Jury Convicts Defense Department Official of Unlawful Communication of Classified Information and Making False Statements
James Wilbur Fondren Jr., was convicted by a federal jury today on charges involving providing classified information to a man working with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and lying to the FBI about it.
Fondren was convicted of one count of unlawfully communicating classified information to an agent of a foreign government and two counts of making false statements to the FBI. He was acquitted of two unlawful communication of classified information, one count of conspiracy to communicate classified information to an agent of a foreign government and act as an illegal foreign agent, and one count of aiding and abetting an agent of a foreign government.
Fondren faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the unlawful communication of classified information count and a maximum of five years in prison for each false statement count when he is sentenced on Jan. 22, 2010.
David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.
Fondren, age 62, worked at the Pentagon and, from August 2001 through Feb. 11, 2008, was the Deputy Director, Washington Liaison Office, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). He held a Top Secret security clearance, worked in a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) and had a classified and unclassified computer at his cubicle. He has been on administrative leave with pay since mid-February 2008 and has not performed any duties in or for PACOM since that time.
According to court documents and evidence at trial, from approximately November 2004 to February 2008, Fondren provided certain Defense Department documents and other information to Tai Shen Kuo, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Taiwan.
Fondren was aware that Kuo had maintained a close relationship with an official of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to whom Kuo introduced Fondren during a trip the two took to the PRC in March 1999. As Kuo well knew, this individual was an official of the PRC government. Fondren and the PRC official exchanged more than 40 email messages between March 1999 and November 2000.
Fondren was accused of providing classified information through Kuo, under the guise of consulting services, using a business that had Kuo as its sole customer. Fondren would incorporate this information into "opinion papers" that he sold to Kuo. He would also provide Kuo with sensitive, but unclassified Defense Department publications. The jury found him guilty of providing Kuo with an opinion paper titled "DoD-PLA Bilateral Military Meetings," which contained information classified "CONFIDENTIAL."
According to court records and evidence at trial, when Fondren was interviewed by FBI agents regarding this investigation, he falsely represented that everything he wrote to Kuo in his opinion papers was based on information from press and media reports and from his experience and that he had not given Kuo a draft copy of an unclassified document on military strategy.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) provided substantial assistance and cooperation throughout the course of the investigation.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Neil Hammerstrom and James P. Gillis, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Trial Attorney Ryan Fayhee from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.