Tag: China

Former CIA Officer Arrested and Charged with Espionage


Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, was arrested on Aug. 14, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a relative of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

The Criminal Complaint containing the charge was unsealed on Friday.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji M. Price, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division Alan E. Kohler Jr., and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office Eli S. Miranda made the announcement.

“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 Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. 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.”

 “The charges announced today are a sobering reminder to our communities in Hawaii of the constant threat posed by those who seek to jeopardize our nation’s security through acts of espionage,” said U.S. Attorney Price. “Of particular concern are the criminal acts of those who served in our nation’s intelligence community, but then choose to betray their former colleagues and the nation-at large by divulging classified national defense information to China. My office will continue to tenaciously pursue espionage cases.”

“This serious act of espionage is another example in a long string of illicit activities that the​People’s Republic of China is conducting within and against the United States,” said Alan E. Kohler Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.  “This case demonstrates that no matter the length or difficulty of the investigation, the men and women of the FBI will work tirelessly to protect our national security from the threat posed by Chinese intelligence services.  Let it be known that anyone who violates a position of trust to betray the United States will face justice, no matter how many years it takes to bring their crimes to light.”

“These cases are very complicated and take years if not decades to bring to a conclusion,” said Eli Miranda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Division.  “I could not be more proud of the work done by the men and women of the FBI’s Honolulu Division in pursuing this case. Their dedication is a reminder that the FBI will never waiver when it comes to ensuring the safety and security of our nation.”

Ma is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong.

According to court documents, Ma began working for the CIA in 1982, maintained a Top Secret clearance, and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements in which he acknowledged his responsibility and ongoing duty to protect U.S. government secrets during his tenure at CIA.  Ma left the CIA in 1989 and lived and worked in Shanghai, China before arriving in Hawaii in 2001.

According to court documents, Ma and his relative (identified as co-conspirator #1) conspired with each other and multiple PRC intelligence officials to communicate classified national defense information over the course of a decade. 

The scheme began with three days of meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001 during which the two former CIA officers provided information to the foreign intelligence service about the CIA’s personnel, operations, and methods of concealing communications. 

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 court documents further allege that after Ma moved to Hawaii, he sought employment with the FBI in order to once again gain access to classified U.S. government information which he could in turn provide to his PRC handlers.

In 2004, the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office hired Ma as a contract linguist tasked with reviewing and translating Chinese language documents. 

Over the following six years, Ma regularly copied, photographed and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as “SECRET.” 

Ma took some of the stolen documents and images with him on his frequent trips to China with the intent to provide 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.

According to court documents, in spring 2019, over the course of two in-person meetings, Ma confirmed his espionage activities to an FBI undercover employee Ma believed was a representative of the PRC intelligence service, and accepted $2,000 in cash from the FBI undercover as “small token” of appreciation for Ma’s assistance to China.  Ma also offered to once again work for the PRC intelligence service. 

On August 12, 2020, during a meeting with an FBI undercover employee before arrest, Ma again accepted money for his past espionage activities, expressed his willingness to continue to help the Chinese government, and stated that he wanted “the motherland” to succeed.

Ma will make his initial appearance before a federal judge tomorrow in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.  He is charged with conspiracy to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted. 

The maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  In the event Ma is convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Honolulu and Los Angeles Field Offices. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson and Trial Attorneys Scott Claffee and Steve Marzen of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (August 2020) Former CIA Officer Arrested and Charged with Espionage

People’s Republic of China Military Exercises in the South China Sea


The Department of Defense (DOD) is concerned about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) decision to conduct military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on July 1-5. 

The designated areas where the exercises are due to take place encompass contested waters and territory.

Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability.

The PRC’s actions will further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea. 

Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

The military exercises are the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea. 

The PRC’s actions stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms.

The Department of Defense will continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that the PRC will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea.

We urge all parties to exercise restraint and not undertake military activities that might aggravate disputes in the South China Sea.

