A former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and U.S. Army veteran pleaded guilty Friday to attempting to steal and deliver military secrets to the Chinese government, Department of Justice officials announced.
Ron Rockwell Hansen, 59, was arrested by the FBI in June as he was trying to board a flight for China. The agency said he had been approached by Chinese intelligence agents in 2014, and received not less than $800,000 in funds originating from China as compensation for transmitting U.S. national secrets.
“This case drives home the troubling reality of insider threats and that current and former clearance holders will be targeted by our adversaries," Special Agent in Charge Barnhart said in a statement after the arrest.
Hansen pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. He is a resident of Syracuse, Utah. The plea deal Hansen agreed to stipulated a 180-month sentence, pending court approval, DoJ officials said in their announcement.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Hansen was indicted on 15 counts, including attempting to gather or deliver defense information, acting as an agent of a foreign government, bulk cash smuggling, structuring monetary transactions and smuggling goods from the U.S.
Hansen had retired from the Army as a warrant officer, according to the DoJ. His background was in signals and human intelligence, officials said.
He is fluent in Mandarin and Russian, according to court documents.
After leaving the Army, Hansen was hired by the DIA as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006.
In early 2014, Chinese intelligence agents targeted Hansen for recruitment and began meeting with him regularly in China, he admitted in his plea agreement.
The Chinese agents told Hansen during the meetings what type of information they wanted him to bring to them. In exchange, the agents provided Hansen with “hundreds of thousands of dollars” as compensation, according to the DoJ.
Between 2013 and 2017, Hansen would attend military and intelligence conferences in the U.S. and provide the information he learned at the conferences to contacts in China associated with the nation’s intelligence agency.
Beginning in May 2016, Hansen attempted to solicit information from a current DIA intelligence officer. Hansen was no longer working for the DIA by this time.
Hansen told the other officer how to record and transmit the classified information without raising agency alarms, as well as how to launder the money he received as payment from the Chinese.
The other DIA officer was actually working as a confidential human source for the FBI, leading to Hansen’s arrest.
Hansen attempted to transfer the classified documents by memorization and taking written notes. He tried to conceal the notes in the text of an electronic document.
Hansen was caught while attempting to board a connecting flight to China from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in June.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.