A former CIA officer has been arrested in the US on charges of unlawful retention of classified information.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a naturalised US citizen, was held at New York’s JFK airport on Monday, the US justice department said.He worked for the CIA between 1994 and 2007, when he left for Hong Kong.

The case is thought to be linked to an FBI investigation, which began in 2012, into the crippling of the CIA’s spy operation in China.

In the two years before, some 20 informants had been killed or jailed – one of the most disastrous failures of US intelligence in recent years.But officials did not know whether to blame a mole or data hack.

US media, quoting sources close to the inquiry, say investigators now suspect Mr Lee of helping China.

When Mr Lee left the CIA in 2007, “those who knew him said he left the agency disgruntled after his career plateaued”, reported the New York Times.

Mr Lee remained in Hong Kong and only returned to America in 2012 to live in northern Virginia, the court documents say – according to one report lured by a fake job offer.

The FBI’s investigation into why the US was losing so many informants in China was by this point in full swing.FBI agents searched his hotel rooms in Hawaii and Virginia and found two small books with secret records, the US justice department says.

They contained handwritten notes on details such as “true names and phone numbers of assets and covert CIA employees”.

The justice department says that Mr Lee, 53, has been charged “with unlawful retention of national defence information and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted”.

Sources BBC New/Owassfmonline.com

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