Monday, April 10, 2017
Snowden Documents Reveal Scope of Secrets Exposed to China in 2001 Spy Plane Incident
For more than a decade, U.S. officials have refused to say what secrets China might have gleaned from the plane. Two years after the incident, journalists saw a redacted U.S. military report, which revealed that although crew members had jettisoned documents out an emergency hatch as they flew over the sea and had managed to destroy some signals-collection equipment before the plane fell into the hands of the Chinese, it was “highly probable” China had still obtained classified information from the plane. Attempts by journalists and academics to learn more over the years have been unsuccessful.
But now, a comprehensive Navy-NSA report completed three months after the collision, and included among documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, finally reveals extensive details about the incident, the actions crew members took to destroy equipment and data, and the secrets that were exposed to China — which turned out to be substantial though not catastrophic.
The unredacted Navy report, supplemented by a 2001 Congressional Research Service summary of the incident, as well as The Intercept’s interviews with two crew members on board during the collision, presents the most detailed picture yet of the P-3 incident, a critical moment in U.S.-China military relations.