A civilian professor at the Air War College on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent about contacts he had with a Chinese official, the Justice Department announced on Monday.
According to court documents, Zhang Xiaoming, 69, a naturalized citizen of Chinese descent began working as an Air War College (AWC) professor in July 2003. He regularly traveled to China for work and to visit his family there.
Beginning sometime in 2012, the Justice Department said, Zhang developed a relationship with a known foreign official working with the Shanghai Municipal Government. Records indicate that Zhang met with the official in person on approximately six occasions and exchanged some 40 emails with him from December 2012 to January 2017.
At some point during this period, Zhang became aware that the official was using, or attempting to use, their relationship to gain access to sensitive information in Zhang’s possession, as well as to make contact with other potentially valuable individuals.
Zhang held a “secret” security clearance as part of his work at the Air War College and he attended annual security training that made clear he needed to report suspicious foreign contacts and relationships with foreign government officials.
Zhang didn’t report the relationship and, according to his plea agreement, he admitted to misleading authorities about the relationship. He even told authorities in 2017 he didn’t know the foreign official. It wasn’t until July of last year that he eventually admitted to being untruthful about meetings he knew were improper.
Zhang pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent and faces a maximum of five years in prison at sentencing.
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