Last month, the FBI arrested a Chinese man for creating a fake U.S. Army unit and recruiting immigrants with a promise of US citizenship, highlighting the danger of disinformation.
According to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Yupeng Deng provided his recruits with ACU digital camouflage uniforms—supposedly, he didn’t offer Multicam fatigues because the unit was a Reserves outfit—toured them in the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that serves as a museum in the San Diego harbor, and even had them parade in a Los Angeles suburb.
Deng called his unit the “U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve Unit (MSFR),” and for himself, he took the grand title of “Supreme Commander.”
The Chinese national was quite effective, persuading more than 100 Chinese citizens to join his fake Army unit, charging between $300 and $450 for each “recruitment.”
Deng has been charged with Theft by False Pretenses, Manufacturing Deceptive Government Documents, and Counterfeit of an Official Government Seal. If convicted, the Chinese national is facing eight years behind bars.
In its recently published annual threat assessment, the Intelligence Community assessed that Beijing will remain the top threat to US technological competitiveness as the Chinese Communist Party continues to target critical technology sectors and proprietary commercial and military technology. China doesn’t target just the US but also goes after other Western, and non-Western, companies and research institutions that specialize in the defense, energy, finance, cyber domains, among other fields. To achieve its end, China employs a variety of overt and covert methods, including public investment, espionage, theft, and cyberwarfare.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) recently stood up a joint special operations task force with the aim of countering Chinese information operations and influence in the key region of the Indo-Pacific.
But Chinese and Russian disinformation and influence operations aren’t limited in their neighborhoods but indeed extend to that of the U.S. Only recently, Admiral Craig Faller, the commander of US Southern Command, which is responsible for Central and South America, rung the bell about the activities of the U.S.’ near-peer competitors in its backyard.
More specifically, Beijing and Moscow have been trying to shift local perspectives against the US, even claiming that the Coronavirus pandemic was created and spread by the U.S. military. They do this in an attempt to delegitimatize America in the face of the world.