US intel officer charged with bid to spy for China

HONG KONG • Tens of thousands of dollars in cash. Documents listing locations of US Cyber Command outposts. A passcode-protected thumb drive, hidden behind a sock in the toe of a shoe.

According to the US Justice Department, these are among the items that American agents found over the years while searching the luggage of Ron Rockwell Hansen, a former Defence Intelligence Agency case officer, as he flew numerous times between the United States and China.

Hansen, 58, a fluent Mandarin speaker who first visited China in 1981, has allegedly received at least US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) in "funds originating from China" since May 2013.

Last Saturday, Hansen was arrested in Seattle and charged with attempted espionage in what appears to be another high-profile mole hunt aimed at uncovering Chinese spying against the US.

"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," assistant attorney-general for national security John Demers said in a statement posted on the Justice Department's website on Monday. If convicted, Hansen faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

He is also accused of "acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, bulk cash smuggling, structuring monetary transactions and smuggling goods" from the US, the Justice Department said.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, a fluent Mandarin speaker who first visited China in 1981, has allegedly received at least US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) in "funds originating from China" since May 2013.

The charges come less than a month after a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer suspected of helping China unravel the agency's spy network in that country was indicted for conspiring to commit espionage. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, was arrested at Kennedy International Airport in New York in January, capping an intense FBI mole hunt that began around 2012, after the CIA began losing its informants in China.

Hansen began working as a civilian intelligence case officer for the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's main intelligence arm, in 2006, after serving in the US Army for over 20 years, according to the Justice Department.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2018, with the headline 'US intel officer charged with bid to spy for China'. Print Edition | Subscribe