A former US diplomatic officer has been charged with giving highly classified documents to a Chinese intelligence agent. The 60-year-old was previously caught with $16,500 of undeclared cash in his carry-on luggage.
Kevin Patrick Mallory made his initial appearance in a Virginia federal court on Thursday. He has been charged under the Espionage Act and could face life in prison if convicted. Mallory could even be eligible for the death penalty if certain conditions are met, prosecutor John Gibbs told the court.
Mallory, a self-employed contractor who speaks Chinese, held Top Secret security clearance until he left government service in 2012.
Court records show he was an army veteran and previously worked as a special agent for the US State Department from 1987 to 1990. He went on to work for a number of government agencies and defense contractors.
Cash for intel?
The affidavit said Mallory had traveled to China in April and met with two people he thought were from a Chinese think tank. On his return, he was questioned by customs agents at a Chicago airport after he failed to declare $16,500 (14,700 euros) in cash found in two carry-on bags.
The FBI interviewed Mallory one month later. According to the affidavit, Mallory told the FBI he had come to believe that the individuals worked for Chinese intelligence, not a think tank.
He also said they had given him a special communications device for transmitting documents, and that he had only used it to transfer two unclassified "white papers" he had written on US policy matters.
But, the affidavit said, when FBI agents searched the device, they found other documents and messages that Mallory thought had been deleted. In one message, Mallory wrote to the suspected Chinese agent, "Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid."
The agent responded: "My current object is to make sure your security and to try to reimburse you."
The FBI said they found four classified documents on the device, including three labeled Top Secret. According to court documents, Mallory received around $25,000 from individuals he thought were Chinese operatives.
nm/cmk (Reuters, AP)