An ex-CIA agent pleaded guilty to spying on behalf of China Wednesday — the same day 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden suggested China is not a threat to the United States.
Fifty-four-year-old Jerry Chun Shing Lee was facing three charges including one charge of spying and two charges of unlawful retention of classified information. He pleaded guilty to spying in exchange for the two unlawful retentions of information charges to be dropped. Lee is currently facing 18-to-27 years in prison. (RELATED: Chelsea Manning Locked Up For Refusing To Testify About WikiLeaks)
Chinese operatives allegedly told Lee — a U.S. citizen, originally from Hong Kong — that he would be taken care of financially for life if he carried out spying operations against the United States. Lee’s first paycheck from the Chinese in 2010 was for roughly $100,000.
“I conspired to gather and send secret information to the [People’s Republic of China],” Lee said in court in Alexandria, Virginia on Thursday.
The case’s prosecutor said, “Lee sold out his country. He conspired to become a spy for a foreign government, and then repeatedly lied to investigators about his conduct,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said in court.
Former CIA officer pleads guilty to conspiring to spy for China https://t.co/3wS44ZLBg9
— TIME (@TIME) May 2, 2019
The FBI began investigating Lee around the time he began working for China and enticed him to return to the United States in 2012. Authorities found a thumb drive and several documents detailing CIA agents and operations in his hotel room in Honolulu, Hawaii, later that year.
Authorities could not determine if Lee successfully delivered intelligence information to China, or to what degree his spying jeopardized American lives. However, at least a dozen Chinese citizens were executed or imprisoned for cooperating with the CIA from 2010-2012.
Lee’s attorney Edward MacMahon have denied that Lee provided information that led to any deaths, according to NPR.
“Those were stories leaked to the media,” MacMahon said. “There’s no allegation in the indictment or the government’s statement of facts that Mr. Lee had anything to do with anybody getting killed.”
Ex-State Department employee Kevin Mallory was charged with gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and making material false statements in 2017 after he allegedly sold classified documents to Chinese spies for $25,000.
Lee’s guilty plea came on the same day former Vice President Joe Biden dismissed the threat that China poses to the United States.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said at a campaign event in Iowa on Wednesday. “They’re not competition for us.”