Blogs to Follow:

Defense.gov (July 2020) People’s Republic of China Military Exercises in the South China Sea

10,800 Assault Weapons Parts Seized by CBP in Louisville


At the Express Consignment Operations hubs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized a shipment from China that contained over 10,000 Assault Weapons parts being smuggled into the country. 

The shipment was seized on May 22. Officers inspected the item, which was arriving from Shenzhen, China, destined for a residence in Melbourne, Florida. The parcel was manifested as containing 100 Steel Pin Samples.

This is a common practice of smugglers manifesting the contraband as a harmless or a legitimate commodity in hopes of eluding further examination.

“The importing of any type of munitions is regulated by the ATF,” said Thomas Mahn, Port Director, Louisville.  “This smuggler was knowingly trying to avoid detection. However, our officers remain vigilant, ensuring our community is safe.”  

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulates and restricts firearms and ammunition. Importation of weapons or ammunition must be made by a licensed importer, dealer or manufacturer.

Officers referred the shipment to the CBP Center of Excellence and Expertise, Machinery team who appraised the shipment with a domestic value of $129,600.

CBP’s border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations. 

CBP officers use a variety of techniques to intercept narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products, and to assure that global tourism remains safe and strong. 

Please visit CBP Ports of Entry to learn more about how CBP’s Office of Field Operations secures our nation’s borders.

Blogs to Follow:

CBP.gov (June 2020) 10,800 Assault Weapons Parts Seized by CBP in Louisville

Chinese Citizen Convicted of Economic Espionage, Theft of Trade Secrets, and Conspiracy


Defendant Stole from U.S. Companies to Benefit Instrumentality of the Chinese Government

Hao Zhang, 41, of China, was found guilty of economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, and conspiring to commit both offenses on Friday, announced the Department of Justice.  The ruling was handed down by the Honorable Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Judge, following a four-day bench trial.

Evidence submitted during the course of the trial demonstrated that from 2010 to 2015, Zhang conspired to and did steal trade secrets from two companies: Avago, a designer, developer, and global supplier of a broad range of analog, digital, mixed signal and optoelectronics components and subsystems with a focus in semiconductor design and processing, headquartered in San Jose, California, and Singapore; and Skyworks, an innovator of high performance analog semiconductors headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts.  Judge Davila found that Zhang intended to steal the trade secrets for the benefit of the People’s Republic of China

“The defendant plotted with Tianjin University to take trade secrets from two U.S. companies, including his own employer, to China for the benefit of the Chinese Government,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Today’s guilty verdict on all counts is an important step in holding accountable an individual who robbed his U.S. employer of trade secrets and sought to replicate the company’s technology and replace its market share.  The Department of Justice’s commitment to prosecuting these cases should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone considering doing the same.”        

“A free nation is naturally innovative.  No nation is more innovative than the United States.  Countries without freedom cannot match our innovation, and inevitably must resort to theft.  Theft is not innovation.  By combatting theft, we protect innovation and freedom,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California.

“Economic Espionage is a pervasive threat throughout the United States, particularly to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley which is the center of innovation and technology,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  “While this case exemplifies how easily a few motivated employees can conspire to misappropriate intellectual property for the benefit of the People’s Republic of China, Zhang’s conviction should serve as a warning to our adversaries that the FBI and our partners remain committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”

According evidence presented during the bench trial, Zhang stole trade secrets relating the performance of wireless devices.  Specifically, Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) and Bulk Acoustic Wave (BAW) filters are used in wireless devices to eliminate interference and improve other aspects of device performance.  Film Bulk Acoustic Resonators (FBAR) are one type of BAW filter. 

The most common and most profitable application of FBAR technology is as a radio frequency (RF) filter for mobile phones and other wireless devices.  Technological advances in FBARs have played a substantial role in creating smaller, more efficient wireless devices for both consumer and military applications.  Avago, one of the victims of Zhang’s theft, was the leading company in the United States manufacturing and selling FBARs.  Zhang’s other victim, Skyworks, was developing its own BAW technology.

