The Chinese government greatly disrupted U.S. spy operations in that country for years following its capture, imprisonment and, in some cases, slaying of at least 18 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sources, according to a recent New York Times report.
Officials refer to this intelligence breach as “one of the worst in decades,” according to the recent report. Between 18 and 20 CIA sources and spies were imprisoned or killed during the end of 2010 through the end of 2012, according to former American officials.
While the CIA became frantic to control the affects of such a breach after that time, some officials believed it was a CIA mole who betrayed his or her country and gave away the secret sources. The details of how such a breach occurred are still up for debate.
The Times reported that one of the sources was shot in front of his colleagues in a government building courtyard, perhaps to send a message to others who might be working for the CIA, according to three of the former officials with knowledge of the breach. Other sources were captured and put in jail.
“Assessing the fallout from an exposed spy operation can be difficult, but the episode was considered particularly damaging,” the Times reported. “The number of American assets lost in China, officials said, rivaled those lost in the Soviet Union and Russia during the betrayals of both Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, formerly of the [CIA] and the [FBI], who divulged intelligence operations to Moscow for years.”
“The previously unreported episode shows how successful the Chinese were in disrupting American spying efforts and stealing secrets years before a well-publicized breach in 2015 gave Beijing access to thousands of government personnel records, including intelligence contractors,” the Times continued. “The C.I.A. considers spying in China one of its top priorities, but the country’s extensive security apparatus makes it exceptionally hard for Western spy services to develop sources there.”