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    The State Department in Washington, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014

    Political 'Imbalance' in Washington Gives China 'Opportunity' to Spy on US

    © AP Photo / Luis M. Alvarez
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    Last week, United States Department of State official Candace Claiborne was arrested for "making a false statement to the FBI" about meeting with Chinese foreign intelligence operatives.

    The Department of Justice said that in addition to abandoning her duty to report the meetings, the accused received gifts from Chinese foreign agents, perhaps as part of a "pay to play" type scheme.

    The employee also exploited her position and "access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit," the DOJ noted.

    Russian military expert Vasily Kashin told Sputnik China that despite the fact that the arrest took place shortly before a planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the matter is unlikely to cause massive political outcry.

    At the same time, according to the expert, the situation is indicative of the high professionalism of Chinese intelligence agencies and serious security problems in US embassies around the world.

    Claiborne served as an administrative employee at the State Department and was not a diplomat. She was in charge of administration services at US embassies, including at the US Embassy in Beijing in the last years. Claiborne also has a top security clearance and access to sensitive diplomatic information.

    According to unsealed documents, an unnamed relative of Claiborne was also involved in the scheme and was protected from investigation when he allegedly committed a crime in China.

    "Claiborne worked for Chinese intelligence for five years which is a long period. I assume that her failure was due to her own indiscretion, including mentioning the matter in private communications and in her journal. Maybe, she was not very cautious with her money. This is why US intelligence services could have set sights on her," Kashin said.

    US intelligence could not find out what sort of information Claiborne had handed over to Chinese agents. She has been charged with lying to the FBI, instead of espionage. She is facing up to 25 years in prison.

    "In practice, many similar cases have collapsed in court and the defendants have not been convicted. Sometimes, the FBI does not want to disclose sensitive information during court hearings in order to prevent confidential sources from being compromised," the expert pointed.

    Kashin also suggested that Claiborne is likely not the only source of Chinese intelligence in US governmental structures.

    "Hysteria over Russia’s alleged meddling into the US presidential election and attempts to find evidence to these allegations give Chinese intelligence agents an opportunity to increase their activities," he said.

    According to the expert, those activities may further increase due to the "demoralization" in the US State Department after Donald Trump was elected president.

    "There is little support for Trump among State Department officials and experts. New State secretary Rex Tillerson feels alienated from the majority of the staff and avoids direct contact with many employees. At the same time, de facto the US intelligence community is in conflict with Trump. This imbalance gives Chinese intelligence a unique opportunity to increase its activities," Kashin concluded.


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    intelligence, espionage, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of State, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump, China, United States
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