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CIA Employee Had Access To “Gold Mine” Of Information, Witness Says

February 6, 1986

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Larry Wu-tai Chin, accused of spying for China, had access to secrets which, if given to foreign agents, would have jeopardized American agents and policy, CIA officials testified at his trial.

The material handled by Chin, a former CIA employee, would be a ″gold mine″ to a foreign power, said CIA analyst Carl Ford, a China specialist and one of the prosecution witnesses who testified at Chin’s trial Wednesday.

Prosecutors have not accused Chin of passing any specific documents to China. But FBI agents say they obtained a verbal confession from him when he was arrested last Nov. 22 that he worked for Chinese intelligence for 30 years.

Chin’s attorney has said in court that his client gave classified documents to China, including one in June 1970 saying that then-President Nixon was looking for a signal from Chinese leaders to improve ties between Washington and Peking.

The 63-year-old Chin will testify that he was seeking to reconcile the nation of his birth, China, with his adopted land, the United States, said his attorney, Jacob Stein.

Chin is accused of espionage, conspiracy and filing false income tax returns.

Prosecutors say Chin received up to $150,000 for his alleged spying, and invested it in real estate in the United States without reporting the income to federal tax authorities.

If convicted, he would face life in prison and fines of more than $2.5 million.

Much of the testimony from prosecution witnesses Wednesday was intended to demonstrate that Chin routinely handled classified documents that would have damaged U.S. security if passed to a foreign power.

Chin had high-level security clearance while employed at the headquarters of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a CIA section that monitors foreign broadcast and printed reports, said Cyril Braegelmann.

Braegelmann, Chin’s supervisor from 1970 until 1981, said that the defendant had access to and translated classified documents, including hand- written dispatches from U.S. spies in China, training materials for American agents, and detailed reports on political and military affairs in China, Vietnam, North Korea and Taiwan.

Chin also regularly received classified CIA telephone directories and lists detailing the training courses and foreign assignments of agents, Braegelmann said.

The defendant regularly handled intelligence reports prepared by the CIA for the president based on covert information, and read analyses from the Defense Intelligence Agency and allied governments, Braegelmann said.

Braegelmann said that Chin was ″one of the best Chinese monitors that we ever had,″ and therefore had access to a wide range of documents.

In his confession, Chin allegedly told FBI agents that he smuggled papers from his office in the Washington suburb of Rosslyn, photographed them at home with a camera, and passed the undeveloped films to a Chinese agent known as ″Lee″ in a Toronto shopping mall.

Ford testified that revealing the names of agents, their assignments, the type of material they collected and were asked to look for could expose U.S. spies, and ″if those people are widely known they could be killed.″

″It’s something that an intelligence agency would give its eyeteeth for,″ Ford said. ″It’s what it is all about.″

Ford also disputed Stein’s argument that America would profit if Chinese leaders received classified information that Nixon was watching for a signal to improve relations in 1970.

An intelligence officer with such information would advise his leaders to drive a hard bargain with the other side, Ford said.

″My assessment would be that this country is vulnerable. I would know that this country wants a deal,″ said Ford, noting that it took seven years of ″sensitive negotiations″ after Nixon’s 1972 visit to China before full diplomatic relations were restored.