An ex-CIA agent has pleaded responsible to spying for China, the US justice division says, in a case believed to be linked to the dismantling of a US espionage community.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 54, left the CIA in 2007 to stay in Hong Kong, the place he was recruited by Chinese language brokers.
Prosecutors say the naturalised US citizen was then paid to reveal data on US covert property.
This led China to convey down a community of informants between 2010 and 2012.
About 20 informants have been killed or jailed throughout that interval – one of the crucial disastrous failures of US intelligence in recent times.
The US Assistant Legal professional Basic for Nationwide Safety, John Demers, mentioned Lee’s case was the third involving US brokers and China in lower than a yr.
“Each one among these instances is a tragic betrayal of nation and colleagues,” he mentioned.
What did Lee do?
Lee, who labored for the CIA between 1994 and 2007, pleaded responsible to conspiracy to ship nationwide defence data to assist a international authorities in a court docket in Virginia on Wednesday, the justice division mentioned in a press release.
It mentioned Lee was contacted by the Chinese language intelligence brokers in 2010. They provided him cash, promising to care for him “for all times” in alternate for the required secret data. A whole lot of hundreds of have been deposited in his Hong Kong checking account between Might 2010 and December 2013.
Mr Lee created a doc containing details about CIA actions, together with areas to which US brokers can be assigned.
In 2012, FBI brokers searched a lodge room in Hawaii registered in Mr Lee’s identify and located a USB drive. Investigators discovered the doc on unallocated house within the drive, suggesting it had been deleted.
The search additionally revealed Lee to have a day planner and deal with e book containing notes of intelligence supplied by CIA brokers, their true identities, operational assembly areas and telephone numbers, and details about covert services.
Lee was interviewed by CIA officers in 2012 throughout which he mentioned he had met Chinese language intelligence officers however hid the truth that that they had set him duties, the justice division mentioned. In 2013 he first denied figuring out concerning the doc on his USB drive after which admitted he had created it however mentioned he had by no means handed it on to Chinese language brokers.
Mr Lee was arrested at New York’s JFK airport in January 2018. He can be sentenced in August.
CIA spy operation in China: Key dates
2010: Data gathered by the US from sources deep contained in the Chinese language authorities forms begin to dry up
2011: Informants start to vanish. It isn’t clear whether or not the CIA has been hacked or whether or not a mole has helped the Chinese language to determine brokers
2012: FBI begins investigation
Might 2014: 5 Chinese language military officers are charged with stealing commerce secrets and techniques and inside paperwork from US firms. Later that very same month, China says it has been a essential goal for US spies
2015: CIA withdraws workers from the US embassy in Beijing, fearing knowledge stolen from authorities computer systems may expose its brokers
April 2017: Beijing provides hefty money rewards for data on international spies
Might 2017: 4 former CIA officers inform the New York Instances that as much as 20 CIA informants have been killed or imprisoned by the Chinese language between 2010 and 2012
June 2017: Former US diplomatic officer Kevin Mallory is arrested and charged with giving top-secret paperwork to a Chinese language agent
January 2018: Former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee is arrested