Published: Thu, January 18, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Ex-CIA agent in China arrested for possessing unauthorized classified info

Ex-CIA agent in China arrested for possessing unauthorized classified info

Current and former intelligence officials believe that Lee was passing the top-secret information to China in an effort to help the Chinese government identify CIA informants and employees operating in that counry, at least 20 of whom were killed or thrown in jail.

Lee, a naturalized USA citizen who lives in Hong Kong, was arrested upon his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday night.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found and photographed two small notebooks that contained handwritten lists of the real names and contact numbers of China-based American assets.

Lee's arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport was his first time back in the country since moving to China from Virginia in 2013.

According to an investigation report published by NYT a year ago, Chinese authorities either killed or jailed 18 to 20 CIA sources from 2010 to 2012 following a massive intelligence breach at the agency.

One government official said there was no plan at the moment to charge Lee with espionage, handing over United States secrets to the Chinese or anything beyond the one felony count of illegally possessing classified information.

While at the CIA, Lee held several overseas positions and was trained in "methods of covert communications, surveillance detection, recruitment of assets, handling of assets, payment of assets, operational security, and documenting, handling and securing classified information".

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Anderson unsealed the case against Lee on January 16 after his arrest.

On Tuesday, the former Central Intelligence Agency officer was produced before Brooklyn federal court and is being held there while awaiting transfer to Virginia.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Lee wasn't arrested at the time and was allowed to return to Hong Kong.

In 2012, one source said, the Federal Bureau of Investigation lured Lee back to the US with a phony job offer, but no charges were filed and he returned to Hong Kong. But there was not enough information to arrest him. It describes Lee as a naturalized U.S. citizen who served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986.

In an email, Lee's college-age daughter declined to discuss the case and said that no lawyer or family member was available to speak on his behalf.

Three months before that, a China-based U.S. diplomat, Candace Claiborne, was charged for taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts from Chinese intelligence.

According to NBC News sources familiar with the case, the reason for the reduced charge could be due to the fact that the United States government does not have enough evidence to carry an espionage charge, or is avoiding spilling of classified and sensitive information in open court.

Lee had been living in Hong Kong but was promptly arrested upon his return to the USA on Monday night.

"He was nervous", said the former official, and feared there must be a mole identifying US assets, some of whom the informant knew.

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