National Security

Ex-DIA Officer Gets 10 Years in Prison for Spying for China

Passed secrets to Chinese MSS intelligence service

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Former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Ron R. Hansen was sentenced to 10 years in prison for spying for Chinese intelligence.

The sentence was imposed by U.S. district judge Dee Benson Tuesday in federal court Salt Lake City.

Hansen was arrested in June 2018 and pleaded guilty in March to one count of attempting to sell national defense secrets to China.

In court it was disclosed that Hansen had been cooperating with the U.S. government and the judge said he provided valuable information on Chinese intelligence operating methods.

Robert A. Lund, assistant U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City, said the case was damaging because Hansen provided intelligence secrets to China.

Lund said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon Hansen betrayed his position of public trust and disclosed "classified information to a potentially hostile power," and that the disclosures significantly harmed American national security.

"We hope that a case like this brings exposure to the lengths the Chinese government will go to obtain American intelligence and American technology to advance their position in the world," Lund said.

Lund said Hansen worked with the Ministry of State Security, China's civilian political police and intelligence agency, for around five years.

The case is one example of how China is targeting the United States for both intelligence and technology secrets to advance Beijing's drive to become the dominant world power.

"We hope this prosecution creates a deterrent effect for anyone else serving in a position of public trust who might disclose classified information and damage the national security of this country," he said.

In exchange for his cooperation in detailing the damage from the case, and to prevent the disclosure of the compromised secrets during a trial, Hansen received a lighter than normal sentence.

If convicted of the other charges in the case, he would have faced life in prison.

The sentencing memorandum in the case remains sealed and outlines the case and resulting damage in more detail.

One of the plea agreement documents submitted in court contains an admission by Hansen that in early 2014 he was recruited by agents of the Chinese intelligence service and met regularly with them in China.

"During those meetings, the agents described to me the type of information that would interest Chinese intelligence," Hansen stated. "During the course of my relationship with Chinese intelligence, I received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information I

provided them, including information I gathered at various industry conferences."

Lund said prosecutors estimate that the Chinese paid Hansen about $800,000.

Electronic intercepts of Hansen outlined in court papers revealed that Hansen was motivated in part to spy for China by hatred for President Trump.

Court documents in the case made no mention of the type of information Hansen supplied to China.

However, China's intelligence services are notoriously stingy and in the past have provided such large sums of money to recruited agents if they provided valuable intelligence secrets.

Hansen, a former Mormon missionary in Taiwan, served as an Army warrant officer who specialized in signals intelligence and human intelligence operations. He speaks fluent Chinese.

In 2006, after leaving the Army, Hansen joined DIA as a civilian case officer who held a top-secret security clearance.

Hansen is one of three major Chinese spy cases involving U.S. intelligence agencies.

Two other Chinese spies also were uncovered in recent months.

In May, former CIA and DIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to 20 years for supplying secrets to China.

That same month, former CIA case officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee, admitted to spying for Chinese intelligence, including disclosing the identities of Chinese recruited agents working for the CIA.

Lee left the CIA in 2007 and began spying for China in 2010.

Around that time, China scored a major intelligence coup against the CIA by uncovering as many as 30 recruited CIA agents in China. The agents were either imprisoned or executed, according to U.S. officials.

Hansen was discovered after leaving DIA when he attempted to recruit a DIA case officer in 2016 and sought to act as an intermediary for supplying secrets between the DIA officer and the Chinese.

In June 2018, he was arrested carrying classified DIA documents on U.S. military positions in Asia as he boarded a commercial flight to China.

"These cases show the breadth of the Chinese government’s espionage efforts and the threat they pose to our national security," said Assistant Attorney General of National Security John C. Demers said in a statement Tuesday.

U.S. attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah said China's government is continuing to recruit U.S. intelligence officials as spies.

"The Hansen case is an example of what will happen to those who violate the public’s trust and risk our national security by disclosing classified information," Huber said.

FBI special agent in charge Paul Haertel of the Salt Lake City Field Office said Hansen was motivated to spy for money.

"This case brings to light that not all spies are foreign adversaries," he said. "Insider threats pose a significant national security risk, and the FBI will continue to aggressively investigate those who put our country and citizens at risk."

The case reveals that Chinese intelligence, according to an FBI criminal complaint, was seeking top-secret U.S. military war plans for China, as well as secrets on U.S. negotiations with North Korea and information on American government officials.

Hansen also warned the DIA officer he was trying to recruit for the MSS and another spy service, the Ministry of Public Security.

"They'll kill you if you fuck them over," Hansen was overheard saying in one recorded conversation. "They are not above sending someone here to hunt you down and kill you."

Hansen used three different cell phones, including one device made by the controversial Huawei Technologies, in securely communicating with Chinese intelligence handlers.

Hansen is at least the second DIA officer to spy for China. In 2006, DIA analyst Ron Montaperto pleaded guilty to illegally holding classified documents and as part of the plea admitted to passing classified DIA information to Chinese military intelligence officials during the 1980s.