Jerry Chun Lee is accused of selling the identities of American agents to the Chinese eight years ago
Betrayal of US spies by the former CIA agent linked to 2010 – 2012 scandal that saw China wipe out agency’s network in that country, crippling America’s intelligence network
Lee, 53, a US citizen fluent Chinese who joined the CIA in 1994, leaving 13 years later
He allegedly, caved in when approached by Chinese agents to betray his former employer, in 2010
The Hong Kong resident was arrested at JFK in January, FBI has been investigating him for six years after finding names of agents in a bag
He’s been charged with selling this information to Chinese intelligence
￼Jerry Chun Lee [photo, wearing blue tie], is accused of handing the identities of American agents to the Chinese
A former CIA agent accused of helping China unravel America’s intelligence network in the country eight years ago has been charged by the US Justice Department with conspiring to commit espionage.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, a resident of Hong Kong, was arrested at JFK airport in January, six years after US officials found the names and numbers of covert agents inside two notebooks within his luggage.
Lee is accused of handing this information to the Chinese, allowing them to unmask ‘at least a dozen’ CIA sources and imprison six more from 2010 to 2012 in what was seen as one of the biggest US intelligence failures in decades.
‘The allegations in this case are troubling,’ said Tracy Doherty-McCormick, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
‘Conspiring with foreign agents poses a real and serious threat toward our national security.’
Lee’s lawyer, Edward MacMahon, has refuted the charges. ‘Mr. Lee is not a Chinese spy,’ MacMahon said after his client’s initial court appearance in February.
‘He is a loyal American who loves his country’ and served in the military and the CIA.
Lee was outed during a visit Northern Virginia in 2012, from Hong Kong with his family, where agents found two notebooks which named covert US agents
For more than a decade, he worked in a variety of overseas offices where he was trained in surveillance detection, recruiting and handling informants and classified material.
Eight years ago he came under suspicion of handing the identities of American agents to the Chinese.
According to prosecutors, two Chinese intelligence officers approached Lee in April 2010, three years after he had left the CIA, and offered to pay him for information ‘relating to the national defense of the United States’.
The Chinese officers allegedly provided Lee with email addresses so they could communicate covertly.
A court affidavit states that in 2012, Lee traveled from Hong Kong with his family to Northern Virginia, investigators found two notebooks containing the names of covert US agents, in his possession.
FBI interviewed Lee five times but did not directly ask him if he had worked for the Chinese government. He was then allowed Lee leave the country in 2013, but was placed under surveillance, for more evidence – to prove he had committed espionage.
The indictment alleges that Lee made ‘numerous unexplained cash deposits, and repeatedly lied to the US government during voluntary interviews when asked about travel to China and his actions overseas.’
Officials have not said why it took so long to bring charges against Lee, nor detailed what materials he gave to the Chinese agents.
The case takes place amid widespread concern in the US intelligence community that Beijing has been able to cripple their operations in China. A 2017 report in The New York Times, noted that starting in 2010, to the end of 2012, the Chinese killed ‘at least a dozen’ CIA assets inside China and imprisoned six or more others.
The information in Lee’s notebooks is thought to have been used by Beijing to dismantle U.S. spy operations and identify informants inside China, the Times noted.
Two year before the FBI searched his hotel room, the CIA had begun “losing its informants in China” to the tune, eventually of more than a dozen killed or imprisoned.
“Some intelligence officials believed that a mole inside the C.I.A. was exposing its roster of informants. Others thought that the Chinese government had hacked the C.I.A.’s covert communications used to talk to foreign sources of information,” according to the Times.
The report further stated that the hunt for a ‘mole’ in the agency had led to one person, a ‘former operative’ now living elsewhere in Asia. The agency at the time did not have enough information to make an arrest, the Times reported.