A former Central Intelligence Agency officer is facing charges that he sold top-secret U.S. government documents to China.
Kevin Mallory, 60, was arrested by the FBI at his home in Leesburg, Virginia, on Thursday and brought to federal court in Alexandria to face preliminary charges of espionage and lying to federal officers.
While the sensitivity of the information disclosed remains unclear, if the government can prove the charges, the case would represent one of the most brazen acts of espionage for China carried out by a veteran of the CIA and other government agencies.
Court filings claim that during a trip to China in March and April, Mallory accepted some kind of secure communication device from a Chinese national. Mallory later told the FBI that he was “trained to use it specifically for private communications” with the Chinese citizen, court papers say.
Mallory allegedly acknowledged to the FBI in an interview last month that he had provided unclassified “white papers” to the Chinese person in exchange for about $25,000 in cash, but he denied providing any classified information.
An affidavit from FBI agent Stephen Green says that as Mallory demonstrated the device to the FBI, he “expressed surprise” when the secure message history began to appear. One message said: “I can also come in the middle of June I can bring the remainder of the documents I have at that time.”
Green said the FBI later found incriminating messages on the device. One allegedly said: “Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid for.” Another exchange cited by Green said: “The black was to cross out the security classification (TOP SECRET//ORCON??…I had to get it out without the chance of discovery….You can send the funds broken into 4 equal payments over 4 consecutive days….If they we [sic] looking for me in terms of State Secrets, and found the SD card…, we would not be talking today. I am taking the real risk as you…and higher up bosses know.”
The FBI said the same device, which was not described in detail, contained three classified U.S. government documents: one top secret and the other classified as secret.
The court papers do not mention the CIA but say Mallory worked as a diplomatic security agent for the State Department from 1987 to 1990 and then for “various government agencies, for U.S. cleared defense contractors, and on U.S. Army active duty deployments.” He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, the FBI says.
A U.S. official confirmed Mallory’s CIA link to POLITICO. The connection was first reported by The Washington Post.
A CIA spokesman referred comment to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria. Officials there did not respond to messages Thursday.
Data from resumes for Mallory posted online indicate that he served for a time as an economic officer at the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents U.S. government interests there. Economic officer posts abroad are often populated by CIA personnel.
The resume data on the internet also indicate Mallory claimed to have worked for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration. Those affiliations could not immediately be confirmed.
At a brief court hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered Mallory be held in custody pending a detention hearing Friday afternoon.
FBI and Justice Department officials said in statements that the charges should serve as a reminder of the consequences for what they called “unauthorized disclosures,” a category of offenses that includes both espionage and leaking to the media.
“Kevin Mallory was previously entrusted with Top Secret clearance and therefore had access to classified information, which he allegedly shared and planned to continue sharing with representatives of a foreign government,” said Andrew Vale, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office, in a news release. “Furthermore, he allegedly misled investigators in a voluntary interview about sharing of this classified information. The FBI will continue to investigate those individuals who put our national security at risk through unauthorized disclosures of information.”
Dana Boente, who is the U.S. attorney in Alexandria and the acting head of Justice’s National Security Division, also underscored the gravity of the charges.
“The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious, and these charges should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public’s trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information,” Boente said in a news release.