A former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer was arrested and charged this weekend for attempted espionage for selling U.S. government secrets to China.
In 2014, the FBI had started investigating Ron Rockwell Hansen of Syracuse, Utah, and four years later had enough evidence to order an arrest.
In the investigation, officials had ultimately discovered that Hansen had received multiple payments and communications from Chinese intelligence agents.
Hansen was arrested right before he got on a China-bound flight.
Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said that Hansen “allegedly attempted to transmit national defense information to the People’s Republic of China’s intelligence services (PRCIS) and also allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars while illegally acting as an agent of China.”
The former DIA official was paid up to $800,000 over the years for his intel to Beijing.
“Several years after he left the U.S. government, he allegedly attended trade conferences on behalf of China and shared information he gathered with officials connected to Chinese intelligence. Charging documents also allege he transferred forensic software worth several thousand dollars, in violation of export controls,” writes The Associated Press.
Hansen worked as a DIA case officer with top-secret clearance, along with being on active military duty from 2000 to 2006.
“His alleged actions are a betrayal of our nation’s security and the American people and are an affront to his former intelligence community colleagues,” said John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, as reported by Reuters.
“The 15-count complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City accuses Hansen of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government, acting as an unregistered foreign agent of China, bulk cash smuggling, and smuggling goods from the United States,” writes The Washington Post. “The criminal complaint tells a convoluted tale of an FBI investigation that began in 2014, followed by meetings the next year between Hansen and the FBI, in which he described attempts by Chinese intelligence agents to recruit him. Apparently unaware of the bureau’s preexisting investigation of his conduct, Hansen met with FBI agents nine times that year, according to the court document.”
The 42-page criminal complaint outlines suspicious activities by Hansen. He had tried repeatedly to get rehired by the U.S. government from 2012 and on. In 2013, he traveled to China 40 times.
Then in a meeting in 2016 with former DIA colleagues, he said that he was “stringing along” Chinese intelligence officials because he was hoping to act as a “double agent” for the FBI.
One of his former colleagues, who contributed to the suspicious-incident report, was working with the FBI to arrest Hansen.
On Saturday, the colleague arranged a meeting near the Seattle airport where he brought secret government documents for Hansen to review. Hansen took extensive notes and then left for the airport. He was then arrested on a pedestrian bridge leading to the airport.
Author’s note: This is a big deal. It’s very rare for someone who was a DIA official to spy against his country, but apparently, he desperately wanted those paychecks from China.
Editor’s note: As a former intelligence officer, I can tell you this is the most loathsome thing one intelligence officer can do to his compatriots. When this happens, national security is compromised, agents sometimes die, and our enemies get an advantage on us. This is against everything that we trained for, everything we work for. I was in the CIA when Aldrich Ames was arrested (in the Crime and a Narcotics Center where he and I were both working), people were devastated, in shock and in tears. DIA is likely in shock right now.