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In SpyTalk, a new email newsletter, veteran journalist Jeff Stein leads off with a report on the recent indictment of Alexander Ma, a former CIA officer who allegedly spied for China’s Ministry of State Security, and a relative who allegedly helped him.

The secrets the two Ma’s spilled included the identity of five CIA agents, details on CIA “international operations,” and “cryptographic information used in classified and sensitive CIA communications and reports,” according to the FBI’s affidavit. And more. That’s big, even allowing for the typical exaggeration of government charging documents.

Stein combines an instinctive skepticism about the sometimes overblown claims of the U.S. government claims with an understanding of real intelligence threats.


Stein continues:

If you suspect there’s been an escalation in Chinese espionage prosecutions under the Trump administration, meanwhile, you’d be right. Over a dozen cases have been brought by the Justice Department just since 2018, which probably reflects both the president’s priorities to highlight Beijing’s active measures against the U.S. (over Russia’s) as well as the real, multi-pronged effort China is waging to steal our economic, scientific and military secrets and covertly influence American politics.

“There has most certainly been an uptake in China’s espionage activities over the past ten years,” Nicholas Eftimiades, one of our former top government experts on Chinese intelligence, tells SpyTalk. “However the recent increase in arrests since 2018 are a result of the FBI China initiative.” The U.S. is also widening its response to include closer attention to “whole-of-government” Chinese activities here outside of its intelligence agencies.

When Stein wrote the SpyTalk column for Newsweek, he billed it as “Intelligence for Thinking People.” The newsletter lives up to that name.

You can sample SpyTalk’s reporting here. You can subscribe here.

(Full disclosure: Stein is a friend. I hope his new venture does well. I have no financial stake in the success of SpyTalk. )

Source: Chinese Checkers: – SpyTalk