Former CIA official sentenced to 19 years in prison in Chinese espionage case
Washington: A US court has been sentenced a former CIA official to 19 years of imprisonment on charges of spying for China.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 55, has been sentenced on Friday for conspiring to communicate, deliver and transmit national defence information to China. According to court documents, Lee left the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2007 and began residing in Hong Kong.
The 55-year-old naturalised US citizen is the third former CIA official to have been sentenced on charge of spying for China.
“In just over a year, we have convicted three Americans for committing espionage offenses on behalf of the Chinese government. Each has now received a sentence of at least a decade,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers said.
Sadly, all three of them are former members of the US Intelligence Community, he said.
“These convictions and sentences should send a strong message to current and former security clearance holders: be aware that the Chinese government targets you — and if you betray us, be aware that the Department of Justice will hold you accountable,” Demers said.
In April 2010, two Chinese intelligence officers (IOs) approached Lee and offered to pay him for national defence information he had acquired as a CIA case officer. They offered Lee USD 100,000 in cash. The Chinese officers also offered to take care of him “for life” in exchange for his cooperation.
Federal prosecutors said beginning May 2010 to 2011, Lee received requests for information, or taskings, from the Chinese IOs.
The majority of the taskings asked Lee to reveal sensitive information about the CIA, including national defence information.
On May 14, 2010, Lee made a cash deposit of 138,000 HKD (approximately USD 17,468 in USD) in his personal bank account in Hong Kong.
“This would be the first of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash deposits Lee made or caused to be made into his personal HSBC account from May 2010 through December 2013,” court documents said.
On May 26, 2010, Lee created on his laptop computer a document that described, among other things, certain locations to which the CIA would assign officers with certain identified experience, as well as the particular location and timeframe of a sensitive CIA operation, it said.
After Lee created this document, he transferred it from his laptop to a thumb drive. The document included national defence information of the United States that was classified at the Secret level, the Department of Justice said.
When FBI first focussed its attention on him in 2012, he was living in Hong Kong and had sought to be rehired by the CIA.
During a search of his luggage in August 2012, the FBI found the thumb drive in his personal belongings. The FBI forensically imaged the thumb drive and later located the document in the unallocated space of the device, meaning that it had been deleted.
The search also revealed that Lee possessed a day planner and an address book that contained handwritten notes made by him that mostly related to his work as a CIA case officer prior to 2004.
These notes included, among other things, intelligence provided by CIA assets, true names of assets, operational meeting locations and phone numbers, and information about covert facilities, the Department of Justice said.
“Lee served as a CIA officer and was entrusted with extremely sensitive national security information, and he broke that trust with no regard for the consequences,” said John Brown, Assistant Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI.
“His actions aided a foreign government, hurt our national security, and jeopardised the safety of his former intelligence colleagues,” he said.