, 11/17/2015)

Backed by public outrage over recent cases of Chinese-American scientists accused of espionage, Asian-American congressional leaders will meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday in hopes for substantive action by the Justice Department.

"I don't see why they would not investigate," Rep. Ted Lieu told NBC News.

Lieu, who joined more than 40 members of Congress earlier this month to call for a further investigation, said it was well within the attorney general's power to find out why Sherry Chen of the National Weather Service and Dr. Xiaoxing Xi, a U.S. citizen and Interim Chair of the Physics Department at Temple University, were suspected of economic espionage, only to have all charges against them later dropped.

"[The attorney general] can order an investigation into why Sherry Chen or Dr. Xi were wrongfully indicted and arrested," said Lieu as he outlined possible results of Wednesday's meeting with Lynch. "She could layout a guidance letter saying that Justice Department officials are not to view Asian Americans with more suspicion. She could set up a task force looking at this issue. She could do a number of things. So I look forward to talking to her to see what she'd like to do."

The meeting with Lynch was called by Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and will come one day after Chu questioned the attorney general at a House Judiciary Committee Oversight hearing, with Chen and Xi present.

"While the charges can be dropped, the damage to careers and reputations remains," Chu said in a statement. "Worse, the growing perception that simply being of Asian ancestry or having ties to China can trigger an espionage charge is creating a culture of fear that makes Asian Americans feel unwelcome and afraid to pursue prominent careers. We cannot tolerate another case of Asian Americans being wrongfully suspected of espionage. The profiling must end."

Rep. Mike Honda added that he didn't want the issue to be "swept under the rug."

"I call on the Department of Justice to heed our call and conduct an independent investigation into whether race or ethnicity played a role in their arrests, " Honda said in a statement. "Furthermore, I call on both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Temple University to fully reinstate Ms. Chen and Dr. Xi to their former positions without reprimand or reprisal and provide each of them with a formal apology."

Earlier in the week, a groundswell of public support—more than 70 organizations— joined the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) in signing a letter that called for an independent investigation.

"I think the breadth of support for our letter—and more organizations continue to add their names—demonstrates that this is not a Chinese American issue or an Asian American issue," Christopher Kang, national director of NCAPA, told NBC News. "It is an American issue that strikes at our fundamental values when American citizens are targeted for their race, ethnicity, or national origin."

Lieu said the patterns that emerge in the cases of the scientists are troubling.

"When you have the facts before you, that these were wrongful arrests and indictments, either these were a stunning lack of competence and professionalism among a lot of people in the department of justice," Lieu said. "Or there's something else going on, where people looking at a set of facts are inferring suspicion and bias based on ethnicity and race. It's got to be one of those two to have multiple cases happening of Asian Americans being wrongfully indicted for spying. Neither of those are good outcomes. That's why it's important to see what the attorney general says."

(Source: The New York Times, 9/15/2015)

Earlier this year, 22 members of Congress asked Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to determine whether ethnicity was a factor in the espionage charges against Mrs. Chen, who was born in China but is a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Representative Ted W. Lieu, a Democrat of California, said in an interview on Tuesday that the decision to fire Mrs. Chen was “outrageous” and a “saving face issue” for the agency.

Mr. Lieu said he planned to ask the Justice Department for an independent investigation into whether the initial charges against Mrs. Chen were warranted, and whether, in light of the charges that were also filed against the Temple professor and then dropped, there is a pattern of Chinese-Americans being arrested and indicted on charges based on their ethnicity.

“Their allegations against her do not rise to the level of a termination,” Mr. Lieu said, adding that Mrs. Chen had no previous disciplinary record and had in fact received top reviews and awards for her government service. “If she was not a Chinese-American, she would not have been arrested, indicted and would not now be in the process of being fired.”

(Source: NBC News, 11/5/2015)

More than 40 members of Congress, including Reps. Ted Lieu, Judy Chu, and Keith Ellison, are calling on the U.S. Attorney General to investigate whether race or ethnicity played a role in the accusations of espionage faced by two Chinese-American scientists.

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, dated Nov. 5, the members of Congress expressed concern over "an ongoing pattern and practice of people of color being singled out by federal law enforcement and prosecutors," and requested a "full investigation by the DOJ into the cases of Ms. Chen, Dr. Xi, and other similar cases."

