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Inside FBI Counterintelligence

The necessity of human "assets," the complex relationships between sources and FBI agents, and why counterintelligence cases are not always prosecuted.

Recruiting and Operating Counterintelligence 'Assets'
Former FBI agents Edward Appel, Richard Smith, Tom Parker and T. Van Magers describe how an FBI agent targets and develops an "asset," how valuable a human source can be in counterintelligence work and how the Parlor Maid case exposed the complexities and dangers in the relationship between sources and agents.
Why Are Espionage Convictions So Rare?
Here, former FBI Special Agent Edward Appel and J.J. Smith's defense attorney Brian Sun explain why it is so difficult to win an espionage conviction in a U.S. court of law.
Interview: Edward Appel
Appel was an FBI special agent from 1973 to 1997, where he specialized in counterintelligence. He also served as FBI liason to the National Security Council from 1996 to 1997. In this interview, Appel explains how an FBI counterintelligence agent develops an asset and talks in detail about China's methods of espionage. Appel also discusses the reasons why prosecuting espionage may not always be the most attractive option for the U.S. government, but argues that the FBI prosecutes "an awful lot of messy cases," and that procedures are in place to protect classified information.
Interview: Van Magers
Magers was a special agent in the FBI from 1969 to 2002, during which time he specialized in Chinese counterintelligence. In this interview, he describes the evolution of Chinese espionage over this period and recounts some of the FBI's major investigations into China's espionage program, including his own role in the Larry Wu-Tai Chin case. Magers tells FRONTLINE that among the lessons learned from the Parlor Maid scandal is that counterintelligence agents need to be careful in how they handle assets and authenticate the information they've provided. "You have to evaluate how much you're willing to compromise in order to get the information you need," he warns.
Interview: I.C. Smith
Smith was an FBI special agent from 1973 to 1998. In 1979, he was named supervisor of the Chinese intelligence squad and he worked closely on the Larry Wu-Tai Chin case. In 1990, while working diplomatic security in the State Department's Office of Counterintelligence Programs, Smith traveled with FBI agent Bill Cleveland to China, where the two were surprised to be extensively surveilled by Chinese security agents. Smith now believes that Katrina Leung tipped the Chinese off to this trip. In this interview, Smith recounts his trip to China with Cleveland and the allegations surrounding Cleveland, J.J. Smith, and Katrina Leung.


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posted january 15, 2004

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