China today defended its right to investigate actions threatening national security but declined to comment on a report that authorities killed or jailed up to 20 CIA sources. The New York Times reported yesterday that Beijing had systematically dismantled CIA spying operations in China beginning in late 2010, in one of the worst US intelligence breaches in decades. At least a dozen Central Intelligence Agency sources were killed between late 2010 and the end of 2012, including one who was shot in front of colleagues in a clear warning to anyone else who might be spying, the Times reported, citing 10 current and former US officials.
In all, 18 to 20 CIA sources in China were either killed or imprisoned, according to two former senior American officials quoted. The paper called it a grave setback to a network that, up to then, had been working at its highest level for years. “As for as the situation mentioned in the New York Times report, I’m not aware of that but I can tell you that Chinese security authorities are following their legal mandate to carry out investigations about organisations, personnel and actions that harm Chinese national security and interests,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.
“For these normal discharges of official duties by Chinese security organisations we have no comment on that,” she said. The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, said the authenticity of the Times report “remains unknown”. But it added, “if this article is telling the truth, we would like to applaud China’s anti-espionage activities”. “Not only was the CIA’s spy network dismantled, but Washington had no idea what happened and which part of the spy network had gone wrong. It can be taken as a sweeping victory,” the nationalist daily said.