Former CIA officer arrested and charged with spying for China

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on August 18, 2020

The suspect, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, a naturalised US citizen born in Hong Kong began working for the CIA from 1982 to 1989

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer was arrested and charged with espionage, the United States Justice Department said on Monday.

Ma had been arrested on Friday for conspiring with a relative who also was a former CIA officer “to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” the department said.

Ma was arrested after an FBI undercover operation where he allegedly accepted $2,000 in cash from the FBI undercover officer as “small token” of appreciation for his assistance to China.

“The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, sadly, strewn with former American intelligence officers who betrayed their colleagues, their country and its liberal democratic values to support an authoritarian communist regime,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers in an official statement. “To the Chinese intelligence services, these individuals are expendable. To us, they are sad but urgent reminders of the need to stay vigilant.”

The suspect, Ma, a naturalised US citizen born in Hong Kong began working for the CIA from 1982 to 1989. He maintained a ‘Top Secret’ security clearance, the department said.

According to the court documents, Ma and his unnamed relative had conspired to share confidential US security information with Chinese officials.

The documents allege Ma of disclosing confidential CIA information to at least five Chinese intelligence officers over a three-day period in March 2001 in Hong Kong.

The information includes “CIA’s personnel, operations, and methods of concealing communications.”

A videotape of one such meeting showed Ma counting $50,000 in cash “for the secrets they provided,” the documents allege.

On FBI rolls too

The documents further alleged that Ma had sought employment with the FBI again to access important information and provide it to his handlers in PRC.

“In 2004, the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office hired Ma as a contract linguist tasked with reviewing and translating Chinese language documents. Over the following six years, Ma regularly copied, photographed and stole documents that displayed US classification markings such as “SECRET.” Ma took some of the stolen documents and images with him on his frequent trips to China with the intent to provide them to his handlers,” it said.

“On August 12, 2020, during a meeting with an FBI undercover employee before arrest, Ma again accepted money for his past espionage activities, expressed his willingness to continue to help the Chinese government, and stated that he wanted “the motherland” to succeed,” it further said.

Ma is due to make his first court appearance today in the US District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Published on August 18, 2020

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