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Biden assistant linked to Chinese think-tank FBI called a cover for Chinese spies

President Joe Biden meets with White House staff in the Oval Office of the White House on June 2, 2021. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
July 07, 2021

Thomas S. Zimmerman, President Joe Biden’s special assistant for national security personnel, previously served as a visiting scholar for a Chinese think-tank that the FBI has warned Chinese spies have used as a front to conceal their identities.

The National Pulse first identified Zimmerman’s connections to the Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) on Tuesday, after the Biden White House released its annual report to Congress on White House personnel last week. The report lists Zimmerman as the special assistant for national security personnel and his annual salary is also listed at $110,000 per year.

Prior to his current White House role, Zimmerman’s listed career history includes acting as a visiting scholar for the SASS while working at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation. Zimmerman’s career history also includes work within the White House National Security Council staff and the U.S. Department of Defense under former President Barack Obama.

The National Pulse pointed out the SASS Chinese think tank’s involvement in recruiting at least one former CIA officer, Kevin Patrick Mallory. The former CIA officer was charged with transmitting “Top Secret and Secret documents to an agent of the People’s Republic of China.” In 2019, Mallory was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for giving up that classified information.

In a 2017 press statement announcing the espionage charges against Mallory, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote the former CIA officer traveled to Shanghai in March and April of 2017 to meet with an individual, referred to as PRC1, “who [Mallory] believed was working for the People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service (PRCIS).”

“During a voluntary interview with FBI agents on May 24, Mallory stated that PRC1 represented himself as working for a People’s Republic of China think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS),” the DOJ statement reads. “Since at least 2014, the FBI has assessed that Chinese intelligence officers have used SASS affiliation as cover identities.”

DOJ charging documents in Mallory’s case further state, “The Shanghai State Security Bureau (‘SSSB’), a sub-component of the Ministry of State Security (‘MSS’), has a close relationship with SASS and uses SASS employees as spotters and assessors.”

The White House has not responded to American Military News’ request for comments on Zimmerman’s ties with SASS.

It is unclear what all Zimmerman’s White House role entails.

SASS was founded in 1958, making it one of the country’s oldest think tanks.