"If it was just one case, then you can say it's a mistake, but we're talking about multiple cases now and that to me is a pattern and we need answers from the Department of Justice," Rep. Ted Lieu told NBC News. "I don't know if they'd investigate without us calling for an investigation."

Lieu added that he felt the recent pattern of charges fell into place with historical patterns of discrimination against Asian Americans. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Lieu said the current patterns have a common thread.

"We want to make sure this doesn't keep happening to the community," Lieu said. "When you have Asian Americans being targeted for espionage for taking actions that otherwise would not be suspicious if they weren't Asian Americans, then you have a problem."

Lieu said a meeting between the attorney general and some congressional members is being planned, where they hope to discuss issues like protocols for prosecutors and law enforcement agents.

Lieu said the matter is a serious one, as indicated in the experiences of Chen and Xi.

"Not only does it affect me personally, it affects the Asian American community," Lieu said. "The view that somehow when people look at us [and think] we're not Americans or of this country is not only a wrongful view, but a very discriminatory view."

Advocacy Organizations Voice

(Source: NBC News, 9/16/2015)

A Justice Department rule change in March gives more experienced prosecutors oversight over national security cases, but that may not be enough to fix the harm done to scientists who have recently been involved and hurt by false allegations, according to Christopher Kang, the national director for the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.

"Although the Department of Justice did not directly tie these new rules to any particular case, the inference is clear," Kang told NBC News. "If, as it appears, the Department recognizes that mistakes were made when it brought espionage-related charges against Asian American scientists and then dropped those charges without explanation, then these men and women deserve an explanation now for how their cases were mishandled. The damage to their lives and careers may be irreversible, but a public apology to them and their employers would be an important first step."

(Source: NBC News, 5/27/2016)

US Congressional leaders and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocacy organizations including Committee of 100 and OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates have called for a US Department of Justice investigation into whether National Weather Service hydrologist Sherry Chen may have been targeted for her race and national origin in now-dropped charges of alleged economic espionage.

(Source: NBC News, 6/21/2015)

More than 80 Asian-American organizations from around the country have formed a coalition calling for the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general to investigate the federal cases brought against Chinese-American scientists for spying that were dropped following further scrutiny.

"My family is very grateful for this call from Asian American and Pacific Islander, civil rights, and civil liberties organizations for a DOJ inspector general investigation," Joyce Xi, the daughter of Xiaoxing Xi, told NBC News. "Finding out what led to these wrongful prosecutions is a first step towards preventing such cases from happening in the future.'

"My father's case remains an injustice," she continued. "The government prosecuted him before understanding the science at the heart of their case. This experience has been a nightmare for our family, and we still haven't heard an explanation for why it happened."

The coalition includes OCA — Asian Pacific American Advocates, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, among others, and is just the latest call for a more thorough look into why Chinese-American scientists have been accused.

(Source: NBC News, 9/9/2015)

The dropping of charges does not mean no future charges could be brought, leaving Xi left waiting, much like Chen has been, said Nelson Dong, a lawyer and a member of the Committee of 100, a Chinese advocacy organization.

Dong was one of three lawyers to draft a letter sent to the Department of Justice, and written in conjunction with more than a half-dozen Asian American community groups, including the National Council of Chinese Americans (NCCA)and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), alarmed by what they believe is a pattern of targeting ethnic Chinese in America.

"There is righteous concern over racial profiling. If the suspicion continues to grow, where there are doubts about the loyalty and patriotism of Asian Americans, we're right back to California of the 1940s," Dong told NBC News, referring to the hysteria in the U.S. that resulted in the incarceration of thousands of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.

Dong said there is a way to do any necessary investigations in a thoughtful and sensitive way that doesn't destroy individuals' lives.

Greater Oversight Required in Future National Security Cases

(Source: The New York Times, 4/26/2016)

While those cases raised the specter of Chinese espionage, none explicitly charged the scientists as spies. The cases involved routine criminal laws such as wire fraud, so national security prosecutors in Washington did not oversee the cases.

In a letter last month to federal prosecutors nationwide, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said that would change. All cases affecting national security, even tangentially, now require coordination and oversight in Washington. That had always been the intention of the rule, but Ms. Yates made it explicit.

