WASHINGTON • A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) case officer faces life in prison after he was convicted of betraying his country to spy on behalf of China.
Kevin Mallory, 61, of Leesburg, Virginia, was found guilty on Friday of espionage charges and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about his contacts with Chinese intelligence.
The verdict capped a nearly two-week trial that offered a rare glimpse into the murky world of United States espionage cases, which typically do not go to trial because of the difficulties involving highly classified information.
"This case should send a message," US Attorney Zachary Terwilliger told reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict was read. "We will be dogged in pursuit of these challenging but critical national security cases."
Mallory has always been a risk taker. In a 22-year career in intelligence, he violated the terms of his top secret security clearance at least twice. He left the CIA in 2012.
Last year, he took his biggest gamble yet: simultaneously selling secrets to Chinese intelligence officers for US$25,000 (S$33,000) and exposing those spies to his old colleagues at the CIA. He bet that a jury would believe he was acting as a freelance triple agent, luring the Chinese in so he could hand them over to US authorities.
But he lied to the FBI about the money he took and the classified documents he handed over. When FBI agents discovered evidence of both on a phone Mallory was given by the Chinese, the former covert operative claimed he was running his own sting operation.
"This was an intelligence operation against Chinese intelligence," Mr Geremy Kamens, a lawyer for Mallory, said last Thursday during closing arguments. "In reality, Kevin Mallory was working against the Chinese."
The jury was not convinced, deliberating for a day before deciding to believe the substantial evidence prosecutors presented in the courtroom in Northern Virginia.
The high-profile case is among several recent ones involving Chinese attempts to recruit former US intelligence officials.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee is a former CIA officer facing trial in Alexandria next year, while former Defence Intelligence Agency officer Ron Rockwell Hansen was arrested last weekend in Seattle.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST