Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A former CIA agent who worked for the agency in China was arrested on suspicion of possessing unauthorized information, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, faces charges of unlawful retention of national defense information. Lee joined the CIA in 1994 and worked in Hong Kong, where he had Top Secret clearance. But he left in 2007 and had stayed in Hong Kong to live. In 2012, he returned to the United States and FBI agents checked his possessions and allegedly found notebooks full of unauthorized information.
"While traveling back to the United States, Lee and his family had hotel stays in Hawaii and Virginia," the Justice Department said in a statement. "During each of the hotel stays, FBI agents conducted court-authorized searches of Lee's room and luggage, and 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."
Lee wasn't arrested at the time and was allowed to return to Hong Kong. According to The New York Times, he was under suspicion of having given Chinese authorities classified information that led to the dismantlement of the CIA's spy apparatus there.
"If, indeed, Mr. Lee was working for the Chinese, he was in a position to great damage," Dennis Wilder, a former senior official at the CIA responsible for China, told Politico. "The turning of a CIA officer is very rare, in part, because of the stringent screening and re-investigation process for all officers."
A 2017 New York Times report found that Chinese authorities may have killed or imprisoned several CIA informants in the country since 2010.
Lee faces 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges.