Former CIA officer arrested for giving classified information to China

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Aug 18, 2020, 08:23 AM(IST)

File photo: CIA-China Photograph:( Agencies )

Story highlights

According to  the US Justice Department, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, was arrested on a charge that he conspired with a relative, also a former CIA officer, to communicate classified information to Chinese intelligence officials. 

A former officer for the CIA and then the FBI was charged in federal court in Hawaii Monday with selling US secrets to China, including disclosing the identities of US informants in China.

According to  the US Justice Department, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, was arrested on a charge that he conspired with a relative, also a former CIA officer, to communicate classified information to Chinese intelligence officials. 

He continued to meet with the undercover agent, accepting money and offering secrets until this month, when he said he was happy to keep working for Beijing but "would prefer to discuss opportunities after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided," the indictment said.

Also read: Here's how China's spy racket is bigger than the cold war!

The Justice Department said Ma was arrested on August 14, but only unsealed the indictment on Monday.

Ma, 67, a naturalized US citizen born in Hong Kong, worked for the Central Intelligence Agency with a high-level security clearance from 1982 to 1989. 

Also read: All you need to know about China's espionage programme 'Operation Fox Hunt'

He had a relative, unnamed and uncharged in the indictment due to his age, 85, and advanced cognitive disease, who also worked for the agency from 1967 to 1983.

The indictment says that at least as early as 2001, the two were already providing information to agents of Beijing's Ministry of State Security.

The indictment says FBI investigators gained video and audio recordings of their meetings with MSS agents in Hong Kong in March 2001 -- though it does not explain how and when they obtained such evidence

At those meetings they provided details of CIA communications, field operations and informants, and the video shows them receiving $50,000.

After them Ma applied for a position at the FBI in Hawaii that gave him access to classified information that, over the following decade at least, he downloaded and photographed documents to turn over to his Chinese handlers.

After them Ma applied for a position at the FBI in Hawaii that gave him access to classified information that, over the following decade at least, he downloaded and photographed documents to turn over to his Chinese handlers.

He and his relative were also asked to identify from pictures possible US agents and informants in China during this period, according to the charges.

The CIA and FBI declined to comment on why it took so long to arrest him. Ma's lawyer, Craig Jerome, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case though is the latest of several brought against US government employees who sold secrets to China.

After China reportedly broke up a network of CIA sources and operatives inside China around 2010, the agency began digging deeply for leaks and possible moles that may have exposed them.

Last November Jerry Chun Shing Lee, who worked for the CIA from 1994 to 2007, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for giving US secrets to Chinese intelligence.

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