A U.S. citizen appeared in court on Thursday to face charges that he had transmitted highly classified documents to Chinese agents. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Kevin Patrick Mallory is accused of transmitting documents classified top secret and secret to Chinese intelligence.
Mallory, who is 60 and fluent in Mandarin Chinese, reportedly traveled to Shanghai twice earlier in 2017 to meet with a person he allegedly believed worked for Chinese intelligence. He is charged with making false statements to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and “gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government.”
A criminal complaint (PDF) filed by the Department of Justice details the circumstances of Mallory’s alleged actions. The complaint is highly suggestive of the fact that Mallory may have worked within the U.S. intelligence community — perhaps at the Central Intelligence Agency — between 1990 and 2013. Before 1990, he worked as a special agent for the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.
The complaint notes that Mallory had been “stationed in locations including Iraq, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and the greater Washington D.C. area.” Mallory carried a top secret U.S. government security clearance “during much of that time.” Mallory’s clearance had expired after he left government service.
The complaint goes on to detail Mallory’s exchange of classified national security information for cash during a trip to China earlier this year. Interestingly, the complaint includes Mallory’s own account of how he was recruited by a Chinese agent and given instructions to use a burner cell phone (a “communication device”).
The complaint notes that a demonstration of the communication device is what led to FBI agents seeing the message history between Mallory and his Chinese handlers. The documents Mallory had provided to the Chinese agents were confirmed to have been classified top secret and secret.
“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,” said Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The incident adds to an ever-growing list of instances of U.S. citizens being successfully recruited by Chinese foreign intelligence to leak sensitive national security information. Earlier this year, a U.S. State Department employee, Candace Marie Claiborne, faced similar charges for lying to U.S. investigators about repeated contacts over multiple years with Chinese intelligence agents.
Both cases also serve to illustrate that Chinese foreign intelligence agents do not particularly favor Chinese-origin Americans for recruitment, despite a few recent cases of note.