US diplomat jailed for selling secrets

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 11 Jul 2019

An American diplomat was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to investigators about money she received from Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for US documents.

Candace Marie Claiborne, 63, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, in one of several high-profile cases involving Beijing spies' recruitment of US officials with access to classified intelligence.

She will also be fined US$40,000 (HK$312,000).

Claiborne was a Department of State office management specialist, based in Beijing and Shanghai, who became involved beginning in 2007 with two men the US Department of Justice said she knew were agents of China's Ministry of State Security. They gave her "tens of thousands" of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for documents and information on State Department activities, it said.

Claiborne was arrested two years ago following an investigation, but was not charged with espionage.

In April, she admitted conspiracy to defraud the United States, lying to investigators and, as a government official with a high security clearance, illegally hiding her contacts with foreign agents.

"Claiborne was entrusted with privileged information as a US government employee, and she abused that trust at the expense of our nation's security," said FBI acting assistant director John Selleck. "The targeting of US security clearance holders by Chinese intelligence services is a constant threat we face, and today's sentencing shows that those who betray the trust of the American people will be held accountable for their actions."

In May, ex-CIA officer Kevin Mallory, 62, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for spying for China.

And in the most significant case, also in May, former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee pleaded guilty to spying for Beijing.

Lee, 54, is now facing a possible life sentence.

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