Yesterday, the Justice Department announced that an ex-CIA agent suspected by investigators of helping the Chinese intelligence dismantle American spying operations and identify informants has finally been arrested. In addition to the way this former officer managed to act in favor of China´s interests, one of the most revealing details of this case involves the FBI. After all, this agency lasted five years in executing actions against the suspect, a time in which this person successfully sold classified information.
Naturally, the collapse of the spy network represented one of the worst intelligence failures in the history of the United States. The name of the ex-CIA officer is Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a 53-year-old man who was quite useful to the Chinese regime.
His arrest capped a strong FBI inquiry that started in 2012, just two years after the CIA began losing its informants in China in the most mysterious way. When this situation was taken place, the main question was how the Chinese intelligence managed to get the agency´s most dearly held secrets and the information of so many sources.
At the time, some intelligence officials concluded that there had to be a mole inside the agency that was exposing its list of informants. Other intelligence officials believed that the Chinese regime managed to hack the agency´s covert communications. This one was used to communicate with the foreign sources of information.
Apparently, Lee has been living in China since 2007, the year in which he decided to leave the agency. At that time, he moved to the city of Hong Kong and started to work for a well-known auction house.
This man was apprehended at the Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday. Eventually, Lee was charged in federal court in Northern Virginia with the unlawful retention of national defense information.
What seems to be one of the most curious details about this man is the fact that he decided to travel to America in 2012 in order to live with his family in Virginia. Reports revealed it was exactly during that trip that agents of the bureau searched his luggage during hotel stays in Virginia and Hawaii and found two small books that contained classified information. After being questioned by FBI officers in 2013, he went back to Hong Kong.
So far, it remains unclear why Lee decided to return to the United States this month, considering that he probably knew he was going to get arrested. While many believe this could be a part of a major plan, it is possible that this was nothing more than an intelligence move by the CIA and FBI.
In the books, the 53-year-old man wrote several details about certain meetings between the agency´s informants and undercover agents. According to court papers, Lee wrote the real name of these individuals, as well as their phone numbers. Prosecutors assured that the information that Lee had in those books reflected the same data contained in the classified cables that this man had written while he was working at the CIA.
Thanks to Lee´s act, more than a dozen informants of the agency were imprisoned or killed by the Chinese regime. According to the New York Times, the number of informants lost in this country rivaled losses in Russia and even the Soviet Union during the betrayals of Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, formerly of the FBI and the CIA.
One of the most curious details about Lee´s case is that the sworn affidavit unsealed yesterday doesn’t say whether there is any kind of evidence that he disseminated the classified data to the Chinese regime or any other foreign agents.
The affidavit was signed by FBI Special Agent Kellie O’Brien. He stated that agents of the bureau interviewed Lee in five different opportunities back in May and June 2013. Apparently, Lee didn’t mention having the classified documents. In addition, this man didn’t mention anything about the documents during certain encounters with former CIA colleagues.
LATEST: Ex-CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee landed at JFK on a Cathay Pacific jet last night. He was taken into custody in what may be the biggest spy case in nearly 30 years. w/ @KenDilanianNBC @rwindrem and Pete Williams: https://t.co/BR2LidII2F pic.twitter.com/VGchOiVqjr
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) January 17, 2018
According to court documents, Lee served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986. He eventually joined the CIA in 1994 as a case officer, and eventually served in China during his career. Some former agency officials said that those who knew him always claimed Lee left the CIA quite annoyed.
Why the bureau refused to arrest Lee after originally finding the classified material in his books remains unclear. If convicted, this man faces up to 10 years in prison.