The Justice Department on Tuesday indicted an ex-CIA case officer suspected of passing information to Chinese intelligence agents.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, a resident of Hong Kong, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. He also was charged with two counts of unlawfully retaining documents related to U.S. national defense.
Prosecutors say Lee, who speaks fluent Chinese, illegally retained classified documents that included names and numbers of covert CIA employees and locations of covert facilities. Some news reports, citing anonymous sources, have suggested that Lee’s actions went much deeper, and that he was a mole responsible for exposing a network of U.S. assets working in China.
“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.”
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.
The indictment alleges 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, until at least 2011.
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.”
Lee is a U.S. citizen. He joined the CIA in 1994 and worked in a variety of overseas offices. He was trained in surveillance detection, recruiting and handling informants and classified material.
A court affidavit states that in 2012, Lee traveled from Hong Kong with his family to Northern Virginia, where he lived until 2013. When he flew to Virginia, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Lee’s luggage and hotel room. Agents found two small books with handwritten notes containing names and numbers of covert CIA employees and locations of covert facilities, according to the affidavit.
After being under investigation for more than five years, Lee was arrested in January at JFK International Airport in New York.