Home » Former CIA Agent Guilty of Espionage, Confesses to Selling Secrets to China

Former CIA Agent Guilty of Espionage, Confesses to Selling Secrets to China

by Richard A Reagan

A former CIA officer pleaded guilty to espionage charges on Friday in a federal courtroom in Honolulu. This case highlights a troubling breach of trust and national security, as Ma admitted to divulging sensitive U.S. secrets to China for over a decade.

Alexander Ma, 72, who also served as an FBI contract linguist, confessed to his role in a long-term espionage operation that benefited China’s Ministry of State Security. [Source]

This plea follows his 2020 arrest, which capped off an extensive investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department. Authorities found compelling evidence against Ma, including a 2001 video that depicted him engaging in espionage activities.

In the video, Ma was seen providing classified information to Chinese intelligence officers and accepting $50,000 in return.

The secrets he disclosed pertained to CIA operations, assets, secure communication practices, and operational tradecraft. His espionage activities reportedly continued for years, during which he received substantial sums of money and lavish gifts in exchange for U.S. intelligence.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Ma has agreed to a 10-year prison sentence, a significant reduction from the potential life sentence he faced.

Born in Hong Kong and relocated to Honolulu in 1968, Ma became a U.S. citizen in 1975. He began his career with the CIA in 1982, received an overseas assignment the following year, and resigned in 1989 while holding a top-secret security clearance.

Before his return to Hawaii in 2001, Ma resided and worked in Shanghai, China.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson revealed that Ma’s employment as a part-time contract linguist was strategically used as a surveillance measure to monitor his interactions with Chinese intelligence officers. [Source]

The FBI had employed him at an off-site location in Honolulu under the guise of routine work, but with the underlying aim of investigating his ties to Chinese intelligence.

“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,” the DOJ stated.

Ma worked for the FBI from August 2004 until October 2012.

In a 2006 incident while residing in Hawaii, Ma received photographs from Chinese intelligence officers of individuals they were targeting.

Ma then persuaded a relative, also implicated as a co-conspirator, to disclose at least two of these identities.

This relative, referred to as “co-conspirator #1” and a naturalized U.S. citizen who had also worked for the CIA, has since passed away and was not prosecuted due to mental incompetency from Alzheimer’s disease.

Ma’s guilty plea included an admission that he and his co-conspirator met with intelligence officers from China’s Shanghai State Security Bureau in a Hong Kong hotel in 2001, where they provided a large volume of classified U.S. national defense information over three days. At the conclusion of these meetings, the Chinese agents handed Ma and his associate $50,000 in cash, and the pair agreed to continue assisting the Chinese intelligence.

Ma’s sentencing is scheduled for September 11, where a judge will deliver the final judgment.

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