Former case officer colluded with MSS for years and sought work as a Chinese mole in DIA, FBI
A former Defense Intelligence Agency officer charged with spying for Beijing’s intelligence service used Chinese cell phones to communicate with his spy handlers, according to an FBI document.
Ron Rockwell Hansen, was arrested by the FBI on Saturday and charged with attempted transfer of defense secrets to China and other crimes.
Hansen, an intelligence contractor for many years after leaving DIA in 2006, was arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he planned to travel to China.
A current DIA official working with the FBI helped identify Hansen’s alleged spying activities.
The arrest marked the end of a lengthy counterspy investigation that began in 2014 and included attempts by Hansen to become a false double agent for the DIA—in spy parlance a deceptive triple agent who pretends to be a recruited Chinese spy and who then shifted loyalty to American intelligence but in reality supplies secrets to Beijing.
Hansen is the third former U.S. intelligence charged with spying for China in recent months and reflects stepped up counterintelligence operations against China.
Last week, the espionage trial of former CIA officer Kevin Mallory began in Alexandria, Va. Mallory is charged with using a special mobile device to send classified documents via secure messages to Chinese intelligence.
Salt Lake City FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart said in a statement: “The allegations in this complaint are grave as it appears Mr. Hansen engaged in behavior that betrayed his oath and his country.”
“This case drives home the troubling reality of insider threats and that current and former clearance holders will be targeted by our adversaries,” Barnhart said.
The 41-page FBI complaint outlines Hansen’s career as a Mandarin-speaking former Army warrant officer who worked for DIA from 2000 to 2006 with experience in both electronic intelligence and human spying operations. He held a top-secret security clearance.
Covert searches of his luggage by Customs officials during several trips to China revealed that he carried two Chinese cell phones made by Xanda and Huawei—Chinese telecommunications companies. The phones were used to communicate with Chinese intelligence services including Ministry of State Security (MSS) officers. The MSS is China’s civilian spy agency.
One of the Chinese phones was configured to communicate with a Ministry of State Security spy handler identified in court papers as an MSS officer named Max Tong.
The FBI said Hansen first met Tong in March 2011 and communicated by email and cell phone with him for years.
In July 2012, Hansen wrote Tong telling him that he was seeking to rejoin DIA to gain access to defense secrets, but in April 2013 was rejected by the agency.
During a meeting with FBI agents, Hansen said the Chinese gave him a Xanda cell phone to communicate directly with a Chinese MSS officer named Martin Chen.
Searches of his luggage revealed a Xanda phone in July 2014 and December 2015 had been used to call a Chinese intelligence officer, and in 2014, a Nokia “PRC brand cell phone” was found along with his U.S. smart phone.
Then during a 2017 airport search, Hansen was found in possession of a Huawei smart phone that was searched and found to have been used to communicate with Chen—one of the MSS handlers.
“Hansen’s use of multiple cell phones to communicate covertly with intelligence officers is consistent with case officer tradecraft training Hansen received from DIA to communicate securely with human sources,” the FBI said.
Disclosure of the use of Chinese telecommunications gear for spy communications comes as the Trump administration is debating whether to lift sanctions against the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE as part of trade negotiations.
ZTE and Huawei have been linked by U.S. intelligence agencies to electronic spying by Beijing. The Pentagon has banned the use of both companies’ cell phones over the spying concerns.
Hansen, without knowing he was under investigation, told the FBI in meetings throughout 2015 that he had numerous encounters with Chinese intelligence officers and that the spy services had targeted him for recruitment.
Hansen is scheduled to appear the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday.
Full article: Ex-DIA Official Charged as Beijing Spy Used Chinese Cell Phones (Washington Free Beacon)