Sun, Jun 10, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Ex-CIA officer faces jail for China leak

SLOPPY SPYCRAFT:The ex-officer communicated with his Chinese handler through a WeChat-like app, which mistakenly showed all his text history to FBI investigators

AP, ALEXANDRIA, Virginia

A former CIA officer was on Friday convicted on charges that he spied for China by providing top secret information in exchange for US$25,000.

Kevin Mallory, 61, of Leesburg, faces up to life in prison, although federal sentences are often less than the maximum.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Mallory was last year charged under the US’ Espionage Act after he was discovered with more than US$16,000 in undeclared cash on a return flight from Shanghai.

Prosecutors said he was desperate for cash and transmitted classified information to a Chinese handler.

His acts were far from isolated as China actively tries to gather classified US information, federal prosecutors said immediately after his espionage conviction.

“The People’s Republic of China has made a sophisticated and concerted effort to steal our nation’s secrets,” US Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

“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,” he said.

Public defender Geremy Kamens, an attorney for Mallory, declined to comment.

Mallory’s trial at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, offered a rare glimpse into the world of espionage.

Most cases end in plea deals, because the US government is concerned about exposing secrets, while defendants are worried about potentially stiff sentences.

Mallory provided no information of consequence, defense lawyers said.

They said he pursued legitimate work as a consultant and reported his suspicions that the Chinese were trying to solicit secrets to his old contacts at the CIA.

The spycraft, as laid out by prosecutors, was hardly reminiscent of James Bond.

The Chinese gave Mallory a Samsung mobile phone for covert communication that was activated with the password “password.”

The phone, with a variation of an app called WeChat, was supposed to delete text conversations Mallory had with his Chinese handler.

However, when Mallory gave the phone to FBI agents investigating his conduct, the app mistakenly provided long histories of text chats.

“Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid,” Mallory wrote in one text.

“My current object is to make sure your security and to try to reimburse you,” the Chinese handler responded.

In other texts, the Chinese handler complains that the information Mallory provides is vague.

Eventually, the handler becomes concerned that his contacts with Mallory might be exposed and he tells Mallory to stop sending documents and texts.

Exactly what Mallory might have provided remains somewhat unclear.

Prosecutors said they are certain Mallory used the phone to send two documents and he might have sent more or handed off more in person during two trips to China.

The information he did provide was top secret and touched on human assets, prosecutors said.

However, defense lawyers said nothing Mallory provided is the kind of sensitive information that relates to the national defense to trigger a violation of the espionage law.

The bulk of it was publicly available information, they said.

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