State employee charged in FBI probe

A State Department employee pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday after being charged in an FBI investigation, the Department of Justice announced. 

Candace Claiborne, who worked in the Caucasus Affairs office of the State Department, is being charged for two felony offenses.

Claiborne is being charged with “obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI, both felony offenses, for allegedly concealing numerous contacts that she had over a period of years with foreign intelligence agents,” a Justice Department release said.

Claiborne, who has a top-secret security clearance, failed to disclose her foreign contacts abroad despite being required to do so. 

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“Claiborne also is required to report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency,” the press release said.

“This case demonstrates that U.S. government employees will be held accountable for failing to honor the trust placed in them when they take on such sensitive assignments,” it added.

Claiborne is accused of repeatedly contacting two Chinese intelligence agents, who “provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years.”

The press release said the agents provided Claiborne with gifts, including “cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend.”

Claiborne also wrote in her journal that she could “Generate 20k in 1 year” if she continued working with one of the agents, an affidavit says. 

Claiborne was arrested Tuesday and appeared in a D.C.-based district court on Wednesday afternoon. 

Claiborne has worked with the State Department in various posts since 1999, “including embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China.”

The FBI’s investigation of Claiborne included surveillance done under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Reuters said in a tweet, citing a federal prosecutor.

Claiborne could face a maximum of 25 years in prison. 

Updated at 4:15 p.m.