Former US Intelligence Officer Sentenced to 10 Years for Attempting to Spy for China

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
September 25, 2019 Updated: September 28, 2019

A former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer was sentenced to 10 years for attempted espionage on behalf of China on Sept. 24.

The officer, Ron Rockwell Hansen, of Syracuse, Utah, pleaded guilty in March to attempting to pass information related to U.S. national defense. He was arrested on June 2, 2018, before he could board a flight to China at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“Ron Rockwell Hansen received hundreds of thousands of dollars for betraying his country and former colleagues,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General of National Security John C. Demers, in a press release from the Department of Justice.

Demers added: “These cases show the breadth of the Chinese government’s espionage efforts and the threat they pose to our national security.”

Hansen, 60, speaks fluent Mandarin and Russian. He was a warrant officer in the U.S. Army for over 20 years before his retirement in 2006. That same year, DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence officer, which eventually gave him security clearance for Top Secret. Though he resigned from DIA by December, he continued to do contractual work for the federal government and had access to classified information, according to court documents.

In his plea agreement, Hansen admitted that he was recruited by a Chinese intelligence service in early 2014, and that he began to hold regular meetings with agents from that service in China. Chinese agents told Hansen what information would be of interest to Chinese intelligence.

Between May 2016 and June 2018, Hansen sought out an unnamed DIA case officer and solicited national security information from him that Chinese intelligence would find valuable.

Unbeknownst to Hansen, the case officer reported Hansen’s conduct to the DIA and acted as an informant in an FBI investigation into Hansen’s activities.

On the day he was arrested, Hansen said he met with the DIA case officer and received documents related to the information he previously solicited, which was related to U.S. military readiness in an unknown region.

According to the press release, Hansen was planning to hide the materials in those documents within the text of an electronic document he would prepare at the airport before leaving China.

Past Incidences

The Chinese regime has continually targeted former and current staff at U.S. intelligence agencies in an attempt to get their hands on national secrets.

“This is a very troubling trend, “said federal prosecutor John W. Huber in the press release.

In May, Kevin Patrick Mallory, of Leesburg, Virginia, who had worked for both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and DIA, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years of supervised release for conspiracy to transmit U.S. defense information to China.

Benjamin Pierce Bishop, from Honolulu, Hawaii, was a civilian defense contractor and a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. According to federal prosecutors, he retained documents  from his old workplace at the U.S. Pacific Command related to U.S. defense strategies in Asia.

In March 2012, Bishop emailed classified information to a 27-year-old Chinese woman with whom he had a romantic relationship. The woman was present in the United States at the time as a graduate student on a J1 Visa.

It is not known if the unnamed woman had any ties to Chinese intelligence agencies.

Bishop was sentenced to 87 months in prison and three years of supervised release for “willfully communicating classified national defense information to a person not authorized to receive it,” according to a September 2014 press release from the Department of Justice.

Other cases involved Chinese authorities attempting to install moles within U.S. intelligence.

Glenn Duffie Shriver, of Grands Rapids, Michigan, was a student in China when he agreed to offers from Chinese intelligence agents to become a spy. They planned for him to seek employment in U.S. intelligence agencies or law enforcement organizations upon his return to the United States.

From 2005 to 2010, Shriver tried to gain employment as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, and as a clandestine service officer with the CIA. While applying for the CIA job, Shriver concealed his contact with Chinese agents and his travels to China. He was ultimately not successful in getting those jobs.

Shriver said he received more than $70,000 in cash payments from the Chinese agents for what they called his “friendship.”

Shriver was sentenced to 48 months in prison in January 2011 for conspiring to provide U.S. defense information to Chinese agents, after pleading guilty in October 2010, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. 

Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.