One year after his arrest hinted at a damaging espionage scandal, a former FBI supervisor in Los Angeles pleaded guilty yesterday to a minor offense: failing to disclose his 20-year sexual relationship with an accused Chinese double agent. The Los Angeles Times reprots that ex-agent James J. Smith acknowledged that he had lied to the FBI in August 2000 when he said in a routine interview that there was nothing in his personal life that would affect his ability to work in counterintelligence, or that could compromise his judgment.
FBI officials have alleged that Smith was so careless with classified documents that informant Katrina Leung had surreptitiously copied them, at great risk to the United States. Smith’s plea bargain calls for him to cooperate in the prosecution of Leung. Sentencing was set for January 2005. Smith, 60, will almost certainly serve little or no time behind bars.
The Times says federal authorities have tried to lower expectations in the case since the highly publicized arrests last year of Smith and Leung. A lengthy investigation had raised concerns about how the FBI’s counterintelligence program had been run, particularly in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where another veteran agent had a long sexual relationship with Leung.