Former CIA officer accused of being a spy for China: 5 things to know about him

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Federal officials arrested former CIA operative Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, Monday at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Lee, who had been living in Hong Kong and working for a well-known auction house, left the CIA in 2007 after about a decade. Also known as Zhen Cheng Li, he is suspected of spying for China, though he is not facing any charges related to that allegation. Reports said the government believes he has been working for some time to dismantle the CIA’s spying operations in China.

Here are five things you need to know about him:

  1. He is suspected of providing the Chinese with information that has led to the death or imprisonment of as many as 20 American agents. The Chinese began dismantling the CIA’s spy network in 2010; the agency believes that someone from the inside — or formerly from the inside — provided information to Beijing about U.S. operations. At the time, it was deemed the worst intelligence breach in decades.
  2. FBI agents say they found small books containing handwritten notes in Lee’s hotel room in 2012 that included classified information and the true names of assets and CIA employees, as well as the locations of convert facilities. Federal prosecutors alleged that agents “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.”
  3. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Lee served in the U.S. Army from 1982-1986 and attended Hawaii Pacific University.
  4. He joined the CIA in 1994, received a Top Secret clearance, and became a case officer. He left the agency in 2007; his clearance was revoked at that time.
  5.  He is not expected to face charges of espionage, but he faces up to 10 years in prison for his alleged national security-related crimes. [source]

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