Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Ex CIA Officer Arrested For Spying For China


A former CIA officer has been charged with providing secrets to China over the course of a decade in a case that a top Justice Department official describes as coming straight from a "spy novel."

Alexander Yuk Chung Ma, who was also an FBI linguist and a 67-year-old resident of Hawaii, was arrested Friday in Hawaii and charged with conspiring to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government, the Justice Department said. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

An FBI affidavit alleges an 85-year-old Los Angeles man, a relative of Ma's and also a former CIA officer, acted as a conspirator but was not charged because he suffers from a “debilitating cognitive disease.”

“This case demonstrates the persistence of Chinese espionage efforts,” said John Demers, the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's national security division. “It shows the willingness to betray one’s adopted country and colleagues. … And it reads like a spy novel.”

Ma, who was being held pending a hearing in federal court, could not be reached for comment.

The arrest is the latest in a series of criminal cases brought by the Justice Department against current and former U.S. government officials accused of supplying secrets to the Chinese government. At least four U.S. government officials have been sentenced to prison in the last two years for providing sensitive information to the Chinese government.

Court papers describe a years-long effort by Ma to provide secrets to China's government. Born in Hong Kong in 1952, the affidavit says, Ma came to the U.S. in 1968 and eventually became a naturalized citizen. He joined the CIA in 1982 and became a case officer stationed overseas. He left the agency in 1989.

Ma's spying started in 2001, the FBI affidavit says, when he and his Los Angeles-based relative met in a Hong Kong hotel room with Chinese operatives and handed over “a substantial amount of highly classified national defense information," including details about CIA operations and sources.
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