By Sebastian Duda /

State Department Official Pleads Guilty to Passing Documents to China

Holder of top secret clearance also lied to investigators in conspiracy probe.

A nearly 20-year employee of the State Department pleaded guilty this week to conspiring with foreign agents from China to deliver internal U.S. foreign policy documents in exchange for gifts and cash.

Candace Marie Claiborne, 63, who had a top secret clearance while serving in U.S. embassies in Baghdad, Khartoum, Beijing and Shanghai, also lied to law enforcement and federal investigators, according to the Justice Department’s announcement. She admitted in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to receiving thousands of dollars from two Chinese agents in exchange for the documents.

“Candace Marie Claiborne traded her integrity and non-public information of the United States government in exchange for cash and other gifts from foreign agents she knew worked for the Chinese intelligence service,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said. “Violations of the public’s trust are an affront to our citizens and to all those who honor their oaths.”

FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director Nancy McNamara added: “Claiborne was entrusted with Top Secret information when she purposefully misled federal investigators about her repeated interactions with foreign contacts which violated her oath of office as a State Department employee. The FBI will continue to investigate individuals who fail to report foreign contacts, which is a key indicator of potential insider threats posed by those in positions of public trust.”

Claiborne joined State in 1998 as an Office Management Specialist, having won, as a criminal justice student at the University of the District of Columbia, a scholarship from State’s Federal Credit Union. When she qualified for her top secret clearance, she took on an obligation to report any contacts with a foreign intelligence agency as well as any gifts.

After her arrest in March 2017, she pleaded not guilty. But the probe found that the gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family included cash wired to her USAA account, Chinese New Year’s gifts, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment and a monthly stipend, Justice reported. The documents she provided in exchange dealt with such topics as U.S. economic strategies, U.S-China dialogues and visits by dignitaries between the two countries. 

In her diary, Claiborne wrote that one agent was providing as much as $20,000 a year, and she confided to a co-conspirator that she knew the Chinese agents were “spies.”

Claiborne is scheduled for sentencing by July 9 and faces up to five years in prison. She will report for pre-sentencing detention on June 5.