Guard Tried to Sell|U.S. Secrets to China

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A former civilian guard at a U.S. consulate in China faces up to life in prison after pleading guilty to trying to sell information about the building’s security systems to China.
     Bryan Underwood, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government with intent or reason to believe that the documents, photographs or information were to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation.
     Underwood tried to sell information and access to the under-construction consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese Ministry of State Security for $3 million to $5 million, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
     “Bryan Underwood was determined to make millions by selling secret photos of restricted areas inside a U.S. Consulate in China,” prosecutors said in the statement. “His greed drove him to exploit his access to America’s secrets to line his own pockets.”
     Underwood worked as a Cleared American Guard at the construction site from November 2009 until August 2011. CAGs are civilian security guards with Top Secret clearance, who prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the consulate.
     Underwood lost a lot of money in the stock market in March 2011, then tried to contact the Chinese government and use assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a “cover,” prosecutors said.
     “As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS [Ministry of State Security], expressing his ‘interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices’ and stating, ‘I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals. And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors,'” prosecutors said in the statement.
     “According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter. Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.”
     In May 2011 he sneaked a camera into the consulate and took photos of the restricted building and classified areas, prosecutors said.
     “Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. Consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate,” the Justice Department said. “In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood ‘mentally’ constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. Consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.”
     An expert with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security determined the photographs Underwood took could have caused serious damage to the United States.
     Underwood falsely told federal authorities in early August 2011 that he acted to assist U.S. law enforcement, prosecutors said. Days later, he was interviewed again and admitted he planned to sell the information for personal financial gain.
     Underwood faces up to life in federal prison at his Nov. 19 sentencing.

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