Jerry Chun Lee; former CIA agent arrested

| January 17, 2018 | 42 Comments

The Justice Department announced yesterday that they had arrested Jerry Chun Lee, a former CIA agent for “retaining classified information”. He had been a CIA agent from 1994 to 2007. Three years later, the Chinese began dismantling US intelligence-gathering networks by killing or tossing at least 20 agents in prison. The CIA suspected that there was a mole;

According to court documents, 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 small 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.

From Business Insider;

Lee left the CIA in 2007 and Beijing began cracking down on the CIA’s network in 2010, The New York Times reported last year. Between 2010-2012, at least 12 CIA sources were killed by Chinese government officials.

The intelligence community couldn’t figure out who had betrayed the agency and the United States, if anyone — some were convinced there was a mole, while others believed that the Chinese had hacked the system by which the agency communicates with its foreign sources, according to The Times.

Lee is now believed to have been that mole. But there are other factors — including basic “sloppy tradecraft,” the Times’ report said — that could have contributed to the massive breach.

According to Heavy, Lee was a naturalized US citizen and that he had served in the Army from 1982-1986.

NBC News wrote about how the FBI suspected Lee years ago;

CIA and FBI officials were mystified and mortified as one after another of their best agents in China were jailed or executed.

It was considered the worst intelligence catastrophe since the 1990s, when Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, formerly of the CIA and the FBI, provided secrets to Moscow for years that led to the deaths of multiple agents. Both men are serving life terms in federal prison.

The Times story described a debate over a suspected mole, a former CIA case officer now living in an Asian country.

An FBI task force launched an investigation and began to focus on Lee, sources tell NBC News. It’s unclear how the FBI lured Lee back to the U.S. but officials say there have been several undercover attempts to incriminate him, and at least one confrontational interview during which he denied being a spy.

NBC News says that investigators think that the Chinese hacked communications between the CIA and their operatives, but they’re also sure that Lee was passing intelligence to the Chinese, but they don’t intend to charge Lee with espionage.

Thanks to Bobo for the tip.

Category: Crime

Comments (42)

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  1. Wilted Willy says:

    I hope he gets the chair!

  2. Sapper3307 says:

    If Obama had a son.

  3. Combat Historian says:

    CIA too busy playing lefty partisan politics to notice the rot in their own ranks…

    • USMC Steve says:

      That is pretty much true. A number of years ago, the CIA started actively non-recruiting military spooks. We did most of their work anyway, with roughly 70 percent of their summaries being plagiarized from summary product produced by the service cryptologic agencies. But they also went anti-military, with possible exception of the SAD directorate. And at one time, for a GS-7 position at CIA, they demanded a Masters Degree, and for a GS-9, they demanded a Doctorate degree. Didn’t matter what in, you just had to have one. This in a field that there is really no corresponding college coursework that makes you into a spy or intel analyst.

  4. OldSoldier54 says:

    ” … they don’t intend to charge Lee with espionage.”

    Why not? They had the goods on him in 2012.

    Maybe Obama not wanting to look bad?

  5. USMC Steve says:

    Should charge him with Treason.

    • Hondo says:

      Ain’t gonna happen. Per the Constitution, conviction for treason requires two witnesses to the same act or admission in open court. Good luck with that.

      I’m guessing that the reason he isn’t facing espionage charges is that they don’t have solid proof he was collecting defense info on behalf of a foreign nation with intent to transfer the info to that foreign nation. You have to prove that for a charge of espionage to stick (you might have to prove actual transfer as well). If he was careful that could be difficult to prove.

  6. OWB says:

    “Unauthorized possession of materials relating to the national security.” Hmmmm. Like nobody else has ever done that.

  7. Dave Hardin says:

    Ahh, ya he is just now being prosecuted. Today must be News for the gullible day.

    I bet Chun Lee had something in his sticky rice long time now. He no good for eidder side, he wun dum guy.

    Me thinks Hoover keep him hide away for sum time, now day say he go to jail. I will be on the look out for new neighbors named “Smith” that cook with wok.

  8. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Motherfucker needs to at least do life in solitary confinement.

  9. HMC Ret says:

    Mother hen has been doing a piss poor job watching over her charges for a while. Good men and women die and our government plays politics, PC games, etc. WTF?

  10. Mason says:

    How does giving information to a former government that leads to the unmasking and execution of our intel agents not warrant the death penalty? Life in prison seems too lenient.

  11. CPT11A says:

    Hang on. Was Egg McMuffin in China during any part of this leak? Seems like something that pathetic little worm would do.

    Also, are these local assets or actual American agents that he gave up? The article, or excerpts from the article, mentions both but doesn’t make clear which group was actually getting killed.

