Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wants answers. “We need answers from the FBI about why this wasn’t prevented.” As many as 20 U.S. spies, living dangerously in the Chinese shadows, were betrayed by a former CIA officer, arrested, and executed.
Did the Obama administration’s “unwarranted delays, missed warning signs, or other counter-espionage lapses” lead to “one of the worst known American intelligence debacles in a generation?” As clandestine agents were intentionally outed by Jerry Chun Shing Lee, the CIA and Robert Mueller’s FBI sat on their hands. For more than five years.
Even after the FBI interrogated the spy and read his notebooks, “witch hunter” Mueller turned the rat loose.
Senator Grassley demands to know why nobody was interested in arresting a known traitor until President Trump came along.
The Judiciary Committee, headed by Grassley, is the oversight watchdog staked out to keep an eye on the FBI. “It’s disturbing to learn that the FBI was suspicious enough of Mr. Lee that they interviewed him five times in 2013,” Grassley notes. “Yet the U.S. intelligence community has seen counterintelligence assets blown.”
Lee was slapped in handcuffs last month when he got off an international flight at New York’s JFK, for “the relatively minor charge of unlawful retention of classified ‘national defense’ information.”
An FBI affidavit characterizes the investigation as “ongoing,” so Lee could still be charged with espionage. Under the current charges, he only faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Whether or not Lee is directly connected to the disappearances and deaths remains to be seen but many U.S. officials think he is the rat that sold out “up to 20 U.S.-recruited Chinese intelligence assets believed arrested or even executed by the Beijing government over the past decade.”
Lee was bitter when he walked away from the CIA in 2007. During his 14 years with the agency, he worked “as a covert case officer spying against China and as an agency liaison to the Ministry of State Security.”
Lee clearly disliked the CIA and told everyone around him how he felt, publicly and incessantly. “He was quite critical about the organization and his time there. The fact that he didn’t get credit, he didn’t get promoted, he didn’t get the assignments he deserved.”
By 2009 he was working for a “private investigations unit” in Hong Kong. Lee’s boss at the Hong Kong office of Japan Tobacco International was a former CIA spook himself. He got word through the grapevine that Lee was looking for a “private sector job,” so added him to the payroll.
“Lee’s covert operations experience, his U.S. Army service and his purported liaison work with Chinese intelligence all made him perfect for the dangerous job of investigating Asian crime syndicates exporting multi-ton loads of counterfeit cigarettes out of China with the help of corrupt officials.”
His supervisor fired Lee in 2009 “for suspicious behavior.” He was flashing a lot more cash than the supervisor knew he was paying. In 2010 the company called the FBI to report Lee “as an espionage risk,” when they got new information about regular contacts he was having with China’s spy agency.
After putting some of his own spy skills to work, the honcho told the FBI, “Lee was tipping off corrupt Chinese officials about his investigations and pending enforcement actions, allowing them and their criminal associates to avoid being caught up in raids by outside law enforcement agencies.”
To get even, Lee “told Ministry of State Security officials that his former security unit was actually a CIA front company targeting China.” He also dropped a dime to the Japan Tobacco home office to tell them how “his former colleagues kidnapped and tortured suspected Chinese cigarette traffickers.”
That wasn’t nice, the supervisor said. It shut them down cold. “If he does that to a bunch of knuckleheads working at a cigarette company, what’s he going to do with the CIA if he thinks he’s been denied his due?”
FBI affidavits only recently unsealed after Lee’s arrest “disclosed that agents conducted two covert searches of Lee’s possessions in 2012, and found notebooks containing top-secret information that he wasn’t allowed to take with him from the CIA.”
In Lee’s notebooks were “the names and other personal details of U.S.-recruited operatives working in China, among them government officials the agency had spent years cultivating.” When they saw that, “FBI agents then questioned Lee five times while he was still in the U.S. before letting him return to Hong Kong.”
Obama’s FBI knew Lee had dangerous information he shouldn’t have but still let him get back on a plane for the Orient.
It turns out that the CIA had already been looking for a mole since late 2010, “after some of its operatives began disappearing in China.” The CIA reported, “as many as 20 were killed or detained, including some whose identities were reportedly found in Lee’s notebooks.”