Former CIA Officer Sentenced to 19 Years in Prison Over Chinese Espionage Contacts

Tobias Hoonhout

A Central Intelligence Officer who was paid nearly $1 million from Chinese sources, and admitted to taking directions from Chinese agents to reveal classified U.S. intelligence, was sentenced to 19 years in prison Friday, the third former U.S. intelligence officer to be convicted this year over contacts with China.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, who served for over a decade in the CIA, “had firsthand knowledge of some of the CIA’s most significant secrets, from the location of operations to counterintelligence techniques to the identities of clandestine human sources and the identities of covert CIA officers,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

Lee was arrested in January 2018 after the FBI found notebooks and a thumb drive containing classified intel on CIA operatives and locations. He pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to provide national defense information with a foreign government.

Lee admitted to first meeting Chinese operatives in 2010 after leaving the Agency, and was offered to be taken care of “for life” in exchange for information on U.S. secrets. While authorities were never able to prove whether Lee gave the Chinese information — an accusation Lee denies — some officials still suspect he is responsible for the collapse of the CIA’s spy network in China, when assets began dying or defecting to the Chinese.

In 2012, Lee attempted to rejoin the CIA, falling for a sting operation designed to question him. During multiple interviews, Lee repeatedly lied about his interactions with Chinese intelligence, and claimed his personal business was doing well when it was in fact failing.

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