(WASHINGTON) — A former CIA case officer has been charged with illegally possessing government secrets.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, was arrested Monday night at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and stands charged with unlawful retention of classified information.
Lee was entering the country from Hong Kong Monday evening when he was arrested, but newly unsealed court documents reveal the FBI has been investigating him for years, at least as far back as 2012.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, in August 2012, FBI agents were watching Lee while he was in Honolulu, Hawaii on a layover while on a trip from Hong Kong to northern Virginia. Armed with a court-authorized search warrant, agents searched his room and photographed items in Lee’s possession.
As Lee’s trip continued to northern Virginia, FBI agents again searched his hotel room, photographing pages in a date book and an address book they found in Lee’s luggage. Both items had been with him in Hawaii as well.
The government alleges the books contained Secret and Top Secret information “the disclosure of which could cause exceptionally grave damage to the United States.”
The information, according to court records, included operational notes from asset meetings, true names of assets, covert facility locations, names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, and addresses of CIA facilities.
Lee, 53, has been living in Hong Kong and is employed overseas. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen and served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986. He began working for the CIA in 1994 as a case officer trained in covert communications, surveillance detection, recruitment and handling of assets, and maintained a Top Secret security clearance until he left government service in 2007.
Lee was interviewed by the FBI on five occasions in 2013, but was apparently at some point allowed to leave the country. It is unclear why Lee was not arrested when investigators first searched his belongings and found the books in 2012.
The FBI and CIA both declined to comment on the matter. It is unclear if Lee has an attorney.
Lee is not charged with spying. He is being held in New York, and is expected to be move to Alexandria, Virginia for his initial appearance in federal court. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
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