Today the Department of Justice revealed that a longtime employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been charged with espionage on behalf of China, his homeland. Kun Shan Chun, who was employed by the FBI since 1997, was arrested back in March of this year and has already pleaded guilty to his betrayal.
Chun, who went by “Joey,” worked for nearly two decades as an electronics technician with the FBI’s huge New York field office, where ten percent of the Bureau is assigned. He held Top Secret security clearances since 1998. Part of his job, as one of the legions of technical personnel who support the FBI’s storied special agents, included accessing classified information. It seems safe to assume that was what Chun was sharing with Beijing.
Chun admitted that, from 2011 to 2016, he passed sensitive information to a Chinese official whom he knew to be a government representative, i.e. a spy. Among the classified information he passed included the identity and travel plans of an FBI agent, an internal organizational chart, plus photos taken by Chun of documents in a restricted area related to surveillance technology.
As a Chinese mole inside the FBI, he systematically concealed his secret ties to Beijing, including a meeting with a Chinese spy in an unnamed European country. It’s normal spycraft to meet high-value agents like moles inside hostile intelligence services far from the United States, where the chances of being detected are high, rather in third countries in Europe.
It’s apparent that the Bureau got wise to Chun’s disloyalty and—in another example of standard counterintelligence work—last summer arranged clandestine meetings with the suspected mole. Chun suggested to this person, who was in reality an undercover FBI agent, that he should introduce him to some of his Chinese contacts.
The FBI had no stomach for a messy spy scandal coupled with the inevitable claims of ‘racial profiling.’
A native of Guangdong, the 46-year-old Chun immigrated to the United States in 1980, as a boy, and was naturalized five years later. The mole’s exact motivation for betrayal is not fully clear, but a hint that it was at least partly pecuniary is offered by a comment Chun made to the undercover FBI agent, namely that he expected a “cut” of any payment his new friend received for providing information to the Chinese government.