An ex-CIA spy, Kevin Patrick Mallory, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sharing sensitive American intelligence with Chinese agents. Mallory spied on his own country in exchange for just US$25,000. This is one among the many ongoing cases of American intelligence officials colluding with Chinese spies.
Betraying the US
Mallory was convicted by a jury last year after a 2-week trial. By providing the Chinese agents with classified U.S. documents, Mallory violated the Espionage Act. “This case is one in an alarming trend of former U.S. intelligence officers being targeted by China and betraying their country and colleagues,” John Demers, Assistant Attorney-General, said in a statement (The Sydney Morning Herald).
Mallory stopped working for the CIA in 2012 and started a consulting business. But after five years, his business was failing and Mallory was at risk of losing his home. In 2017, he was contacted by a Chinese person who introduced himself as a recruiter for the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank that U.S. agencies believe is a front for the Chinese spy network. Mallory went to China twice and was provided with a mobile phone that would be used for communication. He gave sensitive U.S. documents to Chinese officials and received US$25,000 as compensation.
On his return flight from Shanghai in April 2017, Mallory was stopped by U.S. officials at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. FBI agents found classified documents on the mobile phone. One of them contained information about people who had helped the U.S. government. Prosecutors argued that Mallory’s actions had put several human assets loyal to America at risk. The court eventually gave him a 20-year prison term.
Mallory’s lawyers used a recent spying case involving a former contractor for the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ron Rockwell Hansen, to argue that both cases were similar. However, the prosecutors stated that both cases were different. “The first, and most crucial, difference between Hansen and defendant is that Hansen accepted responsibility for his actions — and did so without delay… Conversely, to this day, the defendant has yet to accept any responsibility whatsoever for his actions,” the prosecutors said in a court filing (The New York Times). Hansen is expected to be sentenced in September and might face 15 years in jail.
Warning tech companies
In view of increasing spy threats from China, U.S. intelligence chiefs have been meeting up with leaders from Silicon Valley, explaining the potential dangers of doing business with the Asian country. The warnings included the possibility of intellectual property (IP) theft and cyber attacks. Interestingly, officers seem to have shared even classified information with the business executives.
This is an unprecedented level of information disclosure, which only indicates that the U.S. government is seriously concerned about protecting the interests of American businesses. “The Chinese government and Communist Party pose the greatest long-term threat to U.S. economic and national security… It’s important that U.S. companies, universities, and trade organizations understand fully that threat,” Senator Marco Rubio, one of the politicians who organized the meeting, said in a statement (The Verge).
The U.S. government is trying to ban Chinese tech companies from conducting business in the U.S. or even having access to tech components manufactured by American companies. Huawei is already on the Trump administration’s blacklist. Chinese drone companies like DJI are also being seen as a threat to national security.