Ron Hansen, retired Army/former DIA, arrested for attempted espionage for China

Another spy named Hansen:

(DOJRon Rockwell Hansen, 58, a resident of Syracuse, Utah, and a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, was arrested Saturday afternoon on federal charges including the attempted transmission of national defense information to the People’s Republic of China.  The FBI agents took Hansen into custody while he was on his way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle to board a connecting flight to China.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney John Huber for the District of Utah, and Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office announced the charges.

“Ron Rockwell Hansen is a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer who allegedly attempted to transmit national defense information to the People’s Republic of China’s intelligence service (PRCIS) and also allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars while illegally acting as an agent of China. 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.  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.” —Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers


“These allegations are very troubling in their description of conduct that runs contrary to how we identify ourselves as Americans. 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.” —U.S. Attorney John Huber


“The allegations in this complaint are grave as it appears Mr. Hansen engaged in behavior that betrayed his oath and his country. This case drives home the troubling reality of insider threats and that current and former clearance holders will be targeted by our adversaries.  The FBI will aggressively investigate individuals who put our national security at risk.”—FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart


Hansen will have an initial appearance Monday, at 5 p.m. EDT in U.S. District Court in Seattle.  He is charged in a 15-count complaint, signed by Chief Federal Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner in Utah Saturday, with attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government.

The complaint also charges Hansen with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, bulk cash smuggling, structuring monetary transactions and smuggling goods from the United States.

According to court documents:

Hansen retired from the U.S. Army as a Warrant Officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence.

He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian.

DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006.

Hansen held a Top Secret clearance for many years, and signed several non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at DIA and as a government contractor.

Between 2013 and 2017, Hansen regularly traveled between the United States and China, attending military and intelligence conferences in the U.S. and provided the information he learned at the conferences to contacts in China associated with the PRCIS.  Hansen received payments for this information by a variety of methods, including cash, wires and credit card transactions.

He also improperly sold export-controlled technology to persons in China.

From May of 2013 to the date of the complaint, Hansen received not less than $800,000 in funds originating from China.

In addition, Hansen repeatedly attempted to regain access to classified information after he stopped working on behalf of the U.S. Government.

Hansen’s alerting behavior ultimately resulted in the participation of a law enforcement source from whom Hansen solicited classified information.  Hansen disclosed to the source his ongoing contact with the PRCIS, including in-person meetings with intelligence officers during his trips to China.  Hansen told the source the types of information his contacts in China were interested in and discussed working with the source to provide such information to the PRCIS.  Hansen suggested he and the source would be handsomely paid.

Complaints are not findings of guilt.  An individual charged in a complaint is presumed innocent unless or until convicted of the crimes in court. Hansen faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, if convicted of attempted espionage.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the assigned judge.

Special agents of the FBI, IRS, U.S Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Counterintelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency are involved in the investigation.  U.S. Army Counterintelligence, the FBI Seattle Division, the IRS, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Weber County Sheriff’s Office assisted in law enforcement operations Saturday in Utah and Seattle.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Lund, Mark K. Vincent and Karin Fojtik of the District of Utah, and Trial Attorneys Patrick T. Murphy and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.  Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington assisted with this case.

U.S. Army Veteran Tried to Spy for China, Officials Say (New York Times)

Tens of thousands of dollars in cash. Documents listing locations of United States Cyber Command outposts. A passcode-protected thumb drive, hidden behind a sock in the toe of a shoe.

According to the Justice Department, these are among the items that United States agents found over the years while searching the luggage of Ron Rockwell Hansen, a former Defense Intelligence Agency case officer, as he flew numerous times between the United States and China. Mr. Hansen, 58, a fluent Mandarin speaker who first visited China in 1981, has allegedly received at least $800,000 in “funds originating from China” since May 2013.

On Saturday, Mr. Hansen was arrested in Seattle and charged with attempted espionage, in what appears to be another high-profile mole hunt by F.B.I. investigators intent on uncovering Chinese spying against the United States. . . .

. . . Mr. Hansen voluntarily met with F.B.I. agents nine times in 2015, the complaint said. In those meetings, he disclosed that he was initially offered $300,000 a year by two operatives of China’s powerful Ministry of State Security for “consulting services.”

He described meeting the operatives in private rooms in Beijing hotels and teahouses, and said they paid him to attend events on forensics, information security and military communications. They paid him, he said, by buying computer forensic products from him at inflated rates.

