A former CIA officer who allegedly kept small notebooks with handwritten lists of the real names of covert agency employees was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Monday night, the Justice Department said Tuesday. The New York Times reports that investigators suspect Jerry Chun Shing Lee helped China dismantle a US spy network in China and identify informants who were later killed or imprisoned.
Lee, a 13-year veteran of the spy agency, was charged with unlawful retention of national defense information and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. He was not charged with espionage.
The notebooks, described in a court filing as a datebook and an address book, were discovered in FBI searches of hotel rooms Lee stayed in in 2012, wrapped in a "small, clear plastic travel pack" inside his luggage, according to the court documents.
Written in their pages were the names and phone numbers of CIA assets and undercover employees, as well as the addresses of covert facilities and operational notes -- pieces of secret and top secret information "the disclosure of which could cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States," the government wrote.
Lee, 53, made an initial court appearance in Brooklyn on Tuesday and did not enter a plea, the Justice Department said. His attorney could not be immediately reached Tuesday evening.
A trained CIA case officer, Lee maintained a top secret security clearance from 1994 through 2007, when he left the agency, court documents say.
Lee, a naturalized US citizen currently living in Hong Kong, was in the process of moving to northern Virginia from Hong Kong when the FBI conducted the hotel room searches in August 2012. Lee and his family lived in northern Virginia until June 2013, court documents say.
Monday, when Lee was arrested in New York, was his first time back in the country since he moved in 2013, a person familiar with the case said.