Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz of the Washington Times remind us that a sentence was recently handed in the latest espionage case involving the PRC. Former DIA analyst Ronald Montaperto was sentenced to three months in prison for illegally retaining classified documents, and passing sensitive intelligence information to a Chinese intelligence officer. In comparison to other spy cases, Montaperto's stunningly light sentence received virtually no media attention.
We first wrote about Mr. Montaperto back on June 26th, and posted additional comments on his case last week. As we observed at the time, Montaperto was no ordinary intelligence analyst. At the time he was dismissed from government service, he was running a U.S. Pacific Command think tank, charged with assessing the threat from the PRC. Before that, he was a China analyst for DIA; former colleagues recall taht Mr. Montaperto consistently downplayed the military and economic challenges posed by Beijing.
At one point (in the early 1990s), Montaperto apparently applied for an analyst position at the CIA. His pre-employment polygraph reportedly raised serious questions about his conduct, and suggested that he may have posed an esiponage threat. The CIA decided not to hire Montaperto and passed their concerns to DIA, which failed to follow up. Montaperto remained on the government payroll for another 13 years; there's no telling what he might have passed to Beijing in the years that followed. According to Scarborough and Gertz, prosecutors are convinced that he passed sensitive reports on Saudi and Iranian missile deals to Beijing. His information may have also allowed the Chinese to plug leaks that prevent us from tracking key Chinese arms deals.
And for all this, Montaperto will spend three months in jail. Moreover, according to the Times, a number of current/former government employees wrote letters of support for Montaperto. There is something very distressing about the sentence Montaperto received, and his continued support in certain federal circles.