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Former US Army officer pleads guilty to spying for China

U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah. (United States District Court for the District of Utah/Released)
March 18, 2019

A former U.S. Army officer accused of spying for China has pleaded guilty.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, admitted to transferring sensitive defense data to Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a Department of Justice press release on Friday.

“Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. The plea agreement calls for an agreed-upon sentence of 15 years,” the DOJ release said.

A hearing for Hansen’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 24.

Hansen, a Utah resident, previously served as a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2006. He had a background involving signals intelligence and human intelligence, and learned fluency in Mandarin Chinese and Russian.

After his retirement from service, he began working as a civilian intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In 2014, he was contacted by Chinese intelligence agents. They began meeting in China, during which time the agents told Hansen of the intelligence data they sought.

“During the course of his relationship with the agents of the Chinese intelligence service, Hansen received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information he provided them, including information he gathered at various industry conferences,” the DOJ release noted.

Previous court documents revealed Hansen accepted more than $800,000 from China.

Between 2016 and 2018, Hansen convinced an intelligence case officer colleague at the DIA to obtain classified information that he deemed valuable to the Chinese intelligence agents. He then told the case officer how to collect and transmit the information in secrecy.

The case officer reported Hansen to the FBI, who then utilized the case officer as an intelligence source for Hansen’s activities.

The case officer obtained classified documents for Hansen, and presented them to him during their final meeting on June 2, 2018.

“The information in the documents related to the national defense of the United States in that it related to United States military readiness in a particular region and was closely held by the United States government,” the release explained of the classified information.

After reviewing the documents and taking notes, Hansen was prepared to travel to China and present the information to the Chinese intelligence agents. He planned to secretly embed the notes in a separate electronic document.

“Hansen knew that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation,” the DOJ said.

The FBI arrested Hansen at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on the same day before his flight to China this past June.