Former CIA Case Officer Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage and Retention of National Defense Information
Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, May 8, 2018
The Justice Department announced today that Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, of Hong Kong, was indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia with one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government, and two counts of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defense.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of the FBI’s Washington Field Office announced the charges.
“When government officials violate their oath to defend our nation and protect its secrets, the National Security Division will hold them accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Lee, a former CIA case officer, allegedly conspired to provide information to the Chinese government about the national defense of the United States. Lee’s alleged actions betrayed the American people and his former colleagues at the CIA. We will not tolerate such threats to our country or its national security.”
“The allegations in this case are troubling,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Doherty-McCormick. “Conspiring with foreign agents poses a real and serious threat toward our national security. The United States will hold accountable those who conspire to compromise our national security.”
“Espionage is a serious crime that can expose our country to grave danger” said Assistant Director in Charge McNamara. “The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue all allegations of espionage.”
Lee is a U.S. citizen who speaks fluent Chinese. According to the indictment, Lee was a case officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until 2007. After leaving the CIA, Lee resided in Hong Kong. The indictment alleges that in April 2010, two Chinese intelligence officers (IOs) approached Lee and offered to pay him for information. The indictment alleges that Lee received taskings from the IOs until at least 2011. The taskings allegedly requested that Lee provide documents and information relating to the national defense of the United States. According to the indictment, the IOs provided Lee with a series of email addresses so that he could communicate covertly with them. The indictment further alleges that Lee prepared documents responsive to the taskings, made numerous unexplained cash deposits, and repeatedly lied to the U.S. government during voluntary interviews when asked about travel to China and his actions overseas.
In August 2012, Lee and his family left Hong Kong to return to the United States to live in northern Virginia. While traveling back to the United States, Lee and his family had hotel stays in Hawaii and Virginia. During each of the hotel stays, FBI agents conducted court-authorized searches of Lee’s room and luggage, and found that Lee was in unauthorized possession of materials relating to the national defense. Specifically, agents found two books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities. Agents also found a thumb drive on which was stored a document later determined to contain information classified at the Secret level. During voluntary interviews with the FBI, Lee admitted preparing the document in response to taskings from the IO.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted, Lee faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Adam L. Small and Patrick T. Murphy of National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom of the Eastern District of Virginia.