A veteran intelligence operative who started selling secrets to China when he fell behind on his mortgage will learn Thursday afternoon whether he will ever leave prison.
Kevin Mallory, a 61-year-old former Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency officer, unsuccessfully claimed at trial last year he was luring the Chinese into a trap when he agreed to trade classified information for $25,000.
He “has yet to accept any responsibility whatsoever for his actions,” federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia wrote in a recent court filing.
The Leesburg, Va., resident is one of three former intelligence officers accused in recent years of helping China, along with two Chinese nationals accused of stealing American trade secrets.
“Perhaps this threat has been overshadowed in the press by threats from Russia or radical Islamic terrorism,” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in an October speech on Chinese espionage. “But while it has been in the shadows, the threat has only grown more dangerous.”
Trial evidence indicated Mallory sent a Chinese spy two secret documents, revealing details of a still-classified DIA operation and a CIA analysis of another foreign country’s intelligence capabilities. Months later, Judge T.S. Ellis III threw out Mallory’s convictions for actually sharing the classified material because the government never proved he was within the Eastern District of Virginia when the documents were sent. But his conviction for conspiracy to sell secrets to the Chinese stands, and guidelines call for a life sentence.
After being approached on LinkedIn in early 2017 by a purported Chinese think-tank researcher named Michael Yang, according to trial evidence, Mallory traveled to China twice and met Yang, who gave him the $25,000 and a customized Samsung phone.
“Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid for it,” he told Yang in one message. An SD card found in Mallory’s home contained six more classified documents.
Evidence showed Mallory was in debt and in danger of losing his home.
As he was negotiating with Yang, Mallory also approached ex-colleagues from his clandestine career and told them he was in touch with Chinese spies. He met with FBI agents and showed them the phone. But he claimed not to have taken any money or handed over any documents, and he appeared surprised when the messages he exchanged with Yang were visible.
Some of the information Mallory offered involved an operation that had led to his ouster from the intelligence community in 2012. Mallory had proposed going undercover at a company in China owned by an American couple, in court called “the Johnsons.” But he shared the details with an outside contractor, leading him to lose his job and his security clearance.
A version of that plan went forward without Mallory’s involvement, according to trial testimony, and the Johnsons worked with U.S. law enforcement for several years. The couple talked to Mallory via LinkedIn in 2017 and told him they no longer had business in China, according to records shown in court.
Defense attorneys argued in a filing this week that Mallory deserves only a decade in prison, given his “three-month relationship” with Chinese operatives involving “nearly decade-old material.”