Anonymous 01/24/2023 (Tue) 23:13 Id: 11a12d No.118572 del

Hunting a C.I.A. Mole, Agents Gambled and Let a Suspect Return to China

Fears of a mole grew when the C.I.A. noticed in late 2010 that its spies were disappearing.
Fears of a mole grew when the C.I.A. noticed in late 2010 that its spies were disappearing.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times
Fears of a mole grew when the C.I.A. noticed in late 2010 that its spies were disappearing.
By Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman

Jan. 17, 2018

WASHINGTON — Face to face with a former C.I.A. officer in 2013, federal agents took a calculated risk. They did not confront him about the classified information they had found in his luggage. And they did not ask what they most wanted to know: whether he was a spy for China.
It was a life-or-death call. The Chinese government had been systematically picking off American spies in China, dismantling a network that had taken the C.I.A. years to build. A mole hunt was underway, and the former officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was the prime suspect.
The F.B.I. could have arrested him on the spot for possessing classified information. But inside a secretive government task force, investigators argued against it, former American officials recalled. If Mr. Lee was a turncoat, arresting him on an unrelated charge would tip off the Chinese and allow them to cover their tracks. If he was not the mole — and some argued strenuously that he was not — an arrest might allow the real traitor to escape.
So the F.B.I. allowed Mr. Lee to return to Hong Kong, court papers show, where he hastily resettled with his family. The agents, working out of an office in Northern Virginia, gambled that by watching patiently, they might piece together how China had decimated the United States’ spy network, and determine whether Mr. Lee had helped.
Nearly five years later, when Mr. Lee made a surprise return to the United States this week, the F.B.I. made its move. He stepped off a Cathay Pacific flight at Kennedy International Airport on Monday and was waved through customs. A waiting F.B.I. agent, Kellie O’Brien, called out his name, according to court records. Mr. Lee answered, and was arrested.
His apprehension, on the same single charge that could have been brought years ago, is the latest development in one of the most damaging affairs in modern C.I.A. history. But it does nothing to settle the question of how or whether Mr. Lee was involved. For years, he was the prime suspect in a mole hunt, but officials disagreed over whether he was actually to blame.

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