The CIA apparently put too much faith in its computer system for its Chinese agents. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
A bombshell new report in Foreign Policy reveals that up to 30 CIA agents and assets working in China were identified and executed by Chinese counterintelligence over a two year period after the CIA’s encrypted communications system was infiltrated.
The report is based on former and current unnamed CIA officials who were part of the program, which established a network of spies across China. The in-country spies communicated with their CIA handlers via an online system capable of being logged into from any laptop or computer.
But when starting in late 2010 Chinese authorities began to sweep up the network of spies for interrogation and eventual execution, the CIA was “shellshocked” in the words of one former official, and for eight years a joint FBI-NSA-CIA investigation has sought answers as to what went wrong in what is widely considered “one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades”.
For the first time, it appears answers have been made public. Foreign Policy asks, “How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?” and begins by answering:
Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.
The CIA officials paint a picture of both hubris on the part of American operatives and shockingly sophisticated abilities of the Chinese to gain access to the CIA communications system, which the Americans wrongly thought impenetrable.
One officials is cited as saying, “The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable.”
“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing. The Ministry of State Security [which handles both foreign intelligence and domestic security] were always pulling in the right people,” one of the officials told Foreign Policy. “When things started going bad, they went bad fast.”
News of the roundup and detention of a dozen or more spies in China was first revealed in a May 2017 story in the New York Times, but Foreign Policy’s sources say it was actually around 30, with some offering a high figure. The FP report contains this stunning line: “All the CIA assets detained by Chinese intelligence around this time were eventually killed, the former officials said.”