According to the plea documents, Claiborne, 63, began working as an Office Management Specialist for the Department of State in 1999. She served overseas at a number of posts, including embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China. As a condition of her employment, Claiborne maintained a TOP SECRET security clearance. Claiborne also was required to report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency as well as any gifts she received from foreign sources over a certain amount.
Despite such a requirement, Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two agents of the People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service, even though these agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years. The gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, Chinese New Year’s gifts, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, a monthly stipend and numerous cash payments. Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, while others were provided to a close family member of Claiborne’s.
In exchange for these gifts and benefits, as stated in the plea documents, Claiborne provided copies of internal documents from the State Department on topics ranging from U.S. economic strategies to visits by dignitaries between the two countries.
Claiborne noted in her journal that she could “Generate 20k in 1 year” working with one of the PRC agents. That same agent at one point tasked her with providing internal U.S. Government analyses on a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue that had just concluded.
Claiborne, who confided to a co-conspirator that the PRC agents were “spies,” willfully misled State Department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents, the plea documents state. After the State Department and FBI investigators contacted her, Claiborne also instructed her co-conspirators to delete evidence connecting her to the PRC agents. She was arrested on March 28, 2017, following a law enforcement investigation.
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