Evidence at trial further showed that in October 2006, Zhang and his co-conspirators started a business in China to compete with Avago and Skyworks.  One of Zhang’s co-conspirators, Wei Pang, started working at Avago at the same time.  Zhang and Pang illicitly shared trade secrets with each other and with co-conspirators in China while they worked for the U.S. companies.  

Zhang and Pang then connected their venture to Tianjin University (TJU) in China, an instrumentality of the Chinese government.  By 2009, they left their work in the United States to relocate to China, following a plan laid out by TJU officials to form another company, Novana, in the Cayman Islands.  Along the way, Zhang obtained patents in his own name using trade secret information he knew was stolen from Avago.  Zhang also worked with stolen trade secrets in a lab he founded at TJU while developing his new FBAR business. The FBAR processes that Zhang and his co-conspirators stole took Avago over twenty years of research and development to build.  Additional evidence during the bench trial demonstrated that Zhang engaged in economic espionage to help TJU and Zhang’s Chinese company unfairly compete in the multi-billion dollar global market for cell phone RF filters. 

Zhang was charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 1, 2015.

Zhang is currently released on a $500,000 secured bond. 

Zhang’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31, 2020, before Judge Davila in San San Jose.  The maximum statutory penalty for each count in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1831 is 15 years in custody and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate.  The maximum statutory penalty for each count in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832 is 10 years in custody and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Michelle J. Kane and Susan Knight are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rebecca Shelton, Susan Kreider, and Laurie Worthen.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (June 2020) Chinese Citizen Convicted of Economic Espionage, Theft of Trade Secrets, and Conspiracy

Is China planning a “Pearl Harbor” Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack on the US?


Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, the Executive Director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and former Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, published an informative, as well as a frightening essay, on “The People’s Republic of China Military Doctrine, Plans, and Capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack” against the US and other nations.

In the report, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry said:

China is on the verge of deploying or has already deployed hyper-sonic weapons that could potentially be armed with nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warheads, greatly increasing the threat of surprise attack against U.S. forces in the Pacific and against the United States.

HGVs are boosted by a missile to an altitude of 40-100 kilometers where they skim along the upper atmosphere un-powered, using control surfaces on the glide vehicle to maneuver unpredictably, evading missile defenses, and highly accurately when they descend to target.

HCMs are launched by an aircraft and have engines to power themselves to the upper atmosphere where, like HGVs, they speed toward target evasively and accurately.

Both HGVs and HCMs are capable of extraordinarily high speeds, depending upon design ranging from at least 5 times the speed of sound or 6,200 kilometers per hour to 25,000 kph.

The combination of hyper-sonic speed, a flat non-ballistic trajectory that flies below radar, and maneuverability that frustrates interception and provides for highly accurate delivery, makes HGVs and HCMs an unprecedented threat to strategic stability and the balance of power.

U.S. Strategic Command’s General John Hyten, chief of the nuclear Triad deterrent, in 2018 sounded alarms about developing hyper-sonic weapons threats from China and Russia.

Former chief of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, testified to the House Armed Service Committee in February 2018 that “hyper-sonic weapons were one of a range of advanced technologies where China was beginning to outpace the U.S. military, challenging its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The U.S. should be very concerned about a scenario where China uses nuclear space weapons, perhaps ICBMs and IRBMs with specialized warheads, to quickly sweep the skies of U.S. satellites, even at the risk of losing PRC satellites, which could then be replaced with a surge of satellites launched by China to capture the “high frontier” and cripple U.S. military capabilities.

If China is orbiting nuclear-armed satellites for HEMP surprise attack, this would be one of their deepest and best protected military secrets.

In addition to obvious strategic considerations, the Outer Space Treaty bans orbiting nuclear weapons in space, and China has pursued a long propaganda offensive criticizing the U.S. for “militarizing space” intended to deter the U.S. from orbiting space-based missile defenses and from improving U.S. military capabilities in space.

The full 14-page report can be accessed here.

SecureTheGrid.com (June 2020) The People’s Republic of China Military Doctrine, Plans, and Capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack