China killed CIA informers from 2010 to 2012

The Chinese activities began to emerge in 2010, when the United States spy agency had been getting high quality information about the Chinese government from sources deep inside the bureaucracy, four former officials told the Times.

The New York Times reported on Saturday, China killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 CIA sources from 2010 to 2012 in a massive intelligence breach whose origin has not been identified.

Officials said it was one of the worst security breaches of recent years.

The breach was considered particularly damaging, with the number of assets lost rivaling those in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation who perished after information passed to Moscow by spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, the report said. But by the end of the year, the information began to dry up and in early 2011 the sources began disappearing.

Of the damage inflicted on what had been one of the most productive U.S. spy networks, however, there was no doubt: at least a dozen Central Intelligence Agency sources were killed between late 2010 and the end of 2012, including one who was shot in front of colleagues in a clear warning to anyone else who might be spying, the Times reported.

An investigation into the breach allegedly caused division between U.S. officials, with some believing a mole in the CIA to be behind the crisis, while others thought the Chinese had hacked the covert system of contact between the intelligence agency and spies on the ground. The debate remains unresolved, the paper said.

The CIA has not commented on the report, the BBC said on Sunday.

The number of USA lost in China rivaled those lost in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation during the betrayals of both Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, who for years leaked details of US intelligence to Moscow, the Times reported.

China has recently stepped up its spying practices. Some officers met their sources at a restaurant bugged with listening devices, where even the waiters worked for Chinese intelligence, according to the Times. The FBI and the CIA opened a joint inquiry run by top counterintelligence officials at both agencies, and the CIA has been working to rebuild its network of informants.

  • Zachary Reyes