Katrina Leung

Katrina Leung

Katrina Leung (zh-stp|s=陈文英|t=陳文英|p=Chén Wényīng) (a.k.a. Chan Man Ying, Chen Wen Ying, Luo Zhongshan, Parlor Maid) was a former high value Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS) agent who, on April 9, 2003, was indicted by the United States Department of Justice for "Unauthorized Copying of National Defense Information with Intent to Injure or Benefit a Foreign Nation". Her case was later dismissed on January 6, 2005 because of prosecutorial misconduct. It is unclear whether her primary loyalty while working as an asset lay with the United States, the People's Republic of China, or herself. Regardless, she is alleged by the United States Government to have contaminated twenty years of intelligence relating to the People's Republic of China as well as critically compromising the FBI's Chinese counterintelligence program.


Leung emigrated to the United States in 1970 using a Taiwanese passport stating that she was born on May 1, 1954, in Guangzhou. The information about Leung's background is unclear because her official immigration documents significantly differ from what Leung herself has revealed about her background. Leung enrolled at Washington Irving High School in New York City, New York and graduated in June, 1972. She became a permanent resident alien on August 7, 1972.

Leung attended and obtained an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1976. She then went on and obtained a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Chicago. It was somewhere during this time as a student that Leung was contacted by the FBI for information on some of her acquaintances.

Leung's involvement with the FBI

ubject of Investigation

In 1980, Leung moved to Los Angeles and occupied an apartment building which contained numerous tenants that were subjects of other FBI investigations. She developed a close relationship with a pro-PRC activist who was under FBI investigation for illegally transferring technology from the U.S. to the PRC. Leung became the general manager of an import-export company which in late 1980 had become the subject of an FBI investigation dealing with the illegal transfer of technology from the U.S. to the PRC. On February 10, 1981, the FBI launched an investigation into Leung believing that she was engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering on behalf of the PRC. Leung eventually left her job at the import-export company closing the FBI investigation on her. In addition, the PRC activist was arrested in China closing that investigation as well.

Conversion into an FBI asset

In 1982, FBI Special Agent James J. Smith re-opened the FBI investigation into Leung hoping that she could provide him with additional information on the PRC activist as well as other miscellaneous information. Smith was so impressed with the information Leung provided that he converted her into an FBI asset codename "Parlor Maid" in December of the same year. Eight months later in August 1983 Leung and Smith started an illicit affair which would span past Smith's retirement in 2002. She convinced him that she would not blackmail him because she had as much to lose as he did if their relationship was ever revealed.

Career as a Double Agent

On March 16, 1984, Leung (with Smith's help) became a U.S. citizen. The FBI had developed a plan for her to be recruited by the Chinese Ministry of State Security as an asset working as a double agent for the United States. In June 1984, Leung was recruited by the MSS who believed at the time that she was a low level source of information at the FBI's Los Angeles office. Leung began receiving money from the FBI to pay for her expenses (the majority going towards flights to and from China). She passed two polygraph examinations, one in September 1984, and one in June 1986.

Between 1985-1990, Leung's profile within the West Coast Chinese community and the FBI had risen significantly. Her connections within the community had become so extensive, she had entertained Chinese diplomatic officials as well as organized high profile banquets for visiting PRC officials from the mainland. During this time, she met and charmed President of China Yang Shangkun who eventually became her patron. As a sign of her growing influence in the PRC, she advised the Chinese government in 1998 on a new location for their Los Angeles consulate.

Up to this point, Leung's reports were well received by the Central Intelligence Agency and much of her reporting during this time had also been verified by a Chinese defector. A sign of her growing influence within the FBI could be seen when she was sent to China shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre to report on the country's political climate during a time when the country's information flow had virtually ceased.

Leung began an illicit sexual affair with another FBI Special Agent William Cleveland Jr. during the late 1980s although it is unclear if she obtained any classified information from him during his affair.

