State Dept. employee accused of misleading FBI in China case

Justin Greene
March 30, 2017

Claiborne did not disclose the contacts with Chinese intelligence during her five-year security clearance renewal and misled State Department security and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials.

Claiborne is accused of repeatedly contacting two Chinese intelligence agents, who "provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years".

She was arrested on Tuesday.

Ms. Claiborne, who began working for the State Department in 1999, was required as part of her job to report any contacts with people who were believed to be members of foreign intelligence.

The state department has not commented on the case.

O'Brien's affidavit redacted identifying information about the co-conspirator who lived with Claiborne in China, but it stated that Claiborne wanted him to pursue educational and career goals he had set overseas and that she sought financial help from the foreign agents who, along with Claiborne and Conspirator A, "were well aware, Claiborne's goals were unobtainable on her State Department salary". She now works at the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts but previously had postings in China, Iraq, Sudan and several other countries, court filings show.

She was accused of receiving nearly $2,500 (£2,010) from a Chinese agent in 2011 in exchange for information about USA economic policy in relation to China.

The complaint quotes Claiborne, apparently from surveillance, as telling Co-conspirator A that she was concerned about the risks of illegally working with Chinese intelligence.

A search of Claiborne's journal in 2015 revealed the contacts with Chinese intelligence and the payments.

In January, an ethnically Chinese FBI undercover agent talked to Claiborne while posing as a Chinese spy.

"Candace Claiborne is accused of violating her oath of office as a State Department employee, who was entrusted with top secret information when she purposefully mislead federal investigators about her significant and repeated interactions with foreign contacts", FBI Assistant Director in Charge Andrew Vale said.

"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.

According to the federal lawsuit, between October 2014 and August 2016 she received tens of thousands of dollars wired directly into her account and a generous slew of gifts such as electronics, free worldwide travel and tuition at a Chinese fashion school in exchange for giving up "sensitive diplomatic data" including privileged USA analyses of Chinese affairs.

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