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miércoles, 17 de enero de 2018

Report: Ex-CIA officer arrested for betraying the United States

In a scene that could have come straight out of a James Bond movie or Tom Clancy novel, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer was arrested this week for allegedly compromising U.S. informants in China.

The Department of Justice said on Tuesday that Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, was arrested at a U.S. airport and is being charged with illegally retaining highly classified information.

There are concerns that Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen, may have cooperated with the Chinese government, especially as up to 20 CIA sources in China were systematically killed or imprisoned between 2010 and 2012.

Officials say that Lee, a U.S. Army veteran who was employed by the CIA from 1994 to 2007, had a top secret clearance.

His History

Lee served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986 before being employed as CIA case officer in 1994. He specialized in covert communications, recruitment, surveillance detection, and the handling of assets.

He was provided with top secret clearance, and signed many non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

According to The New York Times, Lee resigned from the CIA in 2007 because he was unhappy about his lack of career advancement. Sources tell the newspaper that he was “disgruntled” when he left the agency.

CIA Officer Goes Rogue

In 2012, five years after his departure from the agency, Lee’s hotel rooms in Hawaii and Virginia were searched by FBI agents, who found two small books that contained critical information, such as the real names and numbers of covert CIA employees and spy recruits.

The books, which were located inside of his luggage, also contained classified cables that he wrote when he was a case officer. The cables described the interactions he had with multiple CIA assets in China.

One agent in charge revealed that at least one page had top secret information, and said the “disclosure of which could cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

A court affidavit states:

The photographs of the books were reviewed by a CIA classification authority who determined that the books contained classified information. The datebook contained approximately forty-nine pages. Only pages with writing were photographed. The datebook contained handwritten information pertaining to, but not limited to, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations, operational phone numbers, true names of assets, and covert facilities. The address book contained approximately twenty-one pages. The address book contained true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, as well as the addresses of CIA facilities. The CIA classification authority determined that the books contained classified information, up to and including Secret information and, in at least one instance. Top Secret information, the disclosure of which could cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.

Lee and his family reportedly went dark in 2010, but the FBI was successful in luring Lee back to the U.S. in August 2012 to visit northern Virginia, where he planned to live again. Since then, Lee has been interviewed five times by the FBI, though he kept quiet about the books on all occasions.

The Arrest

Lee was arrested on Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on the single count of unlawfully possessing national defense information.

The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, though Lee had his initial court appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn.

Lee is being held without bail, and his public defender declined to comment on the case.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for this charge.

Was Lee Responsible for Deaths of Agents?

According to NBC, “sources familiar with the case say [Lee] is [also] suspected of funneling information to China that caused the deaths or imprisonment of approximately 20 American agents” between the years of 2010 and 2012.

The intelligence community is unsure if this was because of a mole or data infiltration, and Lee has not been officially charged in regard to these suspicions.

Still, experts note that the losses were similar to the substantial damage performed by Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, two rogue agents who became Russian spies in the 1980s. They leaked a plethora of classified data to the KGB, leading to the deaths of several CIA assets.

Ames and Hanssen are serving life sentences.

Amid the latest developments, this is only the newest chapter in the extensive rigmarole of espionage and counter-intelligence between Washington and Beijing. Who will make the next move?


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