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US scientist pleads not guilty to lying about China contact


AP Albuquerque
A longtime scientist for a U.S. laboratory in New Mexico pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he lied about contacts he had with a state-run program in China that seeks to draw foreign-educated talent.
Turab Lookman, who lives in Santa Fe and until recently worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory tasked with securing the nation's nuclear stockpile, conducting research and reducing weapons threats entered the plea to charges of making false statements during a federal detention hearing in Albuquerque.
A judge decided that Lookman could be released while he awaits trial on a $50,000 secured bond, despite a federal prosecutor's argument that he posed a potential security threat if he tried to flee the country.
"If he fled, it would quite frankly be a national security disaster," said George Kraehe, a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico.
Authorities said Lookman came under scrutiny after he told a co-worker that he had citizenship in four difference countries including India, where he was born. He also had been asked in a 2017 security-clearance questionnaire and later by federal officials if any foreign nationals had offered him a job or if he had applied for one. He falsely answered to all questions that he had not, authorities said.
In one instance, a counterintelligence officer for the lab asked Lookman if he had applied for the China Thousand Talents Program, according to an indictment. The questionnaire that Lookman had filled out in 2017 must be filled out every five years, and an FBI agent said in court that he likely had filled it out at least once before in 2012.
Prosecutors have described Thousand Talents as a program established by China to recruit people with access to and knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property. For years, it was known as one of many of the country's state initiatives aimed at reversing a decades-long China brain drain.

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First Published: May 30 2019 | 1:10 AM IST

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