The case of a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who last week pleaded guilty to espionage-related charges highlights China's intelligence penetration of the U.S. government.
Former DIA analyst Ronald Montaperto was sentenced to three months in prison for illegally retaining classified documents. He was not charged on more serious spying charges, including passing top-secret information to a Chinese military intelligence officer, Yu Zhenhe.
According to court testimony, Montaperto signed in to a secure area of the Pentagon in 1988 and read top-secret intelligence reports on Chinese CSS-2 medium-range missile sales to Saudi Arabia, in November, and then in December read documents on Chinese C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran.
After each reading, Montaperto then met a short time later with Col. Yu, who was identified in court papers as a senior Chinese military intelligence officer.
U.S. officials said the disclosures by Montaperto coincided with the loss of a major electronic eavesdropping program that successfully spied on Chinese government links to illicit arms sales.
The loss of the communications link was a major blow to efforts to track Chinese arms sales, the officials said.
U.S. officials said investigators and prosecutors mishandled the Montaperto over more than a decade. He was first identified in the late 1990s by a Chinese defector as one of 10 "dear friends" who were informal agents of the Chinese government.
He was caught in 1991 improperly withholding classified documents but was not properly investigated by the FBI and was allowed to retain his security clearance, the officials said.
It was not until 2003 that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service re-investigated Montaperto and found that he had passed classified information.