WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. defence Department analyst pleaded guilty to passing classified information about Taiwan to a Chinese government agent, the Justice Department said on Monday.
The plea came in one of two China espionage cases disclosed last month — the second involved a former Boeing engineer arrested on suspicion of stealing secrets about aerospace programs including the space shuttle.
Gregg William Bergersen pleaded guilty at federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, to conspiracy to disclose national defence information to unauthorized persons. Much of the information pertained to U.S. military sales to China’s arch rival, Taiwan, and communications security issues, court documents said.
Bergersen faces up to 10 years in prison.
Bergersen, a weapons system policy analyst with a top-secret clearance, was arrested in February, along with Tai Shen Kuo and Yu Xin Kang, both of New Orleans.
Bergersen admitted in court papers that he gave national defence information to Kuo several times and that Kuo had cultivated a friendship with him that included gifts, cash payments and gambling money for Las Vegas trips.
Bergersen cautioned Kuo, who had contacts with Taiwan’s defence ministry, that the information was classified. But he was unaware that Kuo was passing the information along to a Chinese government official, the court papers said.
Charges of spying are still pending against Kuo, a U.S. citizen born in Taiwan, and Kang, a Chinese citizen accused of acting as an intermediary between Kuo and a Chinese official. Both have pleaded not guilty.
U.S. intelligence officials say spying by China and Russia has reached levels near that of the Cold War, and that China was seeking U.S. research and development to boost its own military capabilities.
In a conversation with Kuo that was recorded on tape, Bergersen expressed concerns over his fate if he was caught passing on the documents. “If it ever fell into the wrong hands ... then I would be fired for sure. I’d go to jail,” he said. “Because I violated all the rules.” (Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen, editing by Lori Santos and Eric Beech)