Former CIA officer pleads guilty to spying for China, DOJ says

May 25, 2024, 10:23 AM

This image contained in the criminal complaint against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma shows a screenshot ma...

This image contained in the criminal complaint against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma shows a screenshot made from a video by an FBI undercover employee taken of Ma in January 2019 during a meeting. (U.S. Justice Department via AP via CNN Newsource)

(U.S. Justice Department via AP via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — A former CIA officer targeted in an FBI undercover operation pleaded guilty Friday to providing national defense information to the People’s Republic of China, the Justice Department said.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 71, of Honolulu, who served as a CIA officer over a seven-year period in the 1980s, worked with an unnamed co-conspirator in 2001 to provide Chinese intelligence “with a large volume of classified U.S. national defense information” in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars, DOJ said, citing the plea agreement.

CNN has reached out to attorneys for Ma for comment on the guilty plea.

Ma later applied as a linguist with the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office, where he served from 2004 to 2012.

“The FBI, aware of Ma’s ties to PRC (People’s Republic of China) intelligence, hired Ma, as part of an investigative plan, to work at an off-site location where his activities could be monitored and his contacts with the PRC investigated,” according to the DOJ release.

As CNN previously reported, during the course of his monitored employment with the FBI, Ma allegedly took a digital camera into the FBI office to photograph sensitive documents that he would then take to his handlers in China.

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Referencing one particular set of classified documents provided to Chinese intelligence officers, “Ma confessed that he knew that this information, and the information communicated in March 2001, would be used to injure the United States or to benefit the PRC,” the Justice Department said Friday.

“Under the terms of the parties’ plea agreement, Ma must cooperate with the United States, including by submitting to debriefings by U.S. government agencies,” according to DOJ.

Should the court accept Ma’s plea, he faces a sentence of 10 years in federal prison at a hearing scheduled for September 11.

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Former CIA officer pleads guilty to spying for China, DOJ says