WASHINGTON – United States authorities reported on Tuesday the arrest of a former Central Intelligence Agency agent who faces charges over the illegal possession of classified information that compromised the country’s national security.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a naturalized US citizen, currently residing in Hong Kong, was arrested late Monday when he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
According to The New York Times, Lee would have used the information to help Beijing dismantle a network of CIA informants in China, with execution or detention of a dozen of them.
Lee joined the CIA in 1994, a move that gave him access to “top secret” material.
In August 2012, Lee and his family left Hong Kong to return to the United States. Before moving permanently, they stayed in hotels in Hawaii and Virginia, where FBI agents investigated the former officer.
While searching through Lee’s possessions, the agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including the real names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, in his luggage. The books also contained operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities.
According to The New York Times, Lee became a suspect for American intelligence after the CIA lost several informants in China.
Initially, the CIA believed that these losses were explained by a computer hack, but the FBI pointed towards the existence of a mole.
If convicted, Lee, who appeared Tuesday before a New York court, faces a possible 10-year prison sentence.
Lee’s case adds to those of another former CIA agent arrested in June 2017 for providing classified information to Chinese authorities and a former State Department employee detained in March on charges of collaborating with Chinese intelligence.