June 4, 2018 / 9:35 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. ex-defence intelligence officer held over alleged spying for China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former officer with the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency was arrested over the weekend for allegedly trying to spy on the United States for China, the Justice Department said on Monday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation took Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, into custody on Saturday while he was on his way to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to get a connecting flight to China.

The department said he has been accused of trying to transmit national defence information to China and with receiving “hundreds of thousands of dollars” while acting illegally as an agent for the Chinese government.

Reuters could not immediately learn who may be representing Hansen in the case.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not have information on the case.

“But certainly of late there have been some issues between China and the United States. We think China and the U.S. are two major countries and both sides should do more things that strengthen cooperation and mutual trust,” Hua told reporters.

Hansen is the latest person in a string of former U.S. intelligence officers to be swept up in criminal probes related to spying for the Chinese.

Earlier this year, former CIA case officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was indicted for conspiring to gather or deliver national defence information to China.

Another former U.S. intelligence employee named Kevin Mallory is on trial in Virginia, also in connection with selling secrets to China.

In the new case announced Monday, prosecutors said that Hansen speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian.

He served as a case officer for the Defence Intelligence Agency while on active military duty from 2000-2006, and later continued that line of work as a civilian employee and a contractor.

He also held a top secret clearance for years.

The government said that between 2013 and 2017, he travelled between the two countries attending conferences and provided the information he learned to China’s intelligence service.

He was paid via wire transfers, cash and credit cards. He also allegedly improperly sold export-controlled technology.

“His alleged actions are a betrayal of our nation’s security and the American people and are an affront to his former intelligence community colleagues,” said John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

According to court records, the FBI started investigating his activities in 2014. He was unaware of the probe, and participated in nine voluntary meetings with federal agents in Salt Lake City. Utah.

Prosecutors say that during his meetings, he told the FBI that Chinese intelligence had tried to recruit him, offered to cooperate as a source and even provided thumb drives to the FBI that contained classified materials he was not authorized to have.

Hansen appeared before a magistrate judge in Seattle on Monday, and is charged in a 15-count complaint.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Philip Wen in Beijing; Editing by James Dalgleish

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