China’s primary intelligence directorate created an artificial intelligence tool that lets it track assets, targets and persons of interest, including spies in America and elsewhere, The New York Times reported.
The CIA and China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) are toe to toe in a tense battle to beat one another’s intelligence capabilities that are increasingly dependent on advanced technology, the NYT reported, citing U.S. officials and a person with knowledge of a transaction with contracting firms that apparently helped build the AI system. But, the MSS has an edge with an AI-based system that can create files near-instantaneously on targets around the world complete with behavior analyses and detailed information allowing Beijing to identify connections and vulnerabilities of potential targets, internal meeting notes among MSS officials showed.
“The U.S. intelligence community can do amazing things on focused targets,” Peter Mattis, a former C.I.A. analyst, told the NYT. “But it sometimes can struggle with broad-based awareness like understanding China’s technology prowess.”
The AI program sifts through reams of surveillance camera footage and online databases to gather license plate information, cell phone data, contacts and other kinds of information about a specific target, according to the meeting notes, the NYT reported.
Advanced technology has enabled China to build up its network of spies focused on collection against U.S. targets, including recruiting American citizens, according to the NYT. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s objective to supplant the U.S. as the global superpower is reflected in more training, better technology and increased funding for the MSS.
Under President Joe Biden, funding for the CIA has doubled, the NYT reported, as the U.S. premiere all-source intelligence agency scrambles to rebuild its network of eyes and ears in China after a devastating compromise more than a decade ago.
The CIA has also shifted to focus more on technology and the activities of Chinese companies, targets from which the directorate historically shied away.
“For China in particular, exploiting the existing technology or trade secrets of others has become a popular shortcut encouraged by the government,” Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, told the NYT. “The urgency and intensity of technological espionage have increased significantly.”
The MSS spies on American targets through companies that provide technology with both commercial and military application, according to the NYT. The CIA, for its part, is now working hard to collect information on Chinese companies that specialize in AI, quantum computing and other cutting-edge tools.
CIA Deputy Director David Cohen told the NYT the CIA is reorganizing and funding efforts to better address China’s new style of threat. Efforts include setting up a China mission center and a technology intelligence center.
“We’ve been counting tanks and understanding the capability of missiles for longer than we have been as sharply focused on the capability of semiconductors or A.I. algorithms or biotech equipment,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.
Still, some Chinese firms have caught the U.S. intelligence community by surprise, policymakers have said behind closed doors, according t0 the NYT.
The CIA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Micaela Burrow on December 27, 2023