State Department Translator Allegedly Sold Chinese Spy Information on Americans

April 22, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2015

A translator who worked as a contractor for the U.S. Department of State was allegedly selling information on Americans to a man she believed was a Chinese intelligence officer.

The woman, Xiaoming “Helen” Gao, was making trips to China since 2007 where she met with a man she called “Teacher Zhao,” and his assistant, “Little Li.” According to court documents, “Gao told the FBI how Zhao paid her to make as many American friends as possible and report back to him when they met in China.”

Details on the case were recently unsealed by a U.S. District Court in Maryland in the form of two documents. Yet, despite claims from a FBI special agent that Gao believed she was selling information to a Chinese intelligence officer, Gao will not face charges.

Why she will not face charges is unclear. The motion to unseal the search warrant affidavit says,  “The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia was overseeing this investigation and recently declined to prosecute this matter.”

“While in contact with individuals she believed to be Chinese intelligence officers, Gao was paid thousands of dollars to provide information on U.S. persons and a U.S. Government employee,” states the search and seizure warrant.

It adds that because she “concealed her contact with individuals she believed to be Chinese intelligence officers,” she was able to maintain her employment with the State Department and become a permanent resident of the United States.

Gao allegedly came clean around Feb. 27, 2013. After Gao returned from a trip to China, she told a Customs and Border Protection officer at the Washington Dulles International Airport that she had been approached by someone named “Zhao” in China in 2007, who she believed was a Chinese intelligence officer.

She said the alleged agent wanted to know who Gao knew and what their jobs were. At their first meeting, Zhao told her he worked for the Chinese government, and paid her $6,000. Zhao told her to not tell anyone about their meetings.

Over the course of two years, Gao met with Zhao and his assistant in hotel rooms in China. She told them about her “social contacts” in the United States, and said her discussions with Zhao were “one way” conversations where Zhao gave no information in return.

She once told them about the travel plans of a Tibetan-American she knew. Around the same time, the Tibetan-American who was visiting Tibet was questioned by Chinese intelligence officers.

“One of his family members in Tibet was imprisoned shortly before he visited,” the search warrant states. “The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., later refused to renew his Chinese passport.”

Gao also briefly lived with a man who was a State Department employee with Top Secret security clearance, who she told Zhao was an architect who designed U.S. Embassy facilities.

Over the years, the search warrant states, Gao had also allegedly lied on numerous occasions to keep her job as a U.S. Department of State interpreter, and concealed information about her meetings with Zhao.

Fox News, which obtained and published the court documents, confirmed that Gao worked for the State Department until February 2014. She worked as a translator during the tenures of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current Secretary John Kerry.

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