A former CIA officer has been sentenced to 20 years in jail after spying for China and trying to expose agents who had been under his charge.
Kevin Mallory, 62, from Leesburg, Virginia, was convicted last year under the Espionage Act after providing classified information to Chinese handlers in exchange for $25,000 (£20,000).
Prosecutors had sought to have him jailed for life, while his defence lawyers had asked for no more than 10 years in jail.
The court in Alexandria had heard that Mallory was caught after being selected for secondary screening at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in April 2017.
He had been returning from Shanghai with his son and customs agents found he had $16,500 (£13,000) in unreported cash.
When he was interviewed, a phone given to him by the Chinese showed conversations between him and his recruiter that he had thought would be hidden by the phone’s secure messaging features.
In one message, he had written: “Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid.”
Prosecutor John Gibbs had told the court that the crime had been “very basic”, adding that Mallory had been “desperate for money and the most valuable thing he had was our nation’s secrets”.
Defence lawyers had said the amount of money was relative small but Judge Ellis said this was only because Mallory had been caught at an early stage.
Much of the evidence remains classified and parts of the hearing were closed to the public.
Lawyers from both sides disagreed about whether Mallory intended to put lives at risk.
Prosecutors said Mallory either sent or intended to send evidence that would have led to the exposure of human assets described as “the Johnsons”.
Mallory, who speaks fluent Mandarin, had been their handler when he worked at the CIA.
But defence lawyers said there was computer forensic evidence supporting their claim that Mallory had never intended to expose them.
Judge Ellis did not make a conclusion on this but did say that Mallory’s “long-term intentions” were sinister, adding: “If I had concluded that sources had been compromised… I would impose a far more severe sentence.
“If you choose to play footsie with another country… you have committed a crime,” Judge Ellis said. “Don’t think that you can be a double agent.”
Assistant Attorney General John Demers said: “This case is one in an alarming trend of former US intelligence officers being targeted by China and betraying their country and colleagues.
“This sentence… delivers the stern message that our former intelligence officers have no business partnering with the Chinese, or any other adversarial foreign intelligence service.”
Mallory’s lawyers said they plan to appeal against the conviction.
Source: SKY NEWS