The Justice Department on Tuesday reported that a former C.I.A. officer was arrested on suspicion of helping China identify informants and dismantle U.S. spying operation. His actions are considered to be the reason for the collapse of the U.S. spy network in that region, which is said to be the worst intelligence failure in the last decade.
He was arrested on Monday night on a charge that he kept notebooks containing classified information, including the real names of covert CIA employees.
The New York Times reports that the arrest of the former officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, ended an intense FBI inquiry that began around 2012, two years after the C.I.A. began losing its informants in China. Investigators were baffled by the fact that the names of many CIA sources, among the agency’s most dearly held secrets, ended up in Chinese hands. Some intelligence officials believed that a mole inside the CIA was exposing its roster of informants, while others were convinced that the Chinese government had hacked the CIA’s covert communications used to talk to foreign sources of information.
Meanwhile, other intelligence officials say that the spy network demise could be a result of both scenarios, as well as human error or in other words sloppy tradecraft by its officers in China.
The investigation on how China was able to find the U.S. agents contributed to a lot of friction between the FBI and CIA.
Mr. Lee left the agency in 2007 and has since then been working for a famous auction house in Hong Kong.
According to The New York Times, he was apprehended at Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday and charged in federal court in Northern Virginia with the unlawful retention of national defence information. On Tuesday, the former agent was taken to Brooklyn federal court and will stay there until transferred to Virginia. The Justice Department official said that Lee still doesn’t have a lawyer.