Killings, detention of operatives disable operations for years afterwards
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