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Mole-in-Training: How China Tried to Infiltrate the CIA
Comments () | Published June 7, 2012

When someone applies to the CIA, the background checks take months, even years. As he waited to hear back from the Agency, he apparently tired of the work at the tattoo-supply house and moved to South Korea, where he took a job teaching English and met Yumi Kim. In the summer of 2009, he visited his father with his new girlfriend, and they later became engaged.

Kim was struck early on by what she later described as Shriver’s great love of the United States. “The entire time that I have known him, he has never spoken bad of his country,” she said. “I even nicknamed him Mr. Patriot.”

Robert Hanssen and Katrina Leung both spent decades compromising US secrets, as Chinese intelligence hoped Shriver would do as well. Photograph of Hanssen courtesy of AFP PHoto/Newscom. Photograph of Leung by Sing Tao Daily/ZUMA Press/Newscom.

At last, in December 2009, Shriver was notified to report to Washington the following May for final processing of his CIA application. Meanwhile, Amanda had asked that he fly to China to meet her in Shanghai or Hong Kong. He replied, “Things are going well here. I am making some progress for us. But right now is a bad time for me to come visit. Maybe you can wait six months. In six months I will have good news.”

Shriver knew that investigators conducting his background check might discover yet another trip to China, which would jeopardize his CIA application. He had already lied on his employment questionnaire, saying he had not had any contact with a foreign government.

In June 2010, Shriver reported for what he thought was a series of final security screenings at a secret CIA location in Northern Virginia. He told interviewers he had never been approached by or taken money from a foreign intelligence service.

The final screenings were a sham. Officials claim to have realized at an earlier stage that Shriver had been dealing with Chinese intelligence. But CIA and FBI sources are close-mouthed about the Shriver case, declining to talk about how and when he was discovered.

One official does reveal that Shriver’s connection to the MSS hadn’t been learned through the normal background investigation of CIA applicants. The secrecy surrounding the case suggests that the information that led to him came either from a National Security Agency interception of his communications with his Chinese handlers, from a source inside China, or from a defector.

On June 22, 2010—a week after his last screening interview for the CIA—Shriver was about to board a plane at the Detroit airport that would take him back to South Korea when FBI agents moved in and arrested him.

Although China’s attempt to plant a mole in the CIA was unusual, it has in the past infiltrated both the CIA and the FBI.

Decades earlier, Larry Wu-Tai Chin, a top Chinese translator for the CIA, was caught after serving as a Chinese source inside the intelligence agency for more than 30 years.

The FBI was penetrated by Katrina Leung, a prominent figure in the Chinese-American community in Los Angeles who had been given the code name Parlor Maid when she worked as an FBI asset for 20 years.

Leung, as it turned out, had had affairs with the bureau’s two top agents on the West Coast responsible for Chinese counterintelligence, James J. Smith and William Cleveland Jr. She fed FBI secrets to the MSS for years, telling investigators she had filched them from Smith’s briefcase during their trysts at her home.

In April 2003, Leung and Smith were arrested. No charges were filed against Cleveland, although he had to resign from his job as a counterintelligence officer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

After his arrest, Glenn Shriver was arraigned in federal court in Detroit and denied bail. The government was represented by a federal prosecutor from Northern Virginia, Stephen M. Campbell, who had been an assistant US Attorney in Alexandria for eight years.

A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Campbell had worked for the deputy attorney general, overseeing national-security matters, which included supervising espionage investigations. In Alexandria, he prosecuted terrorism cases. He had also served on a presidential task force reviewing the disposition of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, for which he received an award from Attorney General Eric Holder.

Shriver didn’t yet know it, but Campbell would play the key role in determining his fate. Through a court-appointed federal defender, Shriver agreed to waive his transfer to the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria, the government’s preferred venue for espionage cases.

A week later, Shriver was wearing a green jumpsuit in a cell at the red-brick Alexandria city jail when G. Allen Dale first met his client. Dale, a prominent Washington criminal-defense attorney, had been hired by Shriver’s mother.

Dale, another Georgetown law graduate, had worked for Senator Sam Ervin on the Senate Watergate Committee and had since earned a solid reputation as a criminal-defense lawyer. Although graying at the temples, Dale looks younger than his 61 years. In his dark suit and white shirt, he presents a conservative, all-business appearance—only the gold cuff links betray a hint of a flamboyant side to an attorney who has defended a number of celebrated clients in highly publicized cases.

He was one of the attorneys working for Dr. Elizabeth Morgan in the District of Columbia’s longest-running child-custody case. Morgan, a plastic surgeon, served two years in jail for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of her young daughter, Hilary. She accused her ex-husband, Fairfax County oral surgeon Eric Foretich, of molesting the child, a charge he strongly denied. It was later revealed that Morgan had hidden her daughter in New Zealand.

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Posted at 10:35 AM/ET, 06/07/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles