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Ex-CIA officer to plead guilty of giving classified information to China

A former CIA officer accused of stealing classified information and giving it to China in exchange for money, travel reimbursements and a set of golf clubs will plead guilty Friday in U.S. District Court.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 71, who once also worked as an FBI linguist, was scheduled to stand trial Nov. 4.

Ma is charged with conspiracy to gather and communicate U.S. national defense information to a foreign nation. He allegedly worked with his brother in California, also a retired CIA officer, to send secrets to agents of China’s Ministry of State Security.

Ma faces life in federal prison on the conspiracy charge. His brother in California, 85 at the time of Ma’s arrest in 2020, was not charged because of a debilitating and advanced cognitive issue.

Ma’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Salina M. Kanai, declined comment. U.S. attorney Ken Sorenson, chief of the Criminal Division, and assistant U.S. Attorney Craig S. Nolan are prosecuting the case.

Ma is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Hong Kong and moved to Honolulu in 1968 where he attended the University of Hawaii, according to federal court records. He had a condominium in Hawaii Kai and a home in China, where he also maintained at least one bank account.

Ma joined the CIA in 1982 and was assigned overseas, including China postings, until he resigned in 1989.

From March 24-26, 2001, Ma and his brother allegedly met with five agents of China’s Ministry of State Security in a Hong Kong hotel to sell intelligence about the CIA for $50,000.

The pair allegedly disclosed “CIA international operations, including the covers for CIA officers and activities; cryptographic information used in classified and sensitive CIA communications and reports; the internal structure and organization of the CIA; the identities of CIA officers and human assets; CIA’s staffing practices and technical departments; and CIA’s operational trade craft, including secure communication practices,” according to an Aug. 18, 2019, motion to detain Ma without bail.

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