KEY POINTS

  • Alexander Yuk Ching Ma's lawyer is now requesting a competency evaluation
  • The ex-CIA officer had shared classified information with Chinese intelligence officials
  • The hearing for the motion is scheduled for Aug. 12

A former CIA official who allegedly spied for the Chinese government said he believes he may be displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a court filing Wednesday, Birney Bervar, a court-appointed attorney for Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, requested a competency evaluation to determine whether his client is fit to stand trial, The Hill reported. 

Ma, who previously served as a contract linguist and worked at the CIA from 1982 to 1989, was arrested in August 2020 during an undercover operation. At the time, prosecutors accused him of accepting $2,000 in cash in exchange for sharing information about the CIA, including sources, international operations, and staffing practices, with five Chinese intelligence officials.

In the filing, Bervar noted that his client appears to be having memory issues, which is “making it hard for him to remember things and affecting his ability to assist properly in his defense,” as reported by the publication. 

Ma, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong, was also accused of using his work computer to copy documents related to missiles and weapon system technology research. It is unclear whether the said documents were given to Chinese officials. 

In the indictment against Ma, the older brother is marked as a co-conspirator. However, prosecutors said he would not be charged because he suffers from debilitating cognitive diseases.

According to Bervar, the defendant’s 85-year-old older brother had suffered from Alzheimer’s a decade ago, adding that he is now completely disabled by the illness. 

Prosecutors also alleged that Ma told a law enforcement officer posed as a Chinese intelligence officer in 2019 that he wanted to see the “motherland” succeed. 

“The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, sadly, strewn with former American intelligence officers who betrayed their colleagues, their country, and its liberal democratic values to support an authoritarian communist regime,” Assistant Attorney John Demers had said in a statement, according to Katu 2

Ma was charged in federal court with conspiring to gather and communicate national defense information for a foreign nation. If convicted, he may face up to life in prison.

A magistrate judge had scheduled a hearing for Aug. 12 over his lawyer’s request for a competency evaluation. 

Hackers hit Kaseya, a firm that provides IT services to other companies, with a ransomware attack that could have targeted as many as 1,000 other businesses just before the long holiday July 4, 2021 weekend in the United States Hackers hit Kaseya, a firm that provides IT services to other companies, with a ransomware attack that could have targeted as many as 1,000 other businesses just before the long holiday July 4, 2021 weekend in the United States Photo: AFP / PAUL FAITH