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Former CIA officer charged with selling US secrets to China

Former CIA officer charged with selling US secrets to China
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A former CIA officer was arrested Friday and charged with selling U.S. secrets to China after he allegedly unknowingly revealed his actions to the FBI.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, from Honolulu was charged with violating American espionage laws after working for the CIA from 1982-1989, according to a Department of Justice press release. The charge for the naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Hong Kong was unsealed Monday morning.

Prosecutors said Ma met officials from China’s intelligence service in Hong Kong 12 years after he retired and allegedly shared information about CIA operations, who CIA officers and human assets were and how the agency communicates.

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A video recording of the meeting allegedly showed Ma getting and counting $50,000 in cash for the information, according to the release. 

Ma worked as a Chinese linguist in the FBI’s Honolulu field office after leaving the CIA. Prosecutors allege that he used his position to copy and photograph classified documents and give them to Chinese sources. NBC News reported the information included documents on guided missile and weapons systems.

In 2019, an undercover FBI employee set up meetings with Ma while acting as a representative from the Chinese government, saying he was looking "into how Ma had been treated, including the amount he had been compensated,” NBC News reported. 

Prosecutors said Ma said he “wanted 'the motherland' to succeed" and allegedly told the agent that he gave classified information to the Chinese government.

Ma could face life imprisonment if convicted.

An 85-year-old relative of Ma’s also worked for the CIA and gave information to officials with Ma, but court documents indicate he was not charged because he is dealing with "an advanced and debilitating cognitive disease,” according to NBC News. 

Ma’s charges are the latest in the U.S.’s efforts to crack down on Chinese spying efforts in the country. Another former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was sentenced to 19 years last year after he pleaded guilty to working with Chinese intelligence employees after departing the CIA.