Larry Wu-Tai Chin, a former midlevel analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, worked as a spy for China for more than 30 years and turned over a wide range of secret information, starting with the location of Chinese prisoners during the Korean War, the FBI alleged yesterday.
Chin, 63, who retired from the CIA in 1981 as a GS-13 intelligence officer and was arrested late Friday night, was ordered held without bond yesterday by a federal magistrate in Alexandria after the FBI filed court papers alleging that Chin had received more than $140,000 from Chinese intelligence agents.
Chin, described by one FBI agent as a "very nice man," is charged with conspiring to commit espionage, an offense that carries a maximun penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. His arrest climaxed an FBI investigation into his activities that lasted nearly two years, according to the FBI.
During his career as an alleged secret agent for the Chinese, the FBI complaint said, Chin held several clandestine meetings with Chinese agents at locations outside the United States, including Hong Kong, Peking and Toronto.
Between 1976 and 1982, Chin met four times with a courier for Chinese intelligence identified as "Mr. Lee" at a shopping mall near the Toronto International Airport, the FBI complaint said.
Speaking in the Cantonese dialect with his contact, Chin on each trip handed over undeveloped film of classified documents from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a branch of the CIA that monitors international radio broadcasts, the FBI alleged.
Even after his 1981 retirement from the CIA, Chin allegedly continued to provide information to Chinese intelligence agents, the FBI said. According to the FBI complaint, Chin met with Chinese intelligence officials in Hong Kong as recently as February, and in a trip to Peking in February 1982 he was paid $50,000 by his contacts.
Chin, who authorities said lives in Alexandria, pointed out another employe of the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service as a possible spy recruit during a September 1983 trip to Hong Kong, the FBI said.
Peter Meyers, Chin's attorney, said in court yesterday that his client is innocent.
Meyers asked that Chin be released on bond, but U.S. Magistrate W. Curtis Sewell ordered that he be held in custody without bond pending a hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Aronica said that the government will present evidence then to support its request that Chin remain in custody pending trial.
Chin's arrest marks the latest in a series of espionage cases that has led to renewed calls on Capitol Hill that the U.S. government mount a greater effort to bolster its counterintelligence programs.
The FBI filed a detailed, seven-page complaint and affidavit outlining its allegations against Chin.
A State Department spokesman said yesterday that U.S. officials had discussed the Chin case with representatives of the Chinese government and expressed U.S. displeasure at the alleged role of Chinese intelligence agents in Chin's activities.
The FBI complaint alleges that Chin began working for the Chinese before he started working for the CIA.
Chin has held a variety of positions with the U.S. government, starting as a civilian employe of the U.S. Army Liaison office in China during World War II. During that time, Chin, who was born in Peking, was indoctrinated in Chinese communism by someone identified as "Dr. Wang," the FBI alleged.
In 1948, while Chin was employed as an interpreter at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai, "Dr. Wang" introduced Chin to a member of the Shanghai police who urged him to work for the Communist Chinese, the FBI said.
During the Korean War, according to the FBI, Chin, while working for the U.S. government, interviewed Chinese prisoners captured by U.S. and Korean troops. In 1952, Chinese intelligence agents paid Chin $2,000 for information on the location of Chinese prisoners of war in Korea, the FBI said. Chin told Chinese agents what intelligence information U.S. and Korean intelligence agents were seeking from the Chinese prisoners, according to the FBI.
Chin began working for the CIA in 1952 in Okinawa, monitoring Chinese radio broadcasts. He remained in that post until 1961 and then moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., where he continued to work for the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, the FBI said.
From 1970 until his retirement in 1981, Chin worked as an intelligence officer at the information service's Northern Virginia office, where he had access to a variety of classified information, the FBI said.
During his alleged spy career, Chin was given addresses in Canton and Hong Kong to be used to contact Chinese intelligence agents, the FBI said. Chin would alert his contacts of planned meetings with them by sending post cards to a Hong Kong address, according to the FBI.
In his trips to Canada, Chin did not receive any funds, but instead was paid when he made subsequent trips to Hong Kong, the FBI said. He deposited most of the money he received in Hong Kong in a bank account there, according to the FBI.
Chin smuggled classified documents from his office in his briefcase and in his coat jacket, the FBI alleged. Following instructions from his Chinese contacts, Chin, using the code name "Mr. Yang," then called "Mr. Lee," his courier, in Canada to arrange for a meeting, according to the FBI.
Chin has been unavailable for comment. A woman who answered the phone Friday night at his Yoakum Parkway home in Alexandria, and who identified herself as his wife, said of Chin, "Around dinner time he called me and said he wasn't coming home.