Tag: CIA

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

Ex-CIA engineer charged in massive leak was described by Prosecutors as ‘angry and vindictive’


Federal prosecutors stated on Monday that a software engineer on trial for the largest leak of classified information in CIA history was “prepared to do anything” to betray the agency, Fox News reported.

Joshua Schulte is a former CIA coder accused of sending the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks a large portion of the agency’s computer hacking arsenal — tools the agency had used to conduct espionage operations overseas.

“The defendant was prepared to burn down the United States government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche said. “He is an angry and vindictive man.”

More at Fox News here.

In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York charged Joshua Adam Schulte with the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and other offenses relating to the theft of classified material from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Schulte was charged in a 13-count Superseding Indictment (the “Indictment”) in connection with his alleged theft of classified national defense information from the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) and the transmission of that material to an organization that purports to publicly disseminate classified, sensitive, and confidential information (“Organization-1”).  The Indictment also charges SCHULTE with the receipt, possession, and transportation of child pornography, as well as criminal copyright infringement.  SCHULTE, who is presently detained on the child pornography charges, will be arraigned by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the CIA, allegedly used his access at the agency to transmit classified material to an outside organization.  During the course of this investigation, federal agents also discovered alleged child pornography in Schulte’s New York City residence.  We and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting national security information and ensuring that those trusted to handle it honor their important responsibilities.  Unlawful disclosure of classified intelligence can pose a grave threat to our national security, potentially endangering the safety of Americans.”

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Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said:  “The National Security Division, alongside our partners in the Intelligence Community, will not waver in our commitment to pursue and hold accountable these officials, and I commend all those at the Department of Justice and the FBI who have worked diligently to investigate this matter and bring these charges.”

Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. said:  “As alleged, Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims. As an employee of the CIA, Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of Classified Information. To further endanger those around him, Schulte allegedly received, possessed, and transmitted thousands of child pornographic photos and videos. In an effort to protect this nation against crimes such as these, the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York will continue to keep our mission at the forefront of our investigations in protecting the American public.”

On March 7, 2017, Organization-1 released on the Internet classified national defense material belonging to the CIA (the “Classified Information”).  In 2016, SCHULTE, who was then employed by the CIA, stole the Classified Information from a computer network at the CIA and later transmitted it to Organization-1.  SCHULTE also intentionally caused damage without authorization to a CIA computer system by granting himself unauthorized access to the system, deleting records of his activities, and denying others access to the system.  SCHULTE subsequently made material false statements to FBI agents concerning his conduct at the CIA.        

SCHULTE was previously arrested on August 24, 2017, on charges relating to his receipt, possession, and transportation of approximately ten thousand images and videos of child pornography.  In March 2017, members of the FBI had searched SCHULTE’s residence in New York, New York, pursuant to a search warrant and recovered, among other things, multiple computers, servers, and other portable electronic storage devices, including Schulte’s personal desktop computer (the “Personal Computer”). 

On the Personal Computer, FBI agents found an encrypted container (the “Encrypted Container”), which held over 10,000 images and videos of child pornography.  The Encrypted Container with the child pornography files was identified by FBI computer scientists beneath three layers of password protection on the Personal Computer.  Each layer, including the Encrypted Container, was unlocked using passwords previously used by SCHULTE on one of his cellphones.  Moreover, FBI agents identified Internet chat logs in which SCHULTE and others discussed their receipt and distribution of child pornography.  FBI agents also identified a series of Google searches conducted by SCHULTE in which he searched the Internet for child pornography.

SCHULTE, 29, of New York, New York, is charged with one count each of (i) illegal gathering of national defense information, (ii) illegal transmission of lawfully possessed national defense information, (iii) illegal transmission of unlawfully possessed national defense information, (iv) unauthorized access to a computer to obtain classified information, (v) theft of Government property, (vi) unauthorized access of a computer to obtain information from a Department or Agency of the United States, (vii) causing transmission of a harmful computer program, information, code, or command, (viii) making material false statements to representatives of the FBI, (ix) obstruction of justice, (x) receipt of child pornography, (xi) possession of child pornography, (xii) transportation of child pornography, and (xiii) copyright infringement. 

A chart containing the charges and maximum penalties is shown here.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI. 

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sidhardha Kamaraju and Matthew Laroche are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott McCulloch of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

Foxnews.com/Justice.gov (March, 2020) Prosecutors describe ex-CIA engineer charged in massive leak as ‘angry and vindictive’; Joshua Adam Schulte Charged With The Unauthorized Disclosure Of Classified Information

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