A former Central Intelligence (CIA) officer was arrested late Monday night on charges of illegally retaining national defense information. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, NY. Lee reportedly gave the People’s Republic of China information that led to the deaths of at least a dozen CIA sources in China.
According to the FBI affidavit, Jerry Chun Shing Lee (a.k.a. Zhen Ching Li) is a naturalized US citizen who served in the United States Army from 1982 to 1986. Lee then became a case officer with the CIA in 1994, in which he served in various positions overseas that all required a Top Secret clearance. He left government service in 2007, at which point his security clearance was terminated. At some point after leaving the CIA, Lee and his family moved to Hong Kong. However, in 2012, they returned to reside in the United States.
Lee had been at the center of an investigation to find the mole who had compromised a network of CIA sources in China that had resulted in the death or imprisonment of at least a dozen informants. According to the US government, Lee was in possession of information that contained details about meetings with the informants and undercover agents, as well as their real names and contact information.
Lee’s possession of the information was initially discovered in August of 2012, when the Lee family was moving from Hong Kong to Virginia. While on a layover in Hawaii, the FBI conducted a search of his hotel room and luggage. A similar search was again conducted in Virginia. Both times, it was determined that Lee was in the unauthorized possession of national defense materials.
He was subsequently interviewed by FBI agents on five separate occasions in 2013, never mentioning the materials the CIA had determined where classified. It remains unclear why action was not taken until now. He has not been charged with espionage yet; a conviction for illegal retention of classified documents carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.