A former CIA intelligence officer has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of selling American military secrets to China.
Sixty-two-year-old Kevin Mallory was convicted of espionage in June 2018. On Friday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III sentenced Mallory, who prosecutors wanted locked up for life, Fox News reported.
Mallory, who received $25,000 from Chinese handlers in exchange for the classified information he gave them, was found guilty under the Espionage Act.
Mallory had worked for the CIA until 2012 and then went into business for himself as a consultant, according to The Washington Post.
Officials said Mallory posed a real danger to the nation.
“Mallory not only put our country at great risk, but he endangered the lives of specific human assets who put their own safety at risk for our national defense,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, according to The New York Times.
“This case is one in an alarming trend of former U.S. intelligence officers being targeted by China and betraying their country and colleagues,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said, The Guardian reported.
Prosecutors alleged that Mallory was in difficult financial straits when he began working for China.
“Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid,” Mallory wrote in one text message that was part of the evidence against him.
Mallory was first apprehended in April 2017 when, upon his return from a trip to China, he was randomly subject to a screening at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
At that time, customs agents discovered $16,500 in cash. Officials eventually also found messages on a cell phone Mallory used to communicate with China.
Prosecutors said they could tell from the phone that two classified documents had been sent to the Chinese, one of which “contained unique identifiers for human sources who had helped the United States government.”
Mallory’s lawyers later called the documents “essentially worthless.”
Sentencing was delayed while Ellis tried to ascertain whether Mallory had in fact compromised the identity of CIA assets.
Ellis found in the end that it was unclear what Mallory had planned to do prior to his arrest, but that his “long-term intentions” were sinister. “If I had concluded that sources had been compromised … I would impose a far more severe sentence,” Ellis said.
The judge said he arrived at a 20-year sentence, twice what the defense was seeking, to send the message that “if you choose to play footsie with another country, and give information to another country, you have made a decision to commit a crime,” according to The Post.
Mallory’s lawyers insisted that Mallory “provided extremely valuable intelligence to the United States, namely a Samsung cellphone containing a covert communication application used by Chinese intelligence.”
Mallory spoke briefly in court on Friday.
“My love for my country has never wavered,” he said. “I love my family very deeply.”
His attorneys plan to appeal the verdict.
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