A congressman says NASA broke a national security law last year by failing to notify Congress about two visits Chinese officials made to the Kennedy Space Center, a charge the agency flatly denies.
Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said the visits — one in June and one in December — were barred by a measure he authored in 2011 requiring NASA facilities such as KSC to give lawmakers at least 14 days notice before hosting "official Chinese visitors."
"We say, ‘Let us know. Notify us.' And they did not," Wolf told Florida Today. "I do believe that was a violation of the law."
The visits to KSC are part of what Wolf calls a troubling pattern of security lapses at NASA centers.
On Thursday, Wolf said his office has given FBI officials and federal prosecutors material from a whistle-blower at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia "involving a Chinese national who was allegedly provided access and information he should have otherwise been restricted from receiving."
NASA spokesman David Weaver said his agency is familiar with the Langley contractor and has referred the matter to law enforcement officials. The man no longer works there.
Wolf chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. He's also been one of China's loudest critics in Congress.
Wolf does not want the U.S. to work with an "evil" government. He said the White House also has bypassed his 2011 national security measure by using federal money to pay for joint space and technology ventures with China.
Last month, Wolf and Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller expressing concerns about the possible leak of information to China from the NASA Ames Research Center in California.
Wolf said the man was employed by a contractor "allegedly at the direction of NASA officials in an apparent attempt to circumvent appropriations restrictions the Congress has in place to prevent the hiring of certain foreign nationals of concern."
Wolf said he learned about the 2012 visits to KSC on Thursday, in a letter from NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr.
Bolden emphasized in the letter that NASA has complied with Wolf's 2011 security law by declining "all bilateral engagement with China and Chinese-owned companies."
The letter said the agency has not permitted "any visit to a NASA-owned or -utilized facility by any official Chinese visitors where such a visit effectuated the bilateral participation, collaboration, or coordination with China or a Chinese-owned company."
Bolden then mentions the two visits to KSC. He said NASA concluded the visits didn't violate the law because the law doesn't apply to meetings at NASA facilities of multilateral bodies that often include representatives from the U.S. and China. In most cases, they are students at U.S. universities or employees of NASA contractors.