US State Department Official Arrested for Working with Chinese Spies

"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 for National Security Mary B. McCord.

"Claiborne, who allegedly confided to a co-conspirator that the PRC agents were 'spies, ' wilfully misled state department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents", said the justice department statement.

Claiborne, of Northwest Washington, was not required to enter a plea at a court appearance Wednesday and said little before U.S. Magistrate Robin M. Meriweather of the District ordered Claiborne held on home confinement and set a preliminary hearing pending indictment for April 18.

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 Justice Department claims that in addition to abandoning her duty to report the meetings, the accused received gifts from Chinese foreign agents, perhaps as part of a "pay to play" type scheme.

"Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit", she added.

Candace Claiborne, who worked in the Caucasus Affairs office of the State Department, is being charged for two felony offenses.

The state department has not commented on the case.

Claiborne would have been required to report contacts with anyone affiliated with a foreign intelligence service, but prosecutors say she misled State Department and FBI investigators and directed an unnamed co-conspirator to delete evidence that tied her to the agents. Since then, she has been trusted with strategic posts including embassies and consulates in Iraq, Sudan and China.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John L. Hill said that Claiborne's knowledge of several foreign languages and countries warrant closer monitoring. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice and five years in prison for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI alleges that over many years, Claiborne was in financial difficulty and accepted "tens of thousands of dollars" worth cash and gifts.

But the complaint says little about what she did in return for the money and gifts. She also referred to the agents as "spies" when talking to her co-conspirator, according to court documents.

She knew they were Chinese government agents but "appeared motivated by the profitable nature of her information-sharing relationship" with them, it said.

  • Larry Hoffman