Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Former CIA field agent Jerry Chun Shing Lee was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia with conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of China, a treasonous offense that led to the deaths and capture of over a dozen CIA agents working clandestinely in China.
Lee, 53, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who had top-secret clearance and worked for the CIA from 1994 to 2007. After leaving the CIA, Lee worked for Japan Tobacco International, formed his own company and later joined Christie’s auction house in Hong Kong
He was arrested in January when he travelled to New York. Lee was charged with one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver national defence information to aid a foreign government, and two counts of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defence. The charges also included two counts of unlawfully retaining documents related to U.S. national defense. Lee faces a maximum of life in prison
FBI agents in 2012 discovered handwritten notes on “asset meeting, operational meeting locations, operational phone numbers, true names of assets, and covert facilities” pertaining to China in his Honolulu hotel room.
“The allegations in this case are troubling,” said Tracy Doherty-McCormick, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Conspiring with foreign agents poses a real and serious threat toward our national security.”
The New York Times reported that information in Lee’s notebooks is thought to have been used by China to dismantle U.S. spy operations and identify CIA informants inside China. In 2010, the CIA said it had begun “losing its informants in China.” More than a dozen CIA assets were either killed or imprisoned as a result of Lee’s treachery.
“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,” wrote the NYT.
The indictment says that three years after Lee left the CIA in 2007, two Chinese intelligence officers approached him and offered to pay him for information, including documents on U.S. defense.
“The Chinese intelligence officers allegedly provided Lee with email addresses so they could communicate covertly. The indictment alleges that Lee made ‘numerous unexplained cash deposits, and repeatedly lied to the U.S. government during voluntary interviews when asked about travel to China and his actions overseas.’ “
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