FBI Arrests State Department Employee For Spying For China

In an example of a FISA-warranted surveillance done right, on Wednesday the FBI announced the arrest of a veteran State Department employee with access to top secret information, who was accused of failing to report numerous contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents who provided her with "tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits" in exchange for diplomatic and economic information, federal prosecutors said.

Candace Claiborne, 60, was charged in a Washington federal court with obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. As Reuters reports, Claiborne appeared before a magistrate judge with her lawyer, David Bos, but both declined to speak to reporters. Claiborne will remain confined to house arrest until an April 18 preliminary hearing. According to the Federal complains, Claiborne was given tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and wire transfers by Chinese agents beginning in 2011 in exchange for information about U.S. economic policy in relation to China and other diplomatic matters.

The Justice Department alleges that she wrote in her journal that she could "generate 20k in 1 year" through her work with one of the intelligence agents.

Among the gifts given to Claiborne and an unidentified co-conspirator were such items as beads, a sewing machine, an iPhone, a laptop computer, slippers, cash, tuition payments to a fashion school in China and an all-expenses paid vacation to Thailand.

Claiborne was caught as a result of monitoring under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA warrant, which is the same warrant that has been allegedly used to surveil members of Trump's campaign, and potentially the president himself.

Claiborne, "allegedly failed to report her contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” said U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord.

"When a public servant is suspected of potential misconduct or federal crimes that violate the public trust, we vigorously investigate such claims," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

The timing of the charges against Claiborne is peculiar: they come just ahead of an April 6-7 meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a time of heightened tensions between the world’s two largest economies over North Korea, the South China Sea, Taiwan and trade.  U.S. officials have accused China of cyber hacking of U.S. government agencies and American companies in recent years. 

Claiborne had worked at the State Department since 1999, during which time she served in a number of overseas post including embassies and consulates in Iraq, Sudan and China. 

The charges against Claiborne carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice and five years in prison for making false statements to the FBI.