It could have been a plot for the latest action-packed spy thriller to hit theaters.
But the story of former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, is all too real. Lee has been accused of sharing the names of Chinese informants with the Chinese government in one of the biggest U.S. intelligence failures in recent memory.
Lee has been charged with illegally retaining classified documents after FBI agents found two notebooks in his belongings that held sensitive names and numbers and other classified information. He was arrested Monday night in JFK International Airport.
More than a dozen informants working with the CIA were killed or imprisoned by the Chinese government in connection with this security breach, the New York Times reported. The CIA realized that there was a problem after years of informants’ names ending up in the hands of the Chinese and started an investigation in 2012.“The bad guy in this case, eventually caught, but the human toll he inflicted makes the story ultimately a tragedy,” Glenn said on today’s show.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: Okay. Remember the scene where Tom Cruise is kind of hanging, you know, in that white room. And he’s got to catch that one bead of sweat before it falls down. And the sweat falls. And he catches it. And it’s really, really loud.
What was he after? He was after the ‘NOC’ list, right? The plotline in almost every spy movie. The NOC list is out.
The good guys have to catch the bad guy before the names and the locations of the undercover operatives of the CIA and all the good guys are killed.
And in the movies, we always get the knock list back. I mean, it’s not a problem. The good guys always win. Except, that’s the movies. This is real life.
And I wonder why we’re not really focused on this. A former CIA officer was arrested on Monday and charged with unlawfully possessing the national defense information, the knock list.
He was caught red-handed with two notebooks containing the names of CIA assets in the location of covert facilities in China. And what was he doing? He was carrying the knock list, but he was — he’s suspected of much, much worse. The New York Times reported last year that there was a real problem in the CIA. They were losing agents in China at an alarming rate. Since 2010, the Chinese government has all, but completely destroyed our spying operation on the mainland. The CIA had a mole. They knew it.
All the evidence pointed directly to the man that was arrested this week. The damage done to the CIA in China is catastrophic. But even worse, the amount of lives that were lost. All in all, he’s responsible for the deaths or imprisonment of 20 American agents.
Say what you want about Snowden, and I’m not a fan of Snowden — he’s a traitor enjoying the protection of Vladimir Putin. But nobody got killed.
Have you guys — has anybody else noticed that if you went back — let’s just say Doc Brown and Marty McFly were real and we could travel back to the year 1985, and we could look at the news headlines, us, we’d see a world that hasn’t really changed that much.
Granted, the music is a lot worse, and the clothes are a lot better. But they probably assume the Cold War is still raging. Despite Cyndi Lauper in neon shorts, the world of 1985 — a scary place. Aldrich Ames was the CIA agent selling secrets to the Soviets. Because of him, multiple CIA agents were killed.
Korean airlines, flight 007 had been shot down two years prior. Nuclear tensions were at their highest. Both sides looked like we were willing to press the button.
Has anything really changed? It’s been 33 years. Have we learned nothing?
Three decades, and life is just as cheap now, if not cheaper than it was then.
The difference between then and today is that with our technology, we can betray, kill, and threaten each other a lot faster.
The bad guy in this case eventually caught, but the human toll he inflicted makes this story ultimately a tragedy. Likewise, the redundant cycle we are in and seem to always be in, should tell us something about ourselves. How do we break it? Both as individuals and as a nation.
We can navigate the ship anywhere we want to go, but we can’t navigate the ship following pure self or national interests every time. Principles and values have to be our true north. And if we don’t make a course correction, I have a feeling that without looking at what technology is going to bring upon our heads, if you take that out, we definitely are in for another three decades of nothing but the same.