Suspected of helping the Chinese government identify a network of CIA informants and assets, former CIA case officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was arrested this week and charged with unlawful retention of national defense information. Although the FBI searched Lee’s hotel rooms in August 2012 and discovered two notebooks containing the true identities of CIA employees and assets, the double agent was not arrested until Monday.
After joining the CIA in 1994, Lee became a case officer with access to classified information. By the time he left the Agency in 2007, Lee was reportedly disgruntled with his lackluster career and allegedly worked for the Chinese government.
While on vacation in Hawaii and Virginia with his family in August 2012, Lee remained under FBI surveillance when agents conducted court-authorized searches of his hotel rooms. According to the recently unsealed affidavit, the FBI agents found two notebooks containing “operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations, operational phone numbers, true names of assets, and covert facilities… The address book contained true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, as well as the address of CIA facilities.”
Despite the fact that Lee was interviewed by FBI agents five times between May and June 2013, the former CIA case officer never admitted to possession of the two notebooks. As China dismantled the CIA’s spying program, Lee remained free until his arrest at Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday.
More than a dozen CIA informants have been executed or imprisoned by the Chinese government. Before his arrest on U.S. soil, Lee had been residing in Hong Kong.
According to The New York Times, the FBI suspected a mole within the CIA, but the Agency was reluctant to embrace that theory until presented with photographs of Lee’s notebooks. If convicted, Lee could face up to 10 years in federal prison.