US Throws Book at Chinese 'Sleeper' Spy

One of many highly skilled—and patient— agents for Beijing
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2008 11:05 AM CDT
US Throws Book at Chinese 'Sleeper' Spy
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Missakian speaks to reporters after a jury convicted Chi Mak, a Chinese-born engineer, of conspiring to export U.S. defense technologies to China and being an unregistered foreign agent in the Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, Calif.   (AP Photo/Mark Avery)

(Newser) – Chi Mak, a Chinese-born engineer, lived quietly with his wife in the LA suburbs for more than two decades, slowly working his way up the ladder at a US defense contractor. Eventually, he gained a security clearance—and access to plans for Navy ships, submarines and weapons, which he secretly copied and sent to Beijing. Mak, it turns out, was one China's extraordinarily patient "sleeper" agents, writes the Washington Post. Last week a federal judge sentenced him to 24 1/2 years.

The heavy sentence was meant to send a message to Beijing, but it's a bit late, the Post notes, saying Chinese sleeper agents are growing in number and sophistication. One intelligence official calls the network an "intellectual vacuum cleaner." Another Chinese engineer at Boeing who was arrested in February for passing on classified material had been taking orders from Beijing since 1979. (Read more China stories.)

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