Former CIA officer arrested, charged with spying for China

DHARAMSALA, 18 Aug: A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer has been arrested and charged with selling ‘highly classified’ information to Chinese intelligence officers for over a decade, the US Justice Department has announced.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former CIA officer, conspired with a relative of his 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), read the statement issued by the US Justice Department.

According to court documents unsealed on Monday, Ma and his relative (identified as co-conspirator #1) conspired with each other and multiple PRC intelligence officials to communicate classified national defence information over the course of a decade.

Ma and his relative, the two former CIA officers, the court documents alleged started spying for China with a three days meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001 during which they provided information to the foreign intelligence service about the CIA’s personnel, operations, and methods of concealing communications.

“Part of the meeting was captured on videotape, including a portion where Ma can be seen receiving and counting $50,000 in cash for the secrets they provided,” it added.

“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,” John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security has said in the statement.

The court documents further stated that “Ma regularly copied, photographed and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as “SECRET,”  takes some of the stolen documents and images with him on his frequent trips to China with the intent to provide them to his handlers and  often returned from China with thousands of dollars in cash and expensive gifts, such as a new set of golf clubs.”

Detailing the former CIA agent’s dealings with Chinese intelligence officials, it added that in spring 2019, over the course of two in-person meetings, Ma confirmed his espionage activities to an FBI undercover employee that he 

believed was a representative of the PRC intelligence service, and accepted $2,000 in cash from the undercover agent as ‘small token’ of appreciation for his assistance to China while offering to once again work for the PRC intelligence service.

It further added that on 12 August 2020, during a meeting with an FBI undercover before his 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.

Ma, a naturalized US citizen born in Hong Kong has worked for the CIA from 1982-1989. He was arrested on 14 Aug 2020, on the charges of conspiring with a co-conspirator #1 to communicate classified information to aid a foreign government.

Ma is expected to appear in court before a federal judge in Hawaii on Tuesday and if convicted, he could face life imprisonment. 

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