Did FBI informer ruin fundraising inquiry?By Associated Press,
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2003
WASHINGTON - A politically connected Chinese-American woman, who is accused of being a double agent, says she had 2,100 contacts with Chinese officials while being paid as an FBI informer.
Many of Katrina Leung's meetings were in the 1990s, and law enforcement officials say she could have compromised investigations under way then into whether China tried to influence U.S. elections with campaign contributions.
Court documents show that Leung told the FBI she had those contacts with various officials of China during her 20 years as an informant.
The key question for investigators is whether Leung tipped off potential targets of the campaign finance investigations or fed the U.S. government false or misleading information from Beijing through her FBI handler, former counterintelligence agent James Smith.
The FBI and two congressional committees conducted lengthy inquiries in the late 1990s into an alleged clandestine effort by the Chinese government to influence U.S. policy by funneling tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions through U.S. intermediaries to the Democratic National Committee, congressional candidates and former President Clinton's campaigns.
More than two dozen people eventually were convicted or pleaded guilty, mainly to charges of making illegal contributions. But more than 120 people sought by congressional investigators either fled the United States or refused to testify.
Officials are reviewing whether any of those people may have been tipped by Leung, who offered to disappear when interviewed by FBI agents about spying, court documents say.
Leung, 49, is a Los Angeles businesswoman and Republican activist who became an FBI informant code-named "Parlor Maid" in 1982 and was paid $1.7-million for her information on China. At the same time, prosecutors allege, she was carrying on affairs with Smith and with a second FBI agent while feeding information obtained from Smith to Chinese intelligence agents. There is no allegation that she passed on information from the other agent, William Cleveland Jr., who headed investigations of Chinese spying before his retirement.
Smith, 59, is free on bail on charges of gross negligence for allegedly giving Leung access to classified information. Leung is jailed without bond on spying charges.
So far, prosecutors have identified only a few pieces of information that Leung allegedly took from Smith and passed to the Chinese, such as lists of FBI agents' names and information about certain counterintelligence investigations. It may be months or years before the full extent of security damage done is assessed.
"The news can't be good," said California Rep. Jane Harman, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "At a minimum, a relationship that was supposed to be generating, adding value, was compromised over many years."
Lawyers for Leung and Smith have said they are innocent.
"We think the evidence will show," said Smith's attorney, Brian Sun, "that my client's trust in her loyalty to the United States was well placed."
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