The U.S. Justice
Department released the below information:
A former Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) case officer was sentenced today to 19 years in
prison for conspiring to communicate, deliver and transmit national defense
information to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
“Sadly, all three of them are former members of the U.S. Intelligence
Community. 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.”
“As I stated at the
time of the defendant’s admission of guilt, those Americans entrusted with our
government’s most closely held secrets have a tremendous responsibility to
safeguard that information,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the
Eastern District of Virginia. “Instead of embracing that responsibility
and honoring his commitment to not disclose national defense information, Lee
sold out his country, conspired to become a spy for a foreign government, and
then repeatedly lied to investigators about his conduct. This prosecution
and sentence should serve as a clear warning to others who are contemplating
selling out to the highest bidder and capitalizing on their position of
trust. My thanks to the prosecutors, agents and our intelligence
community partners for their terrific work on this important case.”
According to court
documents, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 55, left the CIA in 2007 and began residing in
Hong Kong. In April 2010, two Chinese intelligence officers (IOs)
approached Lee and offered to pay him for national defense information he had
acquired as a CIA case officer. The IOs also told Lee they had prepared
for him a gift of $100,000 cash, and they offered to take care of him “for
life” in exchange for his cooperation.
Beginning sometime in
May 2010 and continuing into at least 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 defense information. On May 14, 2010, Lee made or caused to be
made a cash deposit of $138,000 HKD (approximately $17,468 in USD) into his
personal bank account in Hong Kong. This would be the first of hundreds
of thousands of dollars (USD equivalent) in cash deposits Lee made or caused to
be made into his personal HSBC account from May 2010 through December 2013.
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. After Lee created this document, he transferred
it from his laptop to a thumb drive. The document included national
defense information of the United States that was classified at the Secret
In August 2012, the
FBI conducted a court-authorized search of a hotel room in Honolulu, Hawaii,
registered in Lee’s name. The search revealed that Lee possessed the
thumb drive within his personal luggage. The FBI forensically imaged the
thumb drive and later located the document in the unallocated space of the
thumb drive, 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 Lee 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.
“Mr. 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 jeopardized
the safety of his former intelligence colleagues. The FBI takes such acts
of betrayal very seriously and will be relentless in pursuing these
cases. I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who worked
tirelessly to bring Mr. Lee to justice.”
“Lee betrayed his own
country for greed and put his former colleagues at risk. The seriousness
of his betrayal and crime is demonstrated by today's sentencing,” said Timothy
R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field
Office. “The FBI and our partners will continue to aggressively pursue
those who put our nation's security in danger to benefit our adversaries.
The U.S. government will not stand by while the Chinese intelligence service
targets our government employees for their gain and to the detriment of U.S.
During 2012, Lee had a
series of interviews with the CIA. Throughout these interviews, in
response to questions about what the IOs had wanted from him, Lee intentionally
failed to disclose that he had received taskings from them. In May 2013,
the FBI conducted multiple interviews with Lee. During one of those
interviews, Lee admitted that he had received taskings but stated that he had
not kept the written requests because they would tend to incriminate him.
The FBI interviewers
also confronted Lee with the sensitive document discovered on the thumb
drive. Lee falsely denied that he possessed it, claimed not to know who
created it, and denied knowing why it would have been on his computer. He
also denied deleting the document. Approximately one week later, in
another FBI interview, Lee admitted that he created the document in response to
two taskings from the IOs and transferred it to a thumb drive. He also
said he thought about giving it to the IOs but never did.
In a January 2018
interview with the FBI, Lee falsely denied that he ever kept any work-related
notes at home. When shown a photocopy of the front covers of the day
planner and address book described above, as well as a copy of his handwriting
therein, Lee falsely denied that he possessed the notebooks while transiting
through Hawaii in August 2012. Lee also falsely denied that either of the
books contained notes from asset meetings but conceded that any such notes
would be classified. Further, Lee falsely denied that he ever put the
sensitive document on a thumb drive, notwithstanding the fact that he had
admitted having done so when interviewed by FBI agents in May 2013.
Finally, Lee also falsely told the interviewing agents that in drafting
this document he was writing down things “more [like] a diary thing,”
notwithstanding the fact that in May 2013 he had told FBI agents that he had
created the document in response to two taskings from the Chinese IOs.
Lee pleaded guilty to
conspiracy to deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government
on May 1.
John C. Demers,
Assistant Attorney General for National Security, G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S.
Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Timothy R. Slater, Assistant
Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement of the
sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Assistant U.S.
Attorney Neil Hammerstrom and Trial Attorneys Patrick T. Murphy and Adam L.
Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export
Control Section prosecuted the case with assistance from Assistant U.S.
Attorney Inayat Delawala.