In June 1990, the FBI learned that Leung had revealed to MSS officials the existence and location of a classified operation as well as classified details of the FBI's counterintelligence program. The FBI headquarters chief questioned Leung's handler Smith who flatly denied it ever happening and successfully convinced his superior that she would never do such a thing without his authorization. Smith privately confronted Leung on May 31, 1991 about the unauthorized disclosure of information who in response, told him that her Chinese handler "Mao" had discovered her double agent identity and had coerced her into giving additional information.

In April 1991, the FBI obtained an audio recording of a conversation between a woman identifying herself as "Luo" and a known PRC intelligence official identifying himself as "Mao". Special Agent Bill Cleveland was brought in to listen to the tape and immediately recognized the woman's voice as Leung's. Leung had among other things, detailed without authorization, the itinerary of a recent trip that Cleveland had taken with the State Department to the PRC. Cleveland immediately notified Smith of the breach and in May of the same year, the two traveled to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a high level meeting concerning Leung. An FBI analyst was brought in to determine whether she should be terminated as an asset but came to the conclusion that the intelligence the FBI was receiving from Leung was more valuable than the intelligence she had been giving away to the PRC. Unaware of Leung's previous unauthorized disclosures, he recommended that she not be terminated as an asset. In addition to the analysts recommendations, Smith defended the suspicious activities of Leung and managed to convince his superiors that terminating her as an asset was not the best course of action. The FBI accepted his recommendation based on his extensive experience handling Leung as well as his experience in the FBI and the analyst's recommendation.


December 12, 2001

The FBI obtains a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to surveille Leung as part of an investigation into her. They conduct a limited consensual search of Leung's residence and find an FBI telephone directory, a telephone list relating to an FBI investigation codename "Royal Tourist", a secret FBI memo concerning Chinese fugitives, and an FBI legat directoryThomas, Randall. "Affidavit", 12-13] .

November 11, 2002

The FBI conduct a covert search into Leung's luggage at LAX airport before and after a trip she takes to the PRC. Six photographs of FBI agents, two of whom were on active duty were missing from her baggage upon her arrival back into the U.S.

December 20, 2002

The FBI learns that Leung had surreptitiously copied a Top secret document that her handler Smith had checked out overnight from the FBI and transmitted the information to her MSS handler.

November 5, 2002

The FBI conducts surveillance of Leung and her handler Smith on November 5, 2002 in a Los Angeles hotel room to determine whether they are having a sexual relationship and to determine whether Smith's statement he gave earlier to FBI interviewers denying the relationship was true.

Arrested by the Department of Justice

Leung was arrested by the Department of Justice on the morning of April 9, 2003 at her residence in San Marino and charged with "Unauthorized Copying of National Defense Information with Intent to Injure or Benefit a Foreign Nation in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793(b)""Indictment against Katrina Leung", 1] . She was not charged with either treason or espionage presumably because her prosecutors did not feel they had adequate evidence to guarantee a conviction that historically had been notoriously difficult to secure. She was denied bail because she was deemed a flight risk. Leung spent three months in jail and 18 months in house arrest

Case Dismissed

On January 6, 2005, U.S. District Judge Florence Marie Cooper dismissed Leung's case on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. Judge Cooper found that Leung's constitutional right to a witness necessary to her defense had been violated in the language of retired agent J.J. Smith's plea agreement, specifically that he "could not share further information relating to the case with Leung or her counsel.

Appeal and Subsequent Plea Agreement

The U.S. Attorney's office appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and entered plea negotiations with Leung concerning illegal tax returns that had been revealed as a result of this case. On December 16, 2005 Leung pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI and one count of filing a false federal tax return. Leung was sentenced to the terms of her plea agreement which stated that she must cooperate in full debriefings, three years probation, 100 hours of community service, and a US$10,000 fine.

