A former Central Intelligence Agency officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, aka Zhen Cheng Li, 53, was arrested on January 15 on charges of unlawful retention of classified information. Lee was arrested after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Lee is a naturalized U.S. citizen, who had been residing in Hong Kong, China. Lee began working for the CIA as a case officer in 1994, maintained a Top Secret clearance, and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Reportedly, Lee may have compromised multiple agents in China cooperating with the United States, leading to their executions.
In August 2012, Lee and his family left Hong Kong to return to the United States to live in northern Virginia. While traveling back to the United States, Lee and his family stayed at hotels in Hawaii and Virginia. 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. According to a Department of Justice press release, agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, the 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 made his first appearance in court at the federal Eastern District court of New York. He is charged with unlawful retention of national defense information and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted. It is the maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of Lee will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom of the Eastern District of Virginia and Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.