Former CIA officer charged with spying for China

Former CIA officer charged with spying for China
Former CIA officer Mr Ma was allegedly caught on video collecting cash for secrets. Source: SAUL LOEB
3 Min Read

Daily US Times: A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer has been arrested on charges of conspiring with a relative, who also worked for the CIA, to spy for China.

The 67-year-old Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was arrested on Friday and charged, said the US justice department.

Mr Ma is accused of divulging classified national defence information to Chinese intelligence officials.

It is the latest espionage arrest at a time of growing tension between the US and China.

Mr Ma is due to appear in court on Tuesday and if convicted, he would face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

What do we know about Mr Ma?

Mr Ma is a naturalised US citizen born in Hong Kong and began working for the CIA in 1982.

Prosecutors said he left the CIA seven years later and worked in the Chinese city of Shanghai before moving to Hawaii in 2001.

Mr Ma and his relative was accused of spying for China over the course of a decade in a scheme that began with meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001.

The ex-CIA officers are accused of sharing information “about the CIA’s operations, personnel and methods of concealing communications” with the Chinese intelligence service.

The statement said part of their meeting in Hong Kong was recorded on videotape and shows Mr Ma counting $50,000 (£38,000) in cash for the secrets they shared.

Court documents say, while living in Hawaii he then sought work with the FBI to gain access to classified US government information once again to pass on to China.

In 2004, he was hired by the FBI’s Honolulu office as a contract linguist and is accused of stealing documents marked secret.

It remains unclear why it took so long to arrest him.

The unnamed relative with whom prosecutors say Mr Ma conspired is now 85-years-old and he is also a naturalised US citizen, who was born in Shanghai and prosecutors are not seeking an arrest warrant for him at this time, according to court documents, as he is suffering from an “advanced and debilitating cognitive disease”.

What are the other espionage cases?

This is the latest arrest in a string of cases against former intelligence officers.

Another former CIA officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for conspiring to spy for China, in November.

The information shared by Mr Lee is said to have helped Beijing to bring down a network of informants between 2010 and 2012.

About 20 informants were jailed or killed during that period in one of the most disastrous failures of US intelligence in recent years.

Kevin Mallory, another ex-CIA agent, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May 2019, after being convicted of conspiring to transmit US defence secrets to China.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, former US intelligence officer, was sentenced in September to 10 years in prison.

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