Feds drop espionage charges against physics professor

Feds drop espionage charges against physics professor

The Justice Department will drop economic espionage charges against a Temple University professor the government claimed was providing secret technology to China, according to multiple reports.

The misstep is a setback in the government’s attempts to stanch what they say is a massive Chinese economic espionage campaign to pilfer U.S. intellectual property.

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The accused professor, Xi Xiaoxing, was initially charged in May with wire fraud for what the government said was a scheme to share an American company's superconductor technology with China. Superconductors are capable of transmitting electricity with almost no resistance.

Xi was the chair of Temple’s physics department when arrested. He pled not guilty to his charges in June.

Xi’s lawyers said the FBI had misinterpreted the technology behind the the professor’s efforts and overseas communications.

At a presentation given to investigators Aug. 21, Xi and his lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg, presented affidavits from the world’s top physicists who had analyzed Xi’s emails with his Chinese contacts and concluded the professor was conducting a scientific pursuit with little commercial application, the Associated Press reported.

“We found what appeared to be some fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings about the science and technology involved here,” Zeidenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “We were very happy to see they listened to our presentation and it apparently had an impact on them.’’

The dismissal comes as the Obama administration is considering sanctioning Chinese companies for hacking the U.S. private sector.

The FBI recently said economic espionage cases have shot up 53 percent over the last year, mostly due to China-based activity, according to the Journal.