Following a sting operation conducted by the FBI, a former CIA officer was arrested on Aug. 14 and charged with spying on the United States for China.
The Justice Department announced that Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, received tens of thousands of dollars and gifts in exchange for providing Chinese intelligence officials with secret information over several years. He is accused of conspiring with an unnamed relative who is also an ex-CIA officer. The relative was only identified as an 87-year-old naturalized American from Los Angeles, who worked for the CIA from 1971 to 1982, and who had the highest level security clearance.
According to the court documents, no warrant for his arrest is indicated “at this time,” as he is suffering from a severe debilitating cognitive condition.
Court documents indicate the conspiracy started in March 2001, when the two ex-CIA officers conducted meetings in a Hong Kong motel room with at least five Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials over three days. They provided vital information to the CCP, including the identity of CIA officials and “the cover used by CIA officers,” and the CIA’s operations.
“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,” the Justice Department documents say according to The Guardian.
Ma, a native of Hong Kong, moved to Hawaii in 1968, and completed school and university there, beginning work with the CIA in 1982, and obtaining top secret clearance.
After retiring from the CIA in 1982, he moved to Shanghai in 1989, where he allegedly met with CCP intelligence, before moving to Hawaii in 2001. Ma had access to “sensitive compartmented information,” which included the identities of undercover CIA agents, clandestine human sources, and access to classified national defense information in the United States.
“Over the following six years, Ma regularly copied, photographed, and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as ‘SECRET,’” the Justice Department alleges.
The charge sheet claims he burned pictures of U.S. missiles and other weapons technology on to a CD-ROM, reported The Guardian. “Ma took some of the stolen documents and images with him on his frequent trips to China with the intent of providing them to his handlers. Ma often returned from China with thousands of dollars in cash and expensive gifts, such as a new set of golf clubs,” said the court documents.
“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 the assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers.
“This betrayal is never worth it. Whether immediately, or many years after they thought they got away with it, we will find these traitors and we will bring them to justice. To the Chinese intelligence services, these individuals are expendable. To us, they are sad but urgent reminders of the need to stay vigilant.”
It is unknown why Ma’s arrest has taken so long, as the FBI and CIA have made no comment.