Title: Tiger Trap
Author: David Wise
Wise, David (2011). Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- Espionage, Chinese–United States–History.
- Intelligence service–China–History.
- Intelligence service–United States–History.
A history of Chinese espionage in America draws on interviews with key FBI and CIA insiders, focusing on two key cases–double agent Katrina Leung and the scientist known as Tiger Trap, who was suspected of stealing nuclear weapons secrets.
Date Updated: October 24, 2017
Wise, a veteran reporter who has been writing about intelligence since the early 1960s, and who is generally regarded as one of the best investigative journalists in the field, has turned his attention to Chinese espionage, which, according to many knowledgeable insiders, now constitutes the most persistent, aggressive, and expanding espionage threat to the West, and in particular, to the U.S. For various reasons, lack of research data in the public domain among them, not many good books on Chinese espionage are available.
Wise has clearly drawn on extensive interviews with FBI counterintelligence officers who worked the Chinese target and he details a string of about a dozen Chinese espionage cases, several of them interrelated, clustered on the West Coast. These cases reinforce the old CIA adage that few cases stand alone – there are often links between them. A number of cases were broken when CIA abroad accepted and nurtured defectors and walk-ins, and secured leads, sometimes fragmentary, that required in some years of investigation. Some never made it to court. For example, the FBI suspected that Guo Bao Min, an engineer at Livermore Lawrence Laboratory, had passed details of the neutron bomb to China, but the Justice Department declined to authorize an arrest. Most embarrassing for the FBI was the penetration of their Chinese operations by their own long-term double agent, Katrina Leung (PARLOR MAID) who was a Chinese “turn-around” double agent, and who was concurrently sleeping with her two senior FBI handlers, neither of whom apparently knew the other was sharing her charms. Leung was, of course, soaking up and eliciting information from both. She also filched classified documents from the briefcase of one handler after lovemaking session in her bedroom, all of which she was passing to her Chinese handler, compromising both FBI HUMINT and technical operations.
Wise also details the penetration of the by Chinese translator, Larry Wu-Tai Chin, perhaps the longest penetration of the U. S. Intelligence Community (32 years.) Chin was exposed to a great deal more classified information than his nominal position with FBIS would suggest. The quantity and quality of the sensitive information of some of these agents passed over the years is sobering indeed. Wise also presents a useful primer on Chinese foreign intelligence collection tradecraft. However, he barely touches on the “difficult to get your arms around” Chinese cyberespionage program, perhaps the most relentless, aggressive, and by all accounts, fruitful area for Chinese foreign intelligence collection in a broad range of fields. These fields range from government agencies and departments, and their contractors, to private sector firms and institutions, from which they harvest economic, military, political, technical, and industrial processes and dual-use technologies. The book is a very useful, if incomplete, overview of the espionage threat from China.
The book was reviewed by Peter L. Mattis, who found it lacking in some important aspects. He points out that Wise was in a “position to offer a fresh view of Chinese intelligence operation updated by newly available materials.” He adds, “Although written in a compelling and engaging manner, Tiger Trap largely fails…to update the American experience with Chinese intelligence, instead relying on worn-out analysis of The Chinese.”
This is one of several books on the U.S. Intelligence Community recommended by Dan Mulvenna, in his “The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf: An annotated bibliography,” compiled by Dan Mulvenna (updated December, 2011) referring to British Intelligence – from WWII to the Present. The other books listed by Mulvenna in this section are below.
deGraffenreid, Kenneth (1999). The Cox Report: The Unanimous and Bipartisan Report of the House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China
 Peter L. Mattis. “The Chinese Tiger Still Evades the Trap,” in International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence (Vol. 25, no. 1, Spring 2012, pp. 185-190).
 Two other, older sources, on Chinese intelligence are: Howard DeVore (1999). China’s Intelligence and Internal Security Forces. Coulsdon, UK: Jane’s Information Group; and Enftimiades, Nicholas (1994).. Chinese Intelligence Operations. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.