The Chinese government seems to be determined to steal sensitive information from the U.S. administration and tech companies, as several cases of U.S. officials colluding with Beijing for personal interests are coming to light.
Spying for China
63-year-old Candace Claiborne once used to work for the U.S. State Department. But today, she is pleading guilty for conspiring with Chinese spies. She had apparently received thousands of dollars from Beijing as compensation for providing the spies with internal department documents. “Candace Marie Claiborne traded her integrity and non-public information of the United States government in exchange for cash and other gifts from foreign agents she knew worked for the Chinese intelligence service,” John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement (The Epoch Times).
The gifts received by Candace included vacations, a fully furnished apartment, and tuition at a Chinese fashion school. She was also offered a monthly stipend. In addition to Candace, her family members also received gifts. Candace was able to collect US$20,000 per year working with a single Chinese agent. The exchange continued for five years until intelligence agencies arrested her in March 2017. Her sentencing is due on July 9 and she could face up to five years in prison.
Last month, 59-year-old Ron Rockwell Hansen, a U.S. Army veteran and former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, pleaded guilty for trying to steal sensitive military secrets and deliver them to Chinese agents. He was arrested last June. The special agent who handled the case stated that the incident was a stark reminder of how America is being threatened by its own people who are under the influence of foreign adversaries. Hansen’s sentencing is scheduled to be held in September this year.
Another case of espionage involved an ex-CIA officer, Kevin Mallory. Arrested in 2017, Mallory was charged with selling top-secret government information to the Chinese in exchange of US$25,000. He was arrested while returning back home from China and convicted last year. The 61-year-old former spy will soon be sentenced and faces life in prison.
“The People’s Republic of China has made a sophisticated and concerted effort to steal our nation’s secrets… Today’s conviction demonstrates that we remain vigilant against this threat and hold accountable all those who put the United States at risk through espionage,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement during Mallory’s conviction (South China Morning Post).
Federal prosecutors are warning that Boston is at great risk of being targeted by Chinese spies looking to acquire American technology and trade secrets. Andrew E. Lelling, U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts, stated that he has been seeing an uptick in such espionage activity since last year. So why is Boston especially being targeted by Chinese agents? The answer lies in the fact that the city is a hub for several universities, tech companies, and military contractors.
The high number of Chinese nationals with visas who arrive in Boston also pose a risk since the U.S. administration does not have a mechanism to identify who may be working for Beijing. “We want to encourage people to come here and study… This isn’t about targeting everyone who’s a Chinese national. But there are thousands who are directly linked to a state-sponsored effort to steal intellectual property,” Lelling said in a statement (Boston Herald).
In June 2018, a Chinese national was arrested from Wellesley for trying to export goods used by America in anti-submarine warfare. The Justice Department has launched “The China Initiative“ campaign that aims at countering threats posed by Chinese spies.