A former CIA officer was indicted on charges of conspiring to commit espionage on Tuesday after he allegedly helped the Chinese government unravel a network of American informants.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, who worked for the CIA between 1994 and 2007, was arrested by the FBI at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in January for allegedly illegally carrying classified information that contained “true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations, and locations of covert facilities.”
According to prosecutors, two Chinese officials approached Lee in April 2010 offering “a gift of $100,000 in exchange for his cooperation and that they would take care of him for life.”
They then “provided Lee with a series of email addresses so that he could communicate covertly with them,” and both parties were in direct communication until 2011.
Although the prosecution did not explicitly accuse Lee of giving classified information to the Chinese, they maintain that he made a series of “unexplained cash deposits, and repeatedly lied to the U.S. government during voluntary interviews when asked about travel to China and his actions overseas.”
“When government officials violate their oath to defend our nation and protect its secrets, [we] will hold them accountable,” said U.S. assistant attorney for national security general John Demers.
Lee, who grew up in the U.S. and served in the military, was living in Hong Kong with his family from 2007. However, he became the target of investigations during a visit to the U.S. in 2012, where officials searched his hotel room and gathered evidence against him.
“He’s a loyal American who served his country in the military and for the CIA,” said Lee’s Lawyer, Edward MacMahon, on Tuesday. “I can’t comment on the indictment because the government hasn’t filed anything but a press release.”
Last year, the New York Times reported that Chinese authorities had “systematically dismantled CIA 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.”
On Tuesday, Lee was 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 concerning national defense. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison.