Database Is Shut Down by NASA for a Review

NASA has shut down a large public database and is limiting access to agency facilities by foreign citizens as part of a broader investigation into efforts by China and other countries to get information about important technology.
NASA announced the security procedures this week, after the F.B.I. arrested a Chinese citizen at Dulles International Airport in Virginia who had boarded a plane to Beijing.
The man, Bo Jiang, had been working as a contractor at NASA’s Langley Research Center in southern Virginia. According to an affidavit filed on Monday, Mr. Jiang is being charged with making false statements to federal agents — failing to disclose that he was carrying a laptop, hard drive and SIM card that were discovered after a search of his belongings.
An F.B.I. spokesman declined to comment, citing that the case was continuing. A lawyer for Mr. Jiang in Virginia, Fernando Groene, also declined to comment.
On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr, the NASA administrator, told a House committee that he has ordered a review of the “access which foreign nationals from designated countries are granted at NASA facilities,” and had issued a moratorium on any new requests for access from citizens of several countries, including China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.
But it is another step that General Bolden announced — shutting down a giant NASA database used by scientists, engineers, academics and students — that some have criticized as draconian and unnecessary.
The NASA Technical Reports Server is an online repository of millions of journal articles, videos, PowerPoint presentations and other scientific material that for decades has been an indispensable resource on aeronautics and aerospace.
Steven Aftergood, the director of the government secrecy program at the Federation of American Scientists called the move a “wild overreaction,” and said that NASA was caving to pressure by lawmakers who control the agency’s budget.
During the hearing on Wednesday, General Bolden said that the database would be shut down until an investigation was completed into whether documents containing technical information subject to American export control laws had accidentally been put on the server.
Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, who is chairman of a House subcommittee overseeing NASA, said Monday that it was his office that originally notified the F.B.I. that Mr. Jiang might be trying to smuggle material from the Langley center to China.
Mr. Wolf, long a critic of NASA security, said he was tipped to the case by “whistle-blowers” working for the space agency.
By Mark mazzetti

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