The Department of Justice has announced the arrest of a former CIA case officer on charges of “retaining classified information.”
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, aka Zhen Cheng Li, 53, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, was arrested last night on charges of unlawful retention of national defense information.
Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.
Lee was arrested after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. Lee is a naturalized U.S. citizen, currently residing in Hong Kong, China. According to court documents, Lee began working for the CIA as a case officer in 1994, maintained a Top Secret clearance and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at CIA.
According to court documents, in August 2012, Lee and his family left Hong Kong to return to the United States to live in northern Virginia. While traveling back to the United States, Lee and his family had hotel stays in Hawaii and Virginia. During each of the hotel stays, FBI agents conducted court-authorized searches of Lee’s room and luggage, and found that Lee was in unauthorized possession of materials relating to the national defense. Specifically, agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities.
The New York Times has more information. If you recall, back in May the NYT reported on China rolling up long established US espionage networks:
The Chinese government systematically dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years and crippling intelligence gathering there for years afterward.
Current and former American officials described the intelligence breach as one of the worst in decades. It set off a scramble in Washington’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to contain the fallout, but investigators were bitterly divided over the cause. Some were convinced that a mole within the C.I.A. had betrayed the United States. Others believed that the Chinese had hacked the covert system the C.I.A. used to communicate with its foreign sources. Years later, that debate remains unresolved.
But there was no disagreement about the damage. From the final weeks of 2010 through the end of 2012, according to former American officials, the Chinese killed at least a dozen of the C.I.A.’s sources. According to three of the officials, one was shot in front of his colleagues in the courtyard of a government building — a message to others who might have been working for the C.I.A.
Still others were put in jail. All told, the Chinese killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 of the C.I.A.’s sources in China, according to two former senior American officials, effectively unraveling a network that had taken years to build.
They are saying this is related.
A former C.I.A. officer suspected of helping China identify the agency’s informants in that country has been arrested, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. Many of the informants were killed in a systematic dismantling of the C.I.A.’s spy network in China starting in 2010 that was one of the American government’s worst intelligence failures in recent years, several former intelligence officials have said.
The arrest of the former officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, capped an intense F.B.I. investigation that began around 2012 after the C.I.A. began losing its informants in China. Mr. Lee was at the center of a mole hunt in which some intelligence officials believed that he had betrayed the United States but others thought that the Chinese government had hacked the C.I.A.’s covert communications used to talk to foreign sources of information.
As I said in an earlier post on another CIA operative arrested for spying for the Chinese:
The Chinese are actively targeting US industry, military, academia, and government officials. In March, a State Department official was charged with working for the Chinese. While they are recruiting here, they are actively engaged in rolling up networks it took us decades to establish in China.
We also have national blinders about China, perhaps because we have a major trade relationship with them and because they aren’t as blatantly aggressive as Putin’s Russia. While people are turning white trousers brown over the DNC losing some emails, no one really gives a rat’s ass about the fact that the Chinese government hacked the US Office of Personnel Management and downloaded more that 20 MILLION personnel records of current and former government employees.