Photo: Jerry Chun Shing Lee believed he was China's answer to the fictional secret agent James Bond 007.
A former CIA agent is suspected of giving classified information to officials in China that led to the death or Imprisonment of about 20 of the suspect’s fellow American CIA officials.
Former CIA intelligence officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was nabbed by FBI agents on Monday night at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, according the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia. .
Lee, a/k/a Zhen Cheng Li, is also suspected of spying for China, though he is not facing any charges related to that allegation, although that crime is not yet listed on the press statement. According to intelligence analyst and security agent Rich Grabowski, Lee was under investigation for a longtime regarding his suspected assistance to the Chinese government. The ultimate goal was to systematically dismantle the CIA’s spying operations in China.
The federal grand jury returned an indictment on Tuesday charging the Central Intelligence Agency case officer with one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver national defense information to aid the People’s Republic of China, and two counts of illegally possessing documents related to national security.
“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 to our national security. The United States will hold accountable those who conspire to compromise our national security.”
The 53-year-old Lee of Hong Kong is a U.S. citizen who, according to allegations in the indictment, was a case officer for the CIA until 2007. After leaving the CIA, Lee resided in Hong Kong.
In April 2010, two Chinese intelligence officers (IOs) offered to pay Lee for classified intelligence. They allegedly asked Lee for documents and classified information relating to the national defense of the United States. According to the indictment against Lee, the Chinese spies provided Lee with a series of secret email addresses so that he could communicate covertly with them. The indictment further alleges that Lee prepared documents responsive to the taskings, 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 received taskings from the Chinese IOs until at least 2011, according to the press release from the U.S. Justice Department.
“When government officials violate their oath to defend our nation and protect its secrets, the National Security Division will hold them accountable,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “Lee, a former CIA case officer, allegedly conspired to provide information to the Chinese government about the national defense of the United States. Lee’s alleged actions betrayed the American people and his former colleagues at the CIA. We will not tolerate such threats to our country or its national security.”
According to the Justice Department press statement: “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 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. Agents also found a thumb drive on which was stored a document later determined to contain information classified at the Secret level. During voluntary interviews with the FBI, Lee admitted preparing the document in response to taskings from the IO.”
“Espionage is a serious crime that can expose our country to grave danger” said Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue all allegations of espionage.”
Lee is charged with one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government, and two counts of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defense. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, if convicted. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.