Army veteran Ron Hansen pleads guilty to espionage charges for attempting to pass information to China.

U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/DVIDS

Army vet, former Defense Intelligence officer pleads guilty to attempted espionage

March 18, 2019 - 3:20 pm

By Ben Krimmel

A former Defensive Intelligence Agency officer and U.S. Army veteran pleaded guilty to espionage charges in connection with an attempt to send national defense information to China, the Department of Justice announced on March 15. 

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 59, was arrested in June 2018 while attempting to board a flight to China, the Justice Department said. Agents of a Chinese intelligence service began recruiting Hansen in 2014 and he began meeting with them regularly in China. Hansen admitted to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from China in exchange for classified information.

“His alleged actions are a betrayal of our nation's security and the American people and are an affront to his former intelligence community colleagues," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in June. "Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country’s most closely held secrets and the National Security Division will continue to relentlessly pursue justice against those who violate this oath.”

Hansen, who speaks fluent Mandarin, retired from the U.S. Army as a Warrant Officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. The DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006 and he held a Top Secret clearance for many years, according to the DOJ.

“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 Eric Barnhart said in June. "The FBI will aggressively investigate individuals who put our national security at risk.”

Hansen tried to get information from a DIA case officer between May 2016 and June 2018, teaching the case officer how to record and transmit classified information to him without detection. The officer reported Hansen's request to the DIA.

Hansen pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the agreement calling for a sentence of 15 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Hansen intended to pass along information to the agents of the Chinese intelligence service and knew this information would be used "to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation," the Justice Department said. 

When Hansen was charged with these crimes, U.S. Attorney John Huber for the District of Utah said his actions run counter to the American identity. 

“These allegations are very troubling in their description of conduct that runs contrary to how we identify ourselves as Americans,” Huber said. “On the other hand, revealed details of this lengthy investigation reflect effective performance and dedication on the part of the men and women of the FBI and their partners.”

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