Former CIA Agent Charged With Spying For The Chinese

( A former member of the CIA was charged with spying for China.

On Monday, charges were levied against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, a 15-year veteran of the CIA, for selling United States secrets to China. He also admitted to spying to the FBI. Ma is 67 years old and is a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii.

He’s charged with violating espionage laws of the U.S.

Prosecutors in the case say Ma worked for the CIA from 1967 until his retirement in 1989. Part of that time he spent working in the Pacific and East-Asia region.

Nearly 12 years after his retirement, prosecutors say Ma had a meeting with at least five officers of the China’s Ministry of State Security in a hotel room in Hong Kong. There, Ma “disclosed a substantial amount of highly-classified national defense information.”

That information included the CIA’s methods for covertly communicating, facts about the agency’s internal organization, as well as the identities of some of the officers and human assets of the CIA.

The assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, said:

“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. To the Chinese intelligence services, these individuals are expendable. To us, they are sad but urgent reminders of the need to stay vigilant.”

Following his retirement from the CIA, Ma went to work for the FBI out of the Honolulu office as a Chinese linguist. While there, Ma allegedly used the security clearance he received to photograph and/or copy classified documents. These were related to weapons systems, guided missiles and more U.S. secrets. Ma then gave that information to his Chinese contacts, according to court documents.

Once the FBI found out what Ma was doing, they set up an undercover employee who arranged a meeting with Ma. The undercover agent posed as a Chinese government representative, saying they wanted to start an investigation “into how Ma had been treated, including the amount he had been compensated.”

The undercover operation was recorded, and video from it shows Ma counting out $2,000 cash that he was given by the undercover FBI agent.

Ma, who was born in Hong Kong, told investigators that he “wanted ‘the motherland’ to succeed.” He also admitted to giving the classified information to the Ministry of State Security, continuing to work with some representatives from the Chinese agency after that meeting in 2001.

Prosecutors also allege that one of Ma’s relatives, who is 85 years old and also worked for the CIA, served as a spy for China as well. That person wasn’t charged with espionage, though, because he suffers from “an advanced and debilitating cognitive disease.”

It’s unclear what type of sentence Ma could end up serving if he were ultimately found guilty of his crimes in court. However, former CIA employee Jerry Chun Shing Lee got a 19-year prison sentence last year for his role in conspiring with Chinese intelligence officials after he left the CIA.