Armed with a Chinese press release translated on the fly via Google, federal agents falsely accused an internationally-renown[ed] welding technology expert at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville of being a spy and brought him to professional ruin.
FBI Agent Kujtim Sadiku admitted last week in an ongoing trial in Knoxville that federal agents:
- Falsely accused former UTK associate professor Dr. Anming Hu of being a Chinese spy.
- Falsely implicated him as an operative for the Chinese military in meetings with Hu’s bosses
- Used false information to put Hu on the federal no-fly list.
- Spurred U.S. customs agents to seize Hu’s computer and phone and spread word throughout the international research community that Hu was poison.
- Used false information to justify putting a team of agents to spy on Hu and his son, a freshman at UTK, for nearly two years.
- Used false information to press Hu to become a spy for the U.S. government.
“You wanted to find a Chinese spy in Knoxville,” defense attorney Phil Lomonaco offered as he cross-examined Sadiku on his tactics to secure a fraud indictment against Hu after the agency’s economic espionage probe fell apart.
Sadiku responded, “My job is to find spies, yes.”
More than three years after Sadiku launched a national security investigation against Hu, the agent still hasn’t provided any proof that Hu is or was a spy.
He says he didn’t read nearly every document federal prosecutors are now relying on as proof Hu defrauded NASA. He says he doesn’t remember the contents of others.
“When was the last time Dr. Hu was in China?” Lomonaco asked Sadiku in U.S. District Court on Thursday.
Sadiku answered, “I don’t know.”
“You’ve been carrying around his passport … haven’t you?” Lomonaco asked. “You know you’re under oath, right?”
Sadiku replied, “I don’t remember the dates on it … I wouldn’t rely on that document.”
Lomonaco abruptly stopped and turned toward the agent, who was on the witness stand, then looked at jurors and smiled.
“You wouldn’t rely on his passport?” Lomonaco said. “Can we have it back?”
Sadiku kept quiet. Hu won’t get his passport back unless either U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan or a federal jury tosses out the three counts of wire fraud and making false statements Hu faces.
Hu explained how the FBI agent tried to build his case.
“(Sadiku) say, ‘Go (to an upcoming conference in China). I try to protect you … When you come back, come to see me and tell me who was with you and what they asked you to do,’” Hu testified Friday. “He said he wanted to protect me.”
At that point, Hu’s voice faltered. He looked at Sadiku, who was seated in the courtroom behind federal prosecutors.
“You just wanted to protect me, right?” Hu said. “That’s what you told me.”
Neither the U.S. Attorney’s office nor the FBI nor the University of Tennessee will talk about the false allegations while Hu’s trial is ongoing. All cited policies against commenting during ongoing cases.