New York City is abuzz today with the gossip that President Obama will nix staying at Park Avenue’s swank Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for fear the presidential suite might be riddled with Chinese bugs — the electronic and not the bedbug variety. Obama is in the Big Apple for a Democratic fundraiser and to see a Broadway show.

It seems such security worries have been building since China’s Anbang Insurance Group bought the historic 47-story tower last year for $1.95 billion. Coupled with that are strong suspicions that Chinese hackers were behind the recent breach that stole personal data on millions of current and former federal employees from the Office of Personnel Management. US officials have also been told to steer clear of the Waldorf.

Electronic listening device
Electronic listening device

Asia Unhedged thinks this is one of the downsides when Chinese buy real estate in New York these days. We would also avoid staying at the Waldorf if we were President Obama.

However, before America’s sense of moral outrage bubbles over anew, we ask you to consider the following  Jan. 20, 2002 story that appeared in the Telegraph:

“China finds spy bugs in Jiang’s Boeing jet

CHINA claims to have found almost 30 surveillance bugs, including one in the headboard of the presidential bed, on a Boeing 767 that had just been delivered from America to serve as President Jiang Zemin’s official aircraft.

The aircraft has been sitting on a military airstrip north of Beijing, unused with much of its upholstery and many of its fittings ripped out, since October when Chinese test pilots detected a strange and unfamiliar whine emanating from its body.

A search of the twin-engined aircraft, which was manufactured and fitted out in America, yielded 27 devices, according to Chinese officials, hidden in its seats, lavatory and panelling.

Beijing believes that the bugs were planted by the Central Intelligence Agency while the aircraft was undergoing conversion work in San Antonio, Texas.

The CIA refused to respond to the report. Bill Harlow, the spy agency’s spokesman, said: “We never comment on allegations like these, as a matter of policy.” The White House used almost identical words, saying: “We never discuss these types of allegations.”

The story also ran in major US news media and then disappeared from the headlines without a follow up.

Leave a comment