DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:25 P.M.) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has lost about 20 agents and informants in China since 2010, New York Times reported on Saturday.

No less than 12 people were killed, with one of them shot in the backyard of a government building before the eyes of his colleagues. This was allegedly meant to give a signal to other supposed spies.

Some informants were arrested. Overall, CIA lost from 18 to 20 agents in the People’s Republic of China in the period between 2010 and 2012.

NYT’s sources describe positions of U.S. intelligence in China as being the weakest over the course of decades. Chinese government managed to dismantle a spy network that took years to be established.

Investigators are sharply divided over the cause of such a failure. Some believe that a mole within the CIA helped Chinese authorities discover the spy network. Others suggest that the Chinese were able to hack the covert system that the CIA used to communicate with its foreign sources.

An investigation was initiated against one of the former CIA employees; however, he has never been charged due to lack of evidence, so the investigators ultimately dropped the case.

The exact reasons of U.S. intelligence exposure in China have remained unclear.

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