Bizarre revelations emerged Wednesday morning that a state department contractor leaked data on Americans to Chinese agents and yet was not prosecuted by the department of justice.
Unsealed court documents show State Department translator Xiaoming Gao was paid "thousands of dollars to provide information on U.S. persons and a U.S. government employee." according to an FBI investigation started in the summer of 2014.
According to the documents, she admitted that these meetings took place in hotel rooms in China for years, where she reported on her "social contacts" in the U.S. to an agent who went by the name of "Teacher Zhao."
The detailed FBI affidavit goes on to say the translator briefly lived, "for free," with a State Department employee who held a top-secret clearance and designed high-security embassies, including the U.S. compound in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The State Department employee, who is not named, first told the FBI he didn't discuss his job with Gao, then later changed his statement.
According to the newly unsealed documents, Gao also told the FBI - during interviews in 2013 - that she once told "Teacher Zhao" about the travel plans of an American and ethnic Tibetan. This resulted in that person being interrogated by Chinese intelligence officers during a trip to Tibet, and a member of his family were subsequently imprisoned.
Yet, for some strange reason, the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C., which oversaw the case, recently declined to prosecute and allowed the documents to be unsealed. The office offered no further comment. The FBI is also not commenting beyond the court documents that were filed to search a storage unit in suburban Washington, D.C.
On its face, a former senior Justice Department official said the decision not to prosecute is troubling, because the case was unlikely to reveal investigative sources and methods, the usual reason for not conducting such prosecutions.
"It's not clear to me, based on the court files that were unsealed, how a prosecution of this person could possibly have compromised U.S. intelligence gathering," Thomas Dupree, former deputy assistant attorney general said. "If it jeopardizes or threatens to disrupt relations with another country, so be it. That you have to draw the line somewhere, and that we need to send a message that this sort of conduct and activity simply will not be tolerated."
It's possible given the low level of the intelligence and cooperation with U.S. authorities that it simply wasn't worth the political trouble it would have caused.