Published: Thu, April 11, 2019
Tech | By Constance Martin

Attorney: Mar-a-Lago infiltrator had hidden-camera detector

Attorney: Mar-a-Lago infiltrator had hidden-camera detector

Speaking at Yujing Zhang's bail hearing Monday in West Palm Beach, Florida, prosecutor Rolando Garcia says agents also found US and Chinese currency in her room, along with nine USB drives and five USB cards.

On CNN's "The Situation Room", Shawn Turner, a former official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, explained exactly the threat posed by the Chinese national arrested trying to sneak into President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club.

Investigators said Zhang told a front desk clerk she was there for a nonexistent Chinese American event.

Law enforcement reported Zhang was carrying four cellphones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive containing "malicious malware" when she entered Mar-a-Lago. She arrived in the US on a flight from Shanghai to Newark, New Jersey, two days before her arrest.

He said Zhang was taken off the grounds and told she could not be there.

"She lies to everyone she encounters", and has no ties to the United States, prosecutor Rolando Garcia said. She previously visited the September 2018, December 2017, and July 2016, according to prosecutors.

A golf cart shuttle driver then took her to the club's main reception area, where Ms Zhang claimed she was to attend a "United Nations Chinese American Association" event, and then told a Secret Service agent a "United Nations Friendship Event" on the premises - neither of which existed.

Zhang attended her pretrial detention hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday. "For one, they found this information because she left things out in her hotel room".

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When she was arrested, Zhang showed agents an invitation she had received to what she described as the United Nations event.

The first thing you want to do when you pull a USB drive off someone allegedly lying their way into presidential hangout Mar-a-Lago is plug it in your computer. She is charged with lying to a federal agent and illegal entering. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the Zhang incident as part of a Chinese espionage effort.

She was then escorted off the property and questioned by another Secret Service Agent. He said the malware's ultimate objective remains unknown. So, it's of course possible that Zhang's thumb drive was just like every other thumb drive and happened to contain some malicious files - as opposed to malware specifically created to spy on the president or the club where he spends so much of his time. He stated that when another agent put Zhang's thumb-drive into his computer, it immediately began to install files, a "very out-of-the-ordinary" event that he had never seen happen before during this kind of analysis.

The agency also didn't have a protocol to flag the amount or types of electronics Zhang carried with her - even though one had malware that even an agent performing an analysis on the device found to be unusual.

Agents say she wasn't on the membership list, but a club manager thought Zhang was a member's daughter.

"Zhang was asked if the true member. was her father, but she did not give a definitive answer", according to the criminal complaint filed by Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich.

Zhang's arrest has raised questions about the Secret Service agency's ability to protect the president and his family at Mar-a-Lago.

Secret Service agents - really on top of their game here - conducted a four-and-a-half hour interview with Zhang, but failed to realise they were only recording video. Agents said they couldn't read it because it was written in Chinese.

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