Hiding Contacts with Chinese Intelligence Agents Leads to State Department Employee’s Arrest

A long-time employee of the State Department was charged with misleading the FBI about gifts she received from Chinese intelligence agents over the course of several years.

A veteran employee of the State Department was charged with making false statements to the FBI about numerous contacts she had with Chinese intelligence agents over a period of years.

According to the charges brought by the Justice Department, Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, of Washington, D.C. began working for the State Department in 1999. She had repeated contacts with two intelligence agents from China who showered her and her family with gifts over the course of five years.

The gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend. Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, the affidavit alleges, while others were provided through a co-conspirator.

The affidavit also states that Claiborne noted in her journal that she could “Generate 20k in 1 year” working with one of the Chinese agents, who, shortly after wiring $2,480 to Claiborne, tasked her with providing internal U.S. Government analyses on a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue that had just concluded.

Claiborne confided to a co-conspirator that the Chinese agents were “spies,” and willfully misled State Department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents, the affidavit states. After the State Department and FBI investigators contacted her, Claiborne also instructed her co-conspirators to delete evidence connecting her to the foreign agents.

As a condition of her employment, Claiborne is required to maintain a Top Secret security clearance and report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency.

“Candace Marie Claiborne is a U.S. State Department employee who possesses a Top Secret security clearance and allegedly failed to report her contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord. “Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division.”

Claiborne was arrested on March 28 and pleaded not guilty to the charges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A preliminary hearing was set for April 18.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.