A former officer with the CIA, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, has been sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges of conspiring with China against the United States. The 55-year-old pleaded guilty for his crime. His defense lawyers sought jail time of less than 10 years, while prosecutors wanted him to be in prison for 20 years. Lee, born in Hong Kong, immigrated to Hawaii when he was 15 years old and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Conspiring with China
Lee left his position with the CIA in 2007. In 2010, he was contacted by Chinese intelligence agents who promised to take care of him for life if he cooperated with them and provided the necessary information. Between 2010 and 2013, the Chinese agents deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars in Lee’s account in Hong Kong. In 2012, the FBI found that a hotel room in Hawaii was registered in Lee’s name and decided to search the place. They found a USB that contained sensitive information about American intelligence.
“Investigators found the document on unallocated space in the drive, suggesting it had been deleted. The search also revealed Lee to have a day planner and address book containing notes of intelligence provided by CIA agents, their true identities, operational meeting locations and phone numbers, and information about covert facilities. Lee was interviewed by CIA officers in 2012 during which he said he had met Chinese intelligence officers but concealed the fact that they had set him tasks,” according to BBC.
The information Lee supplied is believed to have helped Chinese intelligence bring down a network of American informants between 2010 and 2012. Close to 20 of the informants were either killed or put in jail. The inability to protect these informants has been one of the biggest failures of American spy agencies in recent times.
The Chinese officials also asked Lee to seek out details of CIA spycraft. In 2018, Lee was arrested at JFK airport in New York. He is the third ex-CIA member to be arrested on charges of spying for China of late. Former CIA officers Kevin Mallory and Ron Rockwell were sentenced to jail this year on similar charges.
Bill against Chinese espionage
Last month, U.S. lawmakers introduced the “Homeland Security Counterintelligence Threat Reduction Act” to the House and Senate. The bill is aimed at preventing the theft of American technology by Chinese spies and requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a task force aimed at improving the effectiveness of counterintelligence agencies.
“For too long, the United States has turned a blind eye to growing exploitation by nations like China to use our academic institutions as a method to steal sensitive and valuable information and technologies… We have a duty to protect American intellectual property,” Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who introduced the House version of the bill, said in a statement (The Epoch Times).
The legislation would also require intelligence officials to create a counterintelligence awareness training program aimed at the faculty at various American universities. It is hoped that this would cut down cases of academic espionage. Sensitive fields of study are to be monitored. Anytime an international student abruptly changes their area of study, it is to be seen as a red flag that requires closer scrutiny.