CHINA CRIPPLES

Killings, de­ten­tion of op­er­a­tives dis­able op­er­a­tions for years af­ter­wards

New Straits Times - - World -

WASH­ING­TON

THE Chi­nese gov­ern­ment sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tled the United States’ Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency (CIA) spy­ing op­er­a­tions in the coun­try start­ing in 2010, killing or im­pris­on­ing more than a dozen sources over two years and crip­pling in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing there for years after­ward.

Cur­rent and for­mer US of­fi­cials de­scribed the in­tel­li­gence breach as one of the worst in decades. It set off a scram­ble in Wash­ing­ton’s in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment agen­cies to con­tain the fall­out, but in­ves­ti­ga­tors were di­vided over the cause. Some were con­vinced that a mole within the CIA had be­trayed the US. Others be­lieved that the Chi­nese had hacked the covert sys­tem the CIA used to com­mu­ni­cate with its for­eign sources. Years later, that de­bate re­mains un­re­solved.

But there was no dis­agree­ment about the dam­age. From the fi­nal weeks of 2010 through the end of 2012, ac­cord­ing to for­mer US of­fi­cials, the Chi­nese killed at least a dozen of the CIA’s sources.

Ac­cord­ing to three of the of­fi­cials, one was shot in front of his col­leagues in the court­yard of a gov­ern­ment build­ing — a mes­sage to others who might have been work­ing for the CIA.

Still others were put in jail. All told, the Chi­nese killed or im­pris­oned 18 to 20 of the CIA’s sources in China, ac­cord­ing to two for­mer se­nior US of­fi­cials, ef­fec­tively un­rav­el­ling a net­work that had taken years to build.

As­sess­ing the fall­out from an ex­posed spy op­er­a­tion can be dif­fi­cult, but the episode was con­sid­ered par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing. The num­ber of US as­sets lost in China, of­fi­cials said, ri­valled those lost in the Soviet Union and Rus­sia dur­ing the be­tray­als of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, for­merly of the CIA and the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI), who di­vulged in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions to Moscow for years.

The pre­vi­ously un­re­ported

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