Former CIA officer accused of spying for China

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A 15-year-old CIA veteran was accused Monday of selling US secrets to China and then unwittingly admitting his FBI spying.The method prosecutors used to get him to reveal the nature of his espionage was worthy of a spy novel itself.

According to court documents, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, of Honolulu, has been charged with violating U.S. espionage laws. Prosecutors said he joined the CIA in 1967 and then served as a CIA officer until his retirement from the agency in 1989. During part of that time he was posted overseas in the East Asia and Pacific region.

Twelve years after his retirement, prosecutors said Monday that Ma met with at least five officers from the Chinese State Security Ministry in a hotel room in Hong Kong, where he “disclosed a substantial amount of information highly. confidential about national defense, ”including facts about the CIA. internal organization, covert communication methods and identity of CIA and human resources agents.

“The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, unfortunately, strewn with former US intelligence officers who betrayed their colleagues, their country and its liberal democratic values ​​to support an authoritarian Communist regime,” said John Demers, Attorney General national security deputy. “For the Chinese intelligence services, these people are useless. For us, these are sad but urgent reminders of the need to remain vigilant. ”

After leaving the CIA, investigators said, Ma got a job as a Chinese linguist in the FBI field office in Honolulu. He used his new job and security clearance to copy or photograph classified documents related to guided missiles and weapon systems and other US secrets and passed the information on to his Chinese managers, court documents say. .

When the FBI became aware of Ma’s activities, prosecutors said, an undercover FBI employee called a meeting, posing a Chinese government official. The undercover officer claimed to be investigating “how Ma was treated, including how much he was compensated,” according to court documents.

A video recording showed Ma with $ 2,000 in cash provided by the undercover officer, who said it was to recognize her work on behalf of China. Investigators said Ma, who was born in Hong Kong, explained that he “wanted” the homeland “to succeed” and admitted that he provided classified information to the Ministry of State Security and that he had continued to work with some of his representatives who were at the 2001 Meeting.

Prosecutors said that an 85-year-old relative of Ma also worked for the CIA and later spied for China. But he has not been charged because he suffers from “advanced debilitating cognitive disease”.

The charges against Ma represent the latest in a series of setbacks against US espionage efforts targeting China.

Another former CIA officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was sentenced to 19 years in prison last year after pleading guilty to conspiring with Chinese intelligence officers from 2010 after leaving the agency. NBC News reported that the information it provided helped China and other countries to compromise the CIA’s covert method of communication with its foreign agents, resulting in the deaths of Chinese informants.

In 2015, the U.S. government revealed that Chinese hackers had stolen reams of sensitive personal files from the Bureau of Personnel Management, including security clearance requests from intelligence officers and other law enforcement officers. national security. U.S. officials have said they fear that data and other personal information about U.S. citizens stolen by the Chinese from private companies has allowed China to better identify U.S. spy agents abroad.

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