Posted on May 2, 2019

Former CIA Officer Pleads Guilty to Spying for China

Greg Myre, NPR, May 1, 2019

An ex-CIA officer pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to spying for China, the third separate espionage case in the past year linking a former U.S. intelligence officer to the Asian nation.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 54, entered the guilty plea to the most serious of the three charges he was facing.


In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., agreed to drop two lesser charges of retaining secret information after he left the CIA.

{snip} The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Lee worked as a CIA officer in China and elsewhere from 1994 to 2007. After resigning from the agency, he settled in Hong Kong and became a private businessman.

Prosecutor Neil Hammerstrom said Lee met with Chinese intelligence officials in 2010 and subsequently made cash deposits in his Hong Kong bank accounts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next three years.

From 2010 to 2012, a dozen or more Chinese citizens secretly cooperating with the CIA were arrested and either jailed or executed by the Chinese government, according to media reports and former CIA officials.

This was a major blow to CIA operations in China, and there has been considerable speculation about whether Lee might have played a role. Some media reports said Lee was a leading suspect in the CIA’s hunt for a mole, while others have suggested that the Chinese may have broken into a CIA communications system, which led them to the spies.


Lee becomes the third former U.S. intelligence official tied to spying for China over the past year.


Chinese espionage efforts

National security officials say these cases point to widespread Chinese espionage operations directed at U.S. targets.

They include traditional spy-vs.-spy efforts aimed at stealing U.S. government and military secrets, as well as an extensive Chinese program to pilfer high tech from private companies and universities.


Lee was born in Hong Kong and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He resigned from the CIA 12 years ago, reportedly frustrated that his career had stalled.

He had been the target of an FBI investigation since 2012, when he traveled from Hong Kong to the U.S., stopping in Hawaii and Virginia. FBI agents secretly searched his hotel rooms in both states and discovered Lee’s handwritten notes in two small address books that “contained true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, as well as the addresses of CIA facilities” all related to China, according to the indictment.