A former American student in China whom Chinese intelligence recruited as a spy was caught after he sought work in the CIA’s espionage branch, highlighting Beijing’s efforts to plant spies inside the agency.
U.S. officials said screening by security and counterintelligence officials led to the discovery that Glenn Duffie Shriver, a Detroit resident, had close ties to Chinese intelligence agents working for the Ministry of State Security, who paid him at least $70,000 to work secretly as an informant in the CIA.
CIA spokeswoman Paula Weiss declined to provide details of how Shriver was uncovered during an attempt last year and this year to join the CIA-led National Clandestine Service at the behest of the Chinese, but praised the case as an example of good security.
“This was in fact a counterintelligence success,” she said.
“On the other, trying to get someone in through the hiring process is one of the oldest and most predictable tricks in the book — and they surely must have known that their chances of failure were high.”
Shriver pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria on Friday to one count of conspiracy to communicate national defense information. Under the deal, he is expected to be sentenced to five years in prison.
Shriver is not the first spy for the Chinese to target the CIA. U.S. intelligence sources have said at least three CIA officers were reported to Director George J. Tenet in 1999 as having spied for China, but were never caught. One of the agents was paid $60,000 by Beijing.
But the CIA has come under fire in recent years from critics who say its counterintelligence capabilities are weak.
The agency was penetrated directly by CIA turncoat Aldridge Ames, who, while working as a senior CIA counterintelligence officer, gave Moscow the identities of all its recruited agents, causing the deaths and imprisonments of the agency’s most valuable sources at the end of the Cold War. He was arrested in 1993 and later sentenced to life in prison.
The CIA also was damaged by the case of FBI agent Robert P. Hanssen, who also spied for Moscow for many years until his arrest in 2001. FBI investigators disrupted CIA counterintelligence operations when they falsely accused CIA counterspy Brian Kelley of being a Soviet agent until a KGB audio recording revealed that Hanssen was the spy.
“This is another example of the breadth and depth of Chinese operations against U.S. national security,” he said. “Those operations range from sustained cyber-attacks to deep-penetration agents [inside the U.S. government], like the kind of agent Mr. Shriver was meant to be.”
The disposal of the Shriver case also comes in the context of rising political and economic tensions between Washington and Beijing over several issues — another round of Taiwanese requests for U.S. arms, China’s overvalued currency, the U.S. trade deficit with Beijing, Chinese aggressiveness in territorial disputes with its neighbors around the South China Sea, and China’s manipulation of its rare earth minerals exports.
National Economic Council Chairman Lawrence H. Summers said the minerals issue poses “serious questions, both in the economic and in the strategy realm, that are going to require close study within our government.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Vietnam this week for a regional summit with China-related issues at the forefront, just months after she helped line up several nations in the region against China’s territorial claims.
Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, said the Shriver case was based on “fabricated allegations” aimed at defaming China.
According to the statement of facts made public Friday, Shriver returned to China in 2004 after studying as an exchange student at East China Normal University in Shanghai. He was recruited into Chinese intelligence after responding to an advertisement offering pay for writing a political assessment of U.S.-China relations on North Korea and Taiwan by a woman named Amanda.
The woman then arranged for Shriver to meet with two Chinese intelligence officers, identified in court papers as “Mr. Wu” and “Mr. Tang,” who persuaded Shriver to join the State Department, CIA or U.S. law enforcement agencies.
“If it’s possible, we want to you to get us some secrets or classified information,” one of the officials told him, according to the statement of facts.
After twice failing the Foreign Service exam required for State Department employment, Shriver was still paid $30,000 by the Chinese, and in 2007 after applying for a position in the National Clandestine Service, the CIA-led espionage branch, he received $40,000 more.
In late 2009 and early 2010, Shriver continued to seek employment at the CIA, falsely stating on applications and in interviews that he had no contact with foreign intelligence agents. According to the statement, Shriver held 20 meetings with Chinese agents from 2004 to 2007.
Mr. deGraffenreid said Shriver was likely groomed as a long-term agent, like Larry Chin, who joined the agency in the late 1940s and spied until his discovery in 1985.
China also demonstrated its intelligence prowess in the case of Katrina Leung, an FBI informant in Los Angeles who U.S. officials say was a spy for China while having intimate affairs with two senior FBI counterintelligence agents.
Mr. deGraffenreid, who also served as senior director for intelligence at the White House National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration, said Chinese operations against the U.S. will continue to cause damage until the government takes tougher action against Beijing.
“It is simply not enough to say the FBI will take care of this problem,” said Mr. deGraffenreid, who helped arrange the ouster of scores of KGB officers in the 1980s. “It wasn’t until a decision was made by the U.S. government to stop the theft of secrets and technology that we really made any headway against the KGB.”
The official who defended the CIA said the agency screens applicants carefully for ties to foreign intelligence agencies.
“That’s one reason why the agency performs such thorough background investigations on individuals who are being considered for employment,” the official said. “In this case, Shriver was discovered early in the hiring process.”
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Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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