Chinese spies first contacted Kevin Patrick Mallory on LinkedIn, hoping to lure him into providing important intelligence.
One Chinese agent claimed to be a corporate headhunter for a firm called Darren and Associates. He then introduced Mallory to his associate, who said he was working for a Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences—a common cover identity for intelligence officers in the Shanghai State Security Bureau, a sub-branch of China’s Ministry of State Security, an intelligence agency similar to the FBI and CIA combined.
Former CIA agent Mallory, 60, had received top secret security clearance due to his previous work in the government and as a private contractor. After he left government service in October 2012, he started a private consulting business, but it wasn’t doing so well. So when the Chinese spies offered to pay him for providing classified and unclassified documents, Mallory agreed.
In March and April 2017, Mallory, who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, traveled to Shanghai to meet with the Chinese spies. His point of contact, Michael Yang, was the agent who introduced himself as from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He gave Mallory a covert communications device which he would use to transmit the documents.
Mallory was arrested in June at his home in Leesburg, Virginia. There, officers discovered an SD card containing the documents he had transmitted, carefully concealed inside aluminum foil. After he was arrested, Mallory called his family from his jail cell, asking them to search for the SD card.
About a year later, on June 8, Mallory was convicted on espionage charges related to transmitting those documents, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
His case exemplifies how former agents are being targeted by foreign adversaries. “Foreign intelligence agents are targeting former U.S. government security clearance holders in order to recruit them and steal our secrets,” Nancy McNamara, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said in a statement.
Oftentimes, they are first contacted via social media. The Daily Beast reported that the company that contacted Mallory, Darren and Associates, is in fact a front company—a common tactic for intelligence operatives to lure potential targets.
Mallory was paid $25,000 by the Chinese, according to court documents. He now faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and making false statements.
The exact contents of the documents Mallory transferred to Chinese agents are unknown, but during the court trial last year, a CIA information review officer said one of the documents “reveals the breadth and depth” of the CIA’s understanding of “a specific hostile foreign intelligence service,” according to a Washington Post report.
In addition, some handwritten notes found in Mallory’s home involved sensitive information on human sources and “could reasonably be expected to cause the loss of critical intelligence and possibly result in the lengthy incarceration or death of clandestine human sources,” the CIA officer had confirmed. According to the criminal complaint, Mallory offered to give the Chinese spies his notes as well.
Mallory’s defense lawyers claimed that Mallory was actually working as a freelance double agent, stringing the Chinese spies along so that he could later expose them to U.S. intelligence. But the jury did not buy that story.
Mallory is one of several recent cases involving former U.S. intelligence agents conducting espionage for the Chinese regime. Earlier in June, a former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officer was arrested for allegedly spying for China.
In May, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former CIA agent, was charged with gathering classified information with the intention of passing it to the Chinese government. Lee was approached by Chinese spies who offered to pay him, the Justice Department said.