Intelligence: China Turns Another One


June 5, 2018: In early May Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former CIA case officer, was indicted for selling Chinese intelligence officials classified information on CIA operations in China. Lee had been with the CIA from 1994 to 2007 and spent most of his time as a case officer in China, where he recruited and managed local informants. Lee was a naturalized U.S. citizen who had served in the army during the 1980s and that helped him get into the CIA. Lee had links to Hong Kong (he was raised there as Zhen Cheng Li) and had some success establishing informant networks in southern China.

But Lee felt he would not rise much farther in the CIA and left to start a private security company in Hong Kong. He never did well with that and in 2010 Chinese intelligence, which keeps files on all CIA employees it can identify, approached Lee and offered to solve his immediate financial problems and any future ones. All the Chinese needed was some help in identifying Chinese acting as paid or unpaid informants for foreign nations. Lee agreed and within a year his sudden financial recovery attracted the attention of the CIA, which had learned its lesson and monitored the activities of former employees who had information about ongoing operations. In 2012 the CIA discovered that Lee was keeping classified information, or at least what could be considered classified. Many of the informants Lee had recruited for the CIA before 2007 were people he still kept in touch with on a social basis and those contacts were one of the reasons he sought to establish a private security business in Hong Kong. But the CIA eventually put together a case showing how Lee had supplied Chinese intelligence with information that eventually led to the dismantling of CIA informant networks in China. About twenty of the CIA informants were killed, jailed or simply disappeared. Lee was arrested in January 2018 as he arrived in the United States from Hong Kong. In his possession were found incriminating documents. After months of interrogations, further investigations and negotiations took place. If convicted of espionage Lee, who is now 53, could be sentenced to life in prison.


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