Ex-CIA Officer Pleads Guilty To Decade-Long Espionage For China

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, a 72-year-old former CIA officer and FBI contract linguist, pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of spying for China for at least a decade in a federal courtroom in Honolulu. Ma who has been in custody since his arrest in August 2020 admitted to providing classified information to Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for substantial sums of money and lavish gifts.

As part of the plea agreement, Ma consented to a 10-year prison sentence a significant reduction from the potential life sentence he faced. The U.S. Justice Department had gathered extensive evidence against him including an hourlong video from 2001 showing Ma and an older relative also a former CIA officer providing classified information to officers from China’s Ministry of State Security.

In the video, Ma can be seen counting the $50,000 he received from the Chinese agents for his services. The secrets he divulged included details about CIA sources, assets, international operations, secure communication practices and operational tradecraft, according to charging documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson revealed in court that Ma’s hiring as a part-time contract linguist for the FBI was a strategic move to monitor his interactions with Chinese intelligence officers. The FBI had been aware of Ma’s ties and chose to employ him at an off-site location in Honolulu as stated in the plea agreement.

Ma who was born in Hong Kong and became a U.S. citizen in 1975 joined the CIA in 1982 and resigned in 1989 while holding a top-secret security clearance. Before returning to Hawaii in 2001 he lived and worked in Shanghai, China.