WASHINGTON • A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer has been sentenced to 20 years in prison by a US federal judge for passing secrets to China in return for US$25,000 (S$34,400).
Friday's sentencing brought to a close one of several cases involving Chinese attempts to recruit former US intelligence officers.
The officer, Kevin Patrick Mallory of Leesburg, Virginia, had faced life in prison, but Judge T. S. Ellis III in Northern Virginia decided that was too harsh.
Still, it was more than the 10-year term Mallory's lawyers had argued was appropriate.
"Mallory not only put our country at great risk, but he endangered the lives of specific human assets who put their own safety at risk for our national defence," said the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mr G. Zachary Terwilliger.
A jury convicted Mallory, 62, last year after a nearly two-week trial in Alexandria.
Prosecutors said he provided a Chinese intelligence officer with classified documents, a violation of the Espionage Act.
At the time of his recruitment, prosecutors said, Mallory was in debt and behind on his mortgage payments, making him an attractive target for Chinese intelligence.
In 2017, he travelled twice to China, where an intelligence operative gave him a phone so they could communicate covertly.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation later found classified documents on the phone, including at least two that had been successfully transmitted.
Prosecutors said one of the documents had "unique identifiers for human sources who had helped the United States government".
Mallory's case is among a spate of recent ones involving former US intelligence officials who had been recruited by the Chinese.