The U.S. Justice Department has dropped espionage charges against Xi Xiaoxing, chairman of Temple University’s physics department. Last spring, Xi was accused of sharing sensitive American-made technology with China. Prosecutors cited schematics of sophisticated laboratory equipment known as a pocket heater and used in superconductor research that was sent by Xi to scientists in China, reports the New York Times. Long after federal agents had led Xi away in handcuffs, experts said that the blueprints were not for a pocket heater.
The Times calls the outcome “an embarrassing acknowledgment that prosecutors and FBI agents did not do enough to learn the science at the heart of the case before bringing charges that jeopardized Xi's career and left the impression that he was spying for China. “I don't expect them to understand everything I do,” said Xi, 57. “But the fact that they don't consult with experts and then charge me? Put my family through all this? Damage my reputation? They shouldn't do this. This is not a joke. This is not a game.” The U.S. faces an onslaught from outside hackers and inside employees trying to steal government and corporate secrets. Xi's case and a similar one dismissed a few months ago in Ohio raise questions about whether the Justice Department, in its rush to find Chinese spies, is ensnaring innocent U.S. citizens of Chinese ancestry.