When he allegedly started working for the Chinese, Mr. Hansen had no known financial means beyond a military pension of $1,900 a month, the Justice Department said.. . . (read more)

Utahn charged with attempting to spy for China (Deseret News)

. . . .according to court records, Hansen had also accumulated a lot of debt.

He had built up about $200,000 in personal debt since 2012, the charges state. And his business, Nuvestack — a company that provided cloud computing information technology services — reported more than $1 million in losses in 2014, failed to file taxes in 2015 and 2016, and “carried signficant debt,” the charges state.

Even after he stopped working for the government, investigators believe Hansen attempted in 2012 to “regain access to classified information,” Huber said. He was finally caught when he divulged what he was doing to a law enforcement source in an apparent effort to recruit that person, the charges state.

In 2012, he approached a U.S. Army Intelligence agent and “offered to work as a double agent against” China, according to court documents. He made the same offer to the FBI in 2015 as he continued to regain access to classified information, the charges state.

But by that time, the FBI says it had already begun its investigation into Hansen.

He even contacted a member of the U.S. House of Representatives requesting to be a staff member on intelligence issues, according to the charges.

“At no time did Hansen notify the attorney general of the United States that he was acting as an agent for any foreign government, including (China),” the charges state. . . (read more)

Former DIA officer charged with trying to pass secrets to Chinese intelligence (Washington Post)

. . . .The 42-page criminal complaint describes years of suspicious behavior by Hansen, suggesting that his efforts on behalf of China stretch back more than five years.

From 2012 on, Hansen sought at first to get rehired in the U.S. government to a job with a security clearance, but when those efforts failed, he began contacting former DIA colleagues, according to the complaint. He has also repeatedly attended conferences about intelligence issues and has traveled to China 40 times since 2013, officials said.

In 2016, Hansen met with two former DIA colleagues in Texas. At the meeting, Hansen told one colleague that he was “stringing along” Chinese intelligence officials until the FBI decided whether to use him as a “double agent,” according to the complaint.

That colleague became alarmed by Hansen’s references to Chinese intelligence and filed a suspicious-incident report, which prompted the FBI to begin using that person as a confidential source, according to the complaint.

Over time, the complaint said, Hansen spoke more and more with the confidential source about selling information to China, and, in a conversation in April, Hansen said the Chinese would pay $200,000 for the U.S. “China ops plan” for a possible military intervention with China. Hansen also said the Chinese were interested in U.S. secrets about North Korea, the court document said. . . . (read more)

Ex-DIA Official Charged as Beijing Spy Used Chinese Cell Phones (Washington Free Beacon)

Former case officer colluded with MSS for years and sought work as a Chinese mole in DIA, FBI . . .

. . . The 41-page FBI complaint outlines Hansen’s career as a Mandarin-speaking former Army warrant officer who worked for DIA from 2000 to 2006 with experience in both electronic intelligence and human spying operations. He held a top-secret security clearance.

Covert searches of his luggage by Customs officials during several trips to China revealed that he carried two Chinese cell phones made by Xanda and Huawei—Chinese telecommunications companies. The phones were used to communicate with Chinese intelligence services including Ministry of State Security (MSS) officers. The MSS is China’s civilian spy agency.

One of the Chinese phones was configured to communicate with a Ministry of State Security spy handler identified in court papers as an MSS officer named Max Tong.

The FBI said Hansen first met Tong in March 2011 and communicated by email and cell phone with him for years.

In July 2012, Hansen wrote Tong telling him that he was seeking to rejoin DIA to gain access to defense secrets, but in April 2013 was rejected by the agency.

During a meeting with FBI agents, Hansen said the Chinese gave him a Xanda cell phone to communicate directly with a Chinese MSS officer named Martin Chen.

Searches of his luggage revealed a Xanda phone in July 2014 and December 2015 had been used to call a Chinese intelligence officer, and in 2014, a Nokia “PRC brand cell phone” was found along with his U.S. smart phone.

Then during a 2017 airport search, Hansen was found in possession of a Huawei smart phone that was searched and found to have been used to communicate with Chen—one of the MSS handlers.

“Hansen’s use of multiple cell phones to communicate covertly with intelligence officers is consistent with case officer tradecraft training Hansen received from DIA to communicate securely with human sources,” the FBI said. . .. (read more)

Threats are Out There