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State Dept. employee charged with aiding Chinese

By Eric DuVall
A State Department employee with top secret clearance was charged Wednesday with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for passing off sensitive diplomatic information. Photo by sergign/Shutterstock.
A State Department employee with top secret clearance was charged Wednesday with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for passing off sensitive diplomatic information. Photo by sergign/Shutterstock.

March 29 (UPI) -- A career State Department employee was arrested Wednesday and charged with accepting tens of thousands in cash and gifts from two Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for providing sensitive diplomatic information.

Candice M. Claiborne, 60, was an office management specialist with top secret clearance who had been posted to China, Iraq and other crucial posts during her career, which began in 1999. The State Department sent her to China for posts on three different occasions.

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While there, a federal complaint unsealed by the Justice Department on Wednesday alleged Claiborne accepted cash, a cellphone, laptop, free tuition for a family member to a Chinese fashion design school and access to a furnished apartment in Shanghai. In exchange, the intelligence officers asked Claiborne to pass along information she accessed via her job on U.S.-Sino relations.

Specifically, the complaint states the intelligence officers asked Claiborne to provide State Department analyses ahead of a bilateral economic forum in 2011.

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"Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit,'' said acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, the Justice Department's national security division chief.

None of the gifts were reported to the State Department, a requirement for someone in her position.

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Politico reported Claiborne in an interview with the FBI on Tuesday admitted to the wrongdoing, but said none of the information she handed to the Chinese was classified.

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The FBI also approached Claiborne with an undercover agent who posed as a representative of the Chinese government at her home in the United States. While the undercover investigation did not result in any bribes offered, the agent said Claiborne invited the agent into her home and the two talked for 90 minutes, with Claiborne agreeing not to disclose to meeting to the State Department.

In a journal entry included as evidence in the complaint, she once wrote she could generate $20,000 per year off the relationship.

Claiborne was charged with obstructing an official proceeding and lying to the FBI. If convicted she faces up to 25 years in federal prison. She pleaded not guilty.

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