Former CIA officer who allegedly spied for China claims memory issues

A former CIA officer who is accused of spying for China claims to have memory issues, saying he believes he has early Alzheimer's disease.

In a court filing on Wednesday, an attorney for Alexander Yuk Ching Ma requested a competency evaluation and a hearing to determine his competency to stand trial.

Birney Bervar, Ma's court-appointed attorney, said that Ma's condition is "making it hard for him to remember things and affecting his ability to assist properly in his defense."

Ma, who worked at the CIA from 1982-1989, was arrested in August and charged with violating espionage after meeting with Chinese intelligence officials and allegedly sharing information about the CIA.

Video of the meeting, which took place 12 years after Ma retired, showed him getting paid $50,000 in cash for his information.

Prosecutors said Ma confirmed his actions in 2019 during a meeting with an undercover FBI agent posing as an official of China's intelligence service, and he reportedly accepted $2,000 in cash for the information.

In another meeting two days before his arrest, Ma allegedly stated he wanted "the motherland" to succeed.

Ma's court-appointed attorney wrote in Wednesday's filing that Ma told him a meeting "a couple weeks ago" that he felt he was experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer's.  

During another meeting on Tuesday, Ma again said he thought he was experiencing Alzheimer's.

"Ma said he just can't remember things and that he believes it impairs his ability to assist properly in his defense," Bervar wrote.

Bervar pointed out that Ma's older brother developed the disease 10 years ago and is now "completely disabled by the disease."

Ma's brother was referenced as a co-conspirator in the indictment, but the government opted not to charge him because of the disease.