Former CIA officer sentenced to 19 years for conspiring with Chinese spies

Jerry Chun Shing Lee is the third former U.S. intelligence officer to be convicted in less than a year of conspiring with the Chinese to give them national defense information.

 

By Pete Williams, Tom Winter and Ken Dilanian, NBC News

Nov. 22, 2019

 

A former CIA case officer was sentenced Friday to 19 years in prison for conspiring to provide American intelligence secrets to the Chinese government, in an espionage case that some current and former officials say dealt a devastating blow to U.S. intelligence operations.

 

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 55, served 13 years as a Central Intelligence Agency case officer in several locations overseas, including China, where prosecutors said he had firsthand knowledge of some of the agency's most sensitive secrets, including the names of covert CIA officers and clandestine human sources in China.

 

But many aspects of the case remain a mystery. Lee was never charged with actually giving any secrets to the Chinese. While the Justice Department told a federal judge that "it is all but certain" he did so, his lawyer said that "the government has offered only conjecture as a basis for these claims."

 

Although the extent of his cooperation with the Chinese is apparently unknown, the case illustrates how aggressively China works to get its hands on U.S. secrets. Lee is the third former U.S. intelligence officer to be convicted in less than a year of conspiring with the Chinese to give them national defense information.

 

Lee pleaded guilty in May to a single of charge of conspiracy to provide national defense information to a foreign government. He was arrested nearly two years ago after FBI agents searched his hotel room and found notebooks and a thumb drive containing the names and phone numbers of covert CIA employees and informants, details of a sensitive CIA operation, and information about covert facilities.

 

Lee admitted that in 2010 he met in Shenzhen with two Chinese intelligence officers who offered to pay him and "take care of him for life" if he would provide secrets he learned as a CIA officer. Over the coming months, he said, the Chinese gave him at least 21 separate requests for intelligence secrets.

 

A month after that meeting, Lee deposited $17,000 in cash into his bank account, even though he was operating a failing consulting business at the time. Federal prosecutors told Federal District Court Judge T.S. Ellis that the Chinese gave him a total of $840,000, but Lee's defense lawyer, Edward MacMahon, said the government has never actually linked the deposits to Chinese intelligence officers.

 

"It's speculation that this money was for the crown jewels of American intelligence," MacMahon told the judge...

 

more

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/former-cia-officer-sentenced-19-years-conspiring-chinese-spies-n1089341