Ex-CIA agent nabbed with notebooks containing names of US spies

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WASHINGTON: US authorities said on Tuesday they had arrested a former CIA agent, Hong Kong resident Jerry Chun Shing Lee, after discovering he had an unauthorised notebook with identities of undercover US spies.

Lee, also known as Zhen Cheng Li, a naturalised US citizen, was arrested on Monday after he arrived at JFK International Airport in New York.

The 53-year-old grew up in the US and served in the US Army before joining the CIA in 1994 as a case officer. He served in unnamed overseas locations and left the agency in 2007, reportedly disgruntled, later taking a job in Hong Kong.

The Justice Department said that in 2012, FBI agents with warrants secretly searched Lee's luggage while he was travelling in the US and found he was carrying top secret materials that he was not authorised to have.

"Agents found two small books containing handwritten notes that contained classified information, including but not limited to, true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees, operational notes from asset meetings, operational meeting locations and locations of covert facilities," it said.

Lee was charged with unlawful retention of national defence information, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.

Officials did not say why it took so long to bring charges against Lee, or if he had leaked any materials. But the case takes place amid concern in the US intelligence community that Beijing has been able to cripple its operations in China.

The New York Times reported last year that from 2010 to 2012, the Chinese killed "at least a dozen" sources the CIA had inside China and imprisoned six or more others. - AFP