    • LC says:

      I believe they were all local assets – and they weren’t rolled up quietly. One was even shot in front of his colleagues in front of a government building:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/world/asia/china-cia-spies-espionage.html

      I don’t think any Americans were part of the purge, but with their network being rolled up, their names being known and quite possible all their SF-86 info too, they were rendered ineffective at the very least.

      • Sorensen25 says:

        Pretty good observation. The Intel community won’t risk sending its officers – who have top secret clearances – to personally do high risk spooky stuff. It doesn’t work and just goes against common sense, hence the reason why handling foreigners to do all that clandestine stuff is their job.

        That said, there was a time when American Intel was more ballsy with how it used HUMINT collectors. Check out the story of Hugh Francis Redmond – former Army paratrooper who joined the CIA and spied against China under non-official cover in the 50s. Unfortunately he was caught and spent 20 years in a Chinese prison camp before allegedly commiting suicide.

    • Sorensen25 says:

      “Agent” means foreign informants recruited to spy against their country, not card-carrying U.S. intelligence officers (analysts, collectors, CI investigators, briefers, etc.). Getting sources killed is still a really big deal. As a case officer, the guy in question was trained to handle sources of China while under official cover (an embassy) or non-official cover (a businessman or academic).

      • rgr769 says:

        You are correct, I attended an Army school with an Army Reserve officer in the late 1970’s whose full time job was as a CIA case officer in W. Berlin. Since he knew I was a former SF officer with a TS clearance he admitted, w/o actually saying, he worked for the agency. Case officers are responsible for recruiting and controlling “assets” who are invariably foreign nationals. He basically confirmed that he never went in E. Berlin because the agency doesn’t want to endanger their career people. He just controlled people who did. Also, in a UW exercise I did in Southern Germany, the CIA sent an officer who went around and met with the German civilians I recruited for my exercise agent network and sized them up for reference and future exploitation. Foreigners are the cannon fodder for the Agency.

  12. Ex-PH2 says:

    Just lock him up and throw away the key.

  13. The Other Whitey says:

    They better hang this bastard. And I don’t mean that figuratively.

  14. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    But, but, but….China is a trusted Free Trade partner!

    Sometimes I can’t even believe how fucking stupid we are in recognizing who the real threats to our sovereign nation are in the world, here’s a great big fucking hint…it ain’t a bunch of goat fuckers in third world shitholes in the ME…but hey let’s keep that endless war going forever and talking about how we can reduce the size of the force some more.

    The older I get the more I truly believe the only good commies are dead commies. Fuck the Russkies and Fuck the Chinese…

  15. 26Limabeans says:

    “they don’t intend to charge Lee with espionage”

    He will however be slowly discharged until there is no charge left. Why burn the guy while he still has a few coulombs to share?
    Make him dance.

  16. AW1Ed says:

    Toss him in the general population at a Federal prison and let nature take its course. Surprisingly, a lot of felons don’t take treason or traitors well, pretty much like tickle monsters.

    Shank in the shower and nobody saw anything.

  17. MCPO NYC USN Ret. says:

    #NoRelationToJerryLeeLewisOrJerryLewis

  18. Sorensen25 says:

    To clear some things up, there’s no such job title as CIA “agent,” intelligence officers are either case officers, targeters, analysts, investigators, mission support, etc. They have formal titles and specialties. The case officers often portrayed in Hollywood are not spies themselves, they handle spies. Agent in Intel parlance (unlike law enforcement, i.e. FBI special agent) refers to foreigners who agreed to commit espionage against their country. It’s a huge deal to leak their identities because setting up human source networks is extremely time consuming, labor intensive, and costs a lot of taxpayer money. It also usually results in the killings or arrests of the sources blown and limits our insight into the strategic intentions of a foreign power. That’s not even getting into the political ramifications of espionage.

    The reason why it took so long was because 1) CI investigations take a really long time, it took 8 years to catch Ames, for example and 2) the FBI couldn’t catch this guy until he returned to the U.S. because he was living abroad at the time. Naturally, we don’t have an extradition treaty with China and Beijing was all too happy to leave him alone if he was on their side.

  19. Frank says:

    “A naturalised citizen?” Blood would appear to have been thicker than water.
    (Taku Forts)

  20. Green Thumb says:

    I wonder when he will run for office in California?

  21. mr. sharkman says:

    They went down bloody in most cases because they knew the consequences of being taken alive – a remaining lifetime ‘living’ in a black hold, a human chew toy in the hands of torturers & interrogators.

    Subjected to endless physical and especially brutal chemical torture and interrogation, ending with live dissection if/when their organs are needed for an especially wealthy and/or high ranking recipient.

    A ‘pop’ to the back of the neck from a .22 or something similar and their last thoughts are ‘surgeons’ swarming over them like giant, hungry ants – slicing away.

    Unsung heroes – each and every one of them.

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