Impact Leung had on FBI

Weaknesses in the system

The ability for Leung to operate for such an extraordinary length of time before being caught exposed serious systemic flaws in the way the FBI's China program operated their counterintelligence program. The primary problem that was identified was the Los Angeles's office decentralization culture in which supervisors would take a "hands off" approach with their case officers and function more in a support role for their agent handlers rather than a command one. This was the primary flaw that allowed Special Agent J.J. Smith to operate so long without being properly accounted for. Smith's superiors would regularly defer to Smith because of his superior expertise and experience regarding Chinese counterintelligence as well as his long relationship with top asset Parlor Maid. In addition, Smith's high profile at the agency and the high profile of his asset meant that he could afford a laxer standard when it came to administrative or bureaucratic regulations. Smith often manipulated or disregarded many routine procedures in part out of convenience and in part out of fear that exposure of his sexual relationship with Leung would end his career. This behaviour by Smith allowed Leung's suspicious activities to go unaccounted throughout her 20-year involvement with the FBI.

Possible intelligence tainted

The damage of Katrina Leung's activities are unclear within the intelligence community primarily because she had been working for so long undetected by the FBI and that much of the information she obtained was through informal conversation or pillow talk which is much more difficult to trace compared to a stolen document. In addition, she is legally bound by the plea agreement she signed with the U.S. attorney's office in 2005 to cooperate with debriefings about her activities as an FBI asset which may significantly limit the lasting impact of her actions while working as a double agent.

Because of the nature of espionage and its rare ability to prove facts beyond a doubt many of the examples listed here that may have been compromised by Katrina Leung are speculative in nature and have not been conclusively proven.

Tiger trap

In 1979, Leung became a source in FBI Special Agent Bill Cleveland's investigation codenamed "Tiger Trap" concerning aeronautical engineer from Taiwan Gwo-Bao Min working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In 1981, Cleveland confronts Min about his suspicious activities but is unable to secure enough evidence to indict Min on criminal charges. Min is forced instead to resign and goes into private business. Cleveland laments privately that Min was on the verge of confessing to espionage but abruptly stopped talking to the authorities one day. Years later in 1990, Cleveland, while travelling with a State Department delegation to a remote area of China near the North Korean border, literally bumps into Gwo-Bao Min in the lobby of the hotel he is staying at. He later learns from an intercepted phone communication that Leung had detailed his itinerary to a Ministry of State Security officer prior to his arrival in China. There is still considerable debate within the intelligence community whether this encounter between Cleveland and Min was truly a coincidence or not.

Cox Report

Leung started an illicit affair with Special Agent Cleveland in the late 1988 who would go on to become head of security at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory after leaving the FBI. In 1999, the Cox Report would allege that the security at several high level U.S. weapons labs had been compromised and that Chinese agents had copied or stolen classified information regarding thermonuclear weapons, MIRV, w88, and other missile technology. Among the labs severely criticized was Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It is possible that Leung may have acquired from Cleveland classified details regarding security at the lab though Cleveland himself denies under oath that he gave any classified information to Leung.



* Thomas, Randall. [http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/fbi/usleung403cmp.pdf Affidavit] . "Affidavit supporting an arrest warrant for Katrina Leung". (PDF)
* [http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/fbi/usleung50803ind.pdf Indictment against Katrina Leung] . "Indictment against Katrina Leung for Unauthorized Copying of National Defense Information with Reason to Believe That It Will Injure the United States or Benefit a Foreign Nation". (PDF)
* Kan, Shirley A. [http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL30143.pdf CRS Report for Congress] Congressional Research Service Report for Congress - China: Suspected Acquisition of U.S. Nuclear Weapon Secrets] (PDF)
* [http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0605/final.pdf DOJ Review of Handling of Katrina Leung] . (PDF) "U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General - A Review of the FBI's Handling and Oversight of FBI asset Katrina Leung. (U) Unclassified Executive Summary"
* [http://binhan.home.netcom.com/KatrinaDismissOrder.pdf Court Order Dismissing Leung's Case] "Order Granting Defendant's motion to Dismiss" (PDF)

Additional Reading

* Kirk, Michael (Director). (2004). [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/spy/ Frontline: From China with Love] [Documentary] . Melbourne, Florida: PBS Video
* [http://www.newsmeat.com/celebrity_political_donations/Katrina_Leung.php Leung's Campaign Contributions] . Katrina Leung's Federal Campaign Contribution Report. "www.newsmeat.com"
* Gertz, Bill. Enemies: How America's foes steal our vital secrets -- and how we let it happen. New York: Crown Forum, 2006.

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