Thursday, May 9, 2019

David Ignatius: The Saga Of The Chinese Mole Reads Like A Thriller

David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist and author of The Quantum Spy and other fine spy thrillers, offers his take on former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee (seen in the above photo), who was also a Chinese spy, in his column:

WASHINGTON -- Behind last week's admission by a former CIA officer that he plotted to spy for China lies an astonishing tale of Beijing's espionage against America -- and the vindication of other CIA officers who were falsely suspected of being the Chinese mole.

This saga has a classic thriller plot, in which a suspect must find the real villain to clear his name. Unfortunately, most of the details of the true-life version remain secret, under seal at the U.S. Attorney's office in Alexandria or in the vaults of the CIA. But knowledgeable sources sketched parts of the story that aren't classified.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, who was a CIA case officer from 1994 to 2007, pleaded guilty May 1 to conspiring with Chinese intelligence agents to provide secret information. U.S. officials won't discuss the precise damage Lee did, but intelligence experts believe he was part of an aggressive Chinese spy operation that led to the exposure, arrest and execution of at least 20 CIA sources inside China. For an intelligence service like the CIA, that's as bad as it gets.

The resolution of the Lee case comes at a time when the Trump administration is threatening to escalate its trade war against Beijing to force China to stop stealing commercial secrets and allow fairer trade. The negotiations will hit a deadline Friday, when the administration has threatened to raise tariffs to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

Trump's hard-nosed and sometimes erratic bargaining tactics have roiled financial markets this week. But as the Lee case shows, the Chinese are hardly innocent victims. They have been burrowing deep into the CIA to steal its most precious secrets, as well as pilfering corporate data wherever they can.

Lee pleaded guilty to only one count of conspiracy, and prosecutors said his plea agreement and an accompanying statement of evidence were "not intended to be a full enumeration of all of the facts surrounding the defendant's case." Asked if Lee had agreed to cooperate with the CIA in sharing additional details, his attorney, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., responded: "There is nothing in the plea agreement that deals with his cooperating."

The hunt for a Chinese mole began after the CIA started losing its key sources in China in 2010. Lee, who first met with Chinese intelligence officers in April 2010, according to prosecutors, soon came under suspicion. 

You can read the rest of the column via the below link: 

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine Q&A with David Ignatius via the below link: 

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