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Ex-State Dept. employee pleads guilty to stealing classified intel for China

The Harry S. Truman Building located at 2201 C Street, NW in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It is the headquarters of the United States Department of State. (AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons)
May 03, 2019

Former U.S. Department of State employee pleaded guilty Wednesday to providing China with classified documents.

Candace Marie Claiborne pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, after stealing classified State Dept. documents and transferring them to Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for money and gifts, according to the Justice Department.

Claiborne, 63-years-old, was charged in 2017. According to her plea agreement, she failed to report her repeated contact with two Chinese intelligence agents, despite accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from them during a five year period.

Claiborne admitted that she regularly met with Chinese intelligence while in China and provided them with manila envelopes stuffed with printed cables, white papers and other non-public documents about the movements and discussions of US diplomats.

Assistant Director McNamara said, “Candace Claiborne was entrusted with Top Secret information when she purposefully misled federal investigators about her repeated interactions with foreign contacts which violated her oath of office as a State Department employee. The FBI will continue to investigate individuals who fail to report foreign contacts, which is a key indicator of potential insider threats posed by those in positions of public trust.”

Assistant Attorney General Demers said that Claiborne “traded her integrity and non-public information of the United States government in exchange for cash and other gifts from foreign agents she knew worked for the Chinese intelligence service. She withheld information and lied repeatedly about these contacts.  Violations of the public’s trust are an affront to our citizens and to all those who honor their oaths.  With this guilty plea we are one step closer to imposing justice for these dishonorable criminal acts.”

The Justice Department said that some of the gifts and benefits that Claiborne accepted “included cash, Chinese New Year’s gifts, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend.”

Claiborne remarked in her journal that she could “generate 20k in 1 year” through her work with one of the Chinese agents.

Also, according to the plea documents, Claiborne was employed at the State Dept. since 1999 and assigned to embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China.

Her plea was accepted by Judge Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Claiborne will turn herself in on June 5 and sentencing is scheduled for July 9, 2019. She could serve as many as five years in prison for her charges.