“The term ‘national security issue’ is meant to be a broad one,” she wrote.

Ms. Yates told federal prosecutors that consulting with experienced national security prosecutors in Washington would help “ensure prompt, consistent and effective responses” to national security cases.

The letter, which was not made public, was provided to The New York Times by a government official.

John P. Carlin, the Justice Department’s top national security prosecutor, reorganized his staff in Washington in recent years to focus more aggressively on preventing theft of America’s trade secrets. The new rules mean that espionage experts will review cases like Dr. Xi’s. Such cases “shall be instituted and conducted under the supervision” of Mr. Carlin or other top officials, the rules say.

Peter R. Zeidenberg, a lawyer for the firm Arent Fox, who represented Dr. Xi and Ms. Chen, called the new rules “a very positive step.”

“It’s welcome, and it’s overdue,” he said. “A bad reaction would be ‘We’re not going to do anything. Everything is fine.’ ”

(Source: NBC News, 4/27/2016)

A Justice Department memo concerning the rule changes was not released publicly, but a government official provided a copy to the New York Times. Issued by Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates to federal prosecutors nationwide, the memo reportedly requires that national security cases now be overseen by the top national security prosecutors in Washington.

"The new Department of Justice rules to provide greater oversight in all national security related cases are an important step in the right direction," Kang said. "But the Department should have publicly announced these changes so that the American people could have greater confidence that no prosecution in such cases is based on profiling on race, ethnicity, or national origin."

 

Backed by public outrage over recent cases of Chinese-American scientists accused of espionage, Asian-American congressional leaders joined more than 40 members of Congress to call for a further investigation of Ms. Sherry Chen's case.

"I don't see why they would not investigate," Rep. Ted Lieu told NBC News.

Support Letters

Statements From Members of Congress, Advocacy Organizations and Civic Leaders

Support Timeline

2015

2015-05

TWL Letter to Attorney General on Sherry Chen with signatures

Ms Chen’s case, the arrest appeared to be based less on the alleged evidence than on the suspect’s race. Federal prosecutors subsequently dropped the spying charges. In the hearing that freed Mr. Lee, Federal District Judge James Parker stated the government’s tactics; have embarrassed this entire nation and each of..Read More

2015-11

Members of Congress Letter to AG Lynch on Targeting of Asian Americans with signatures

We are concerned that espionage threats from foreign nations are creating a climate in which both and prosecutors are rushing into indictments against Americans who happen to be minorities, into question civil rights protections. Otherwise innocent actions by Americans do not become simply because the person taking those actions has..Read More

2015-11

CAPAC Letter To Department of Commerce Regarding Sherry Chen With Signatures

Despite having all the charges dropped, this arrest and accusation turned Ms. Chen’s life inside out. Not only she been placed on administrative leave from the job that she loves,but she also suffers the mental and impact of being falsely accused of espionage by her own government in a prolonged...Read More

2015-11

United States Commission On Civil Rights Letter to Department of Justice regarding Asian American Prosecutions With Signatures

We are concerned these and other examples may show a pattern of overzealous targeting of Chinese. Members of Congress and national Asian and Chinese American organizations have raised similar with you, but the Department of Justice’s response has been to dismiss these concerns without the underlying policies and practices that..Read More

2015-12

U.S. Senators’ Letter to AG Lynch Regarding Chinese-American Espionage Cases With Signatures

We hope that by closely examining the Chen and Xi cases, as well as other recent cases that resulted in dismissed charges, and by considering what additional role technical and scientific experts might play in assisting investigators and prosecutors, we can strengthen the effectiveness of those cases brought forward in..Read More

2016

2016-07

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Letter To Inspector General With Signatures

On behalf of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, we write to request you to conduct a full and independent into recent espionage prosecutions against Chinese Americans that were eventually dropped. We believe in the need for the government to protect national security. However, we are concerned that cases may..Read More

Organizations That Support Ms. Sherry Chen (Selected)

Ohio Chinese American Association

Committee of 100

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

National Council of Chinese Americans

New Asian Leaders

United Chinese Americans

Ohio Chinese School

Ohio Center for Cultural Exchange

Huaxia Chinese School

Society of Chinese American Professors and Scientists

Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association

The charges can be dropped, but this will never go away

This is the human cost

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