SPY CASES - UNITED STATES

Larry Wu-tai Chin

After working for the U.S. military in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Larry Wu-tai Chin was employed by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) as a Chinese-language translator at its overseas installation in Okinawa. Chin later resigned and immigrated to the United States. After obtaining his U.S. citizenship, Chin was rehired by FBIS as a staff employee. He worked with Chinese-language materials in that organization until his retirement in 1981. Arrested in 1985, Chin was tried and convicted of espionage on behalf of the People's Republic of China, conspiracy, and tax fraud. He committed suicide in February 1986.

Materials presented chronologically.

Pichirallo, Joe. "Ex-CIA Analyst Gave Secrets to China for 30 Years: FBI Details Its Case against Chin." Washington Post, 24 Nov. 1985, A1, A24.

Shenon, Philip. "Former C.I.A. Analyst Is Arrested and Accused of Spying for China." New York Times, 24 Nov. 1985, A1, A31.

Perl, Peter. "Chin's 'Good Fortune' Debated." Washington Post, 25 Nov. 1985, A16.

Engelberg, Stephen. "30 Years of Spying for China Is Charged." New York Times, 27 Nov. 1985, B8.

Pichirallo, Joe. "Retiree Kept Close CIA Ties." Washington Post, 27 Nov. 1985, A1, A10.

Marcus, Ruth. "Accused Spy Used Hong Kong Banks." Washington Post, 28 Nov. 1985, A26.

Toner, Robin. "Bail Denied Ex-CIA Worker in China Spy Case." New York Times, 28 Nov. 1985, B8.

Wines, Michael. "Bigger Role Laid to Suspected Spy." Los Angeles Times, 28 Nov. 1985, 1, 10.

Marcus, Ruth, and Joe Pichirallo. "Chin Believed Planted in U.S. as Spy." Washington Post, 6 Dec. 1985, A1, A22.

Shenon, Philip. "U.S. Says Spy Suspect Had Access to Highly Classified Data." New York Times, 3 Jan. 1986, A12.

Murphy, Caryle. "Top CIA Official Gives Chin Jurors a Lesson in Intelligence Gathering." Washington Post, 6 Feb. 1986, A32.

John Stein testifies at Larry Chin's trial.

Murphy, Caryle. "Accused Spy Says He Meant to Promote U.S. China Ties." Washington Post, 7 Feb. 1986, A11.

Engelberg, Stephen. "Ex-CIA Aide Convicted in Spy Case." New York Times, 8 Feb. 1986, 8.

Murphy, Caryle. "Jury Convicts Chin of Spying for Chinese." Washington Post, 8 Feb. 1986, A11.

Murphy, Caryle. "Chin: Nothing to Regret." Washington Post, 11 Feb. 1986, A5.

Engelberg, Stephen. "Spy for China Found Suffocated in Prison, Apparently a Suicide." New York Times, 22 Feb. 1986, 1, 7.

Murphy, Caryle. "Spy Larry Chin Dies in Apparent Suicide." Washington Post, 22 Feb. 1986, A1, A6.

Murphy, Caryle. "Chin's Death Ruled a Suicide." Washington Post, 23 Feb. 1986, A10.

Murphy, Caryle. "Chin's Last Letter to Wife Ordinary Note, Son Says." Washington Post, 25 Feb. 1986, B5.

Wines, Michael. "Spy Reportedly Unmasked by China Defector." Los Angeles Times, 5 Sep. 1986, 1, 12.

Allen, Thomas B., and Norman Polmar. Merchants of Treason: America's Secrets for Sale. New York: Delacorte, 1988. New York: Dell, 1988. [pb]

Barron, John. "Tracking China's Master Spy." Reader's Digest, Dec. 1989, 97-99.

Safire, William. "I Remember Larry." New York Times, 2 Jan. 1997, A19.

Chin, Cathy. Death of My Husband: Larry Wu-Tai Chin. Taipei, Taiwan: Tunghwang, 1998. [Hoffman, "Selected Bibliography," p. 287]

Stein, Jacob A. Legal Spectator and More. Washington, DC: Magazine Group, 2003.

Stein was Larry Wu-Tai Chin's defense attorney.

Hoffman, Tod. The Spy Within: Larry Chin and China's Penetration of the CIA. Hanover, NH: Steerforth, 2008.

Clark comment: When you peel away from this book the extravagant rhetoric and the over use of "he must have..." guesses at what an individual felt in a given situation, you have a decent feature article for the Sunday magazines of the New York Times or Washington Post. Admittedly, the straightforward recitation of what is known about the Chin spy case might not seem sufficiently exciting to warrant attention more than 20 years after the exposure of the "only known example of a Chinese penetration operation," (p. 143) so some bulking up of the story may have been necessary. From the thrust of his narrative, it seems clear that Hoffman received the bulk of his "inside" information from FBI-associated sources; probably as a consequence, there are some small errors of understanding when he touches on CIA-related matters. This is not a bad read; you simply must wade through too much extraneous stuff to get to the meat of the author's tale.

Goulden, Washington Times, 14 Dec. 2008, says that the author's expertise in Chinese counterintelligence "is obvious." This book is "a textbook read on how tenacious FBI agents put together bits and pieces of evidence to make an unbeatable court case." To Peake, Studies 52.4 (Dec. 2008), this "is a well-told story about a spy who beat the security system and couldn't resist telling the FBI how he did it." Brazil, Intelligencer 17.1 (Winter-Spring 2009), sees this as "a good read and an invaluable look at a major espionage case," although details that are "imagined" leave the reader wondering what is going on. See also Brazil's review in INS 25.3 (Jun. 2010).

For McGovern, McGill Daily, 3 Nov. 2008, the author "excels in painting an insightful picture of Chinese culture and history, the roots of which shaped their spies and their methods of gathering intelligence.... Hoffman is a skilled writer and definitely succeeds in producing a page-turner." Kappler, Gazette (Montreal), 13 Sep. 2008, finds that this "book tells us as much as we'll ever know about Larry Chin, probably. Yet it also illustrates the limitations of the genre -- which Hoffman admits in a preface: In real life, 'spies are ghosts' and 'the mystery is never absolutely resolved.' We're left wanting to know more about what drove Chin."

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