Former Defense Intelligence Officer Pleads Guilty to Attempted Espionage
Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, a resident of Syracuse, Utah, and a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, pleaded guilty today in the District of Utah in connection with his attempted transmission of national defense information to the People’s Republic of China. Sentencing is set for Sept. 24, 2019.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney John Huber for the District of Utah and Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office announced the charges.
Hansen retired from the U.S. Army as a Warrant Officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian. DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006. Hansen held a Top Secret clearance for many years, and signed several non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at DIA and as a government contractor.
As Hansen admitted in the plea agreement, in early 2014, agents of a Chinese intelligence service targeted Hansen for recruitment and he began meeting with them regularly in China. During those meetings, the Chinese agents described to Hansen the type of information that would interest the Chinese intelligence service. During the course of his relationship with the agents of the Chinese intelligence service, Hansen received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information he provided them, including information he gathered at various industry conferences. Between May 24, 2016 and June 2, 2018, Hansen solicited from an intelligence case officer working for the DIA national defense information that Hansen knew the Chinese intelligence service would find valuable. Hansen agreed to act as a conduit to sell that information to the Chinese. Hansen advised the DIA case officer how to record and transmit classified information without detection, and explained how to hide and launder any funds received as payment for classified information. The DIA case officer reported Hansen’s conduct to the DIA and subsequently acted as a confidential human source for the FBI.
As Hansen further admitted in the plea agreement, Hansen met with the DIA case officer on June 2, 2018, and received from that individual documents containing national defense information that Hansen previously solicited. The documents Hansen received were classified. The information in the documents related to the national defense of the United States in that it related to United States military readiness in a particular region and was closely held by the United States government. Hansen reviewed the documents, queried the DIA case officer about their contents, and took written notes about the materials relating to the national defense information. Hansen advised the DIA case officer that he would remember most of the details about the documents he received that day and would conceal some notes about the material in the text of an electronic document that Hansen would prepare at the airport before leaving for China. Hansen intended to provide the information he received to the agents of the Chinese intelligence service with whom he had been meeting, and Hansen knew that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.
Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. The plea agreement calls for an agreed-upon sentence of 15 years.
Special agents of the FBI, IRS, U.S. Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Counterintelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency were involved in the investigation.
The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Lund, Karin Fojtik, Mark K. Vincent and Alicia Cook of the District of Utah, and Trial Attorneys Patrick T. Murphy, Matthew J. McKenzie and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington assisted with this case.