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Agents from Homeland Security sneaked into a tiny office in Oakland’s Chinatown before sunrise on Dec. 4, 2011. They tread carefully, quickly snapping digital pictures so they could put everything back in place. They didn’t want Philip Chaohui He, the businessman who rented the space, to learn they had been there.

Seven months had passed since they’d launched an undercover operation against a suspected Chinese arms-trafficking network - one of scores operating in support of Beijing’s ambitious military expansion into outer space.

The agents had allowed a Colorado manufacturer to ship He a type of technology that China covets but cannot replicate: radiation-hardened microchips. Known as rad-chips, the dime-sized devices are critical for operating satellites, for guiding ballistic missiles, and for protecting military hardware from nuclear and solar radiation.

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