WASHINGTON – A former CIA officer was arrested late Monday on charges of illegally possessing classified information that included the identities of covert agency operatives and the locations of secret facilities.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, who had been living in Hong Kong, was detained after his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. He made his first appearance Tuesday in a New York City federal court in Brooklyn, where he is charged with unauthorized possession of about 70 pages of classified material.
Lee, who left the agency in 2007 after about 13 years as a case officer, allegedly kept the handwritten notes in two small notebooks that were reviewed by FBI agents during a secret search of the former officer's hotel rooms, according to federal court documents.
An eight-page affidavit suggests that Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen who served in the Army, had been under surveillance by the FBI since 2012. That's when the secret materials were allegedly first discovered in Lee's luggage at a Honolulu hotel, during a layover while traveling with his family from Hong Kong to northern Virginia.
In addition to the names of operatives and facility locations, Lee allegedly kept classified cables that he wrote as a case officer. The cables, according to court documents, described his "interactions with assets and information he learned from those meetings."
One of the pieces of information, federal investigators asserted, could have caused "exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States" had it been disclosed.
The specific nature of the one piece of information was not described in the documents. Information may have compromised sources in China.
Lee allegedly did not attempt to turn over the material during subsequent meetings with former CIA colleagues in 2013. Nor did he refer to the books when he was interviewed by the FBI on five separate occasions between May and June 2013.
If convicted, Lee faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.