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U.S. Navy Bases are Ejecting Foreign Nationals 2-3 Times a Week

Border Patrol
A Chinese national arrested at the 29 Palms Marine Corps base in March for unauthorized access. The individual was in the U.S. illegally (U.S. Border Patrol)

Published May 26, 2024 6:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy's base security personnel are catching and evicting a steadily increasing number of foreign nationals - particularly Chinese citizens - who are attempting to glean national security secrets, a top U.S. admiral said in an interview over the weekend. Many of them have proper papers allowing them to visit the United States as tourists or students, but their presence on a military base is not authorized - and in many cases, may constitute a criminal offense. 

"Usually the cover story is 'I'm a student, I'm an enthusiast I want to see the ships,' that type of thing," U.S. Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Daryl Caudle told Fox and Friends. "We have to turn them around, and typically we will get the [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] involved. We will get biometrics if possible."

Chinese visitors have been arrested for accessing or spying on U.S. naval installations multiple times in recent years, and two U.S. Navy servicemembers who were born in China were recently arrested on espionage charges. The more insidious, high-volume, low-effort Chinese attempts at naval base espionage have been gathering pace, Caudle said. 

"This thing of our military bases getting penetrated by foreign nationals is happening more and more. . . .  It's really hard for us to tell the underlying motive in these types of cases," Caudle told Fox News. "This is something we see probably two or three times a week, where we're stopping these folks at the gate, and this is just the Navy alone."

At least some of these individuals are Chinese nationals who entered the U.S. illegally and then attempted to access a military base. In March, an illegal Chinese immigrant was arrested on the 29 Palms Marine Corps Base and handed over to Border Patrol agents. 29 Palms is the Marine Corps' largest base and is used for its large-scale multi-unit exercises. 

"Despite being prompted to exit at the Condor gate by installation security, the individual proceeded onto the installation without authorization," a Marine Corps spokesman told Marine Corps Times. "Military law enforcement were immediately notified and detained the individual."

Suspicious drone overflights are also an increasing problem, Caudle said, and the Navy is working on increasing its capabilities to detect and defend against this new potential threat. 

"Generally it's just folks with drones - you can buy them commercially from Amazon or whoever it may be," he said. "But it's hard to differentiate that from a nation-state that's attempting to do espionage."