Political News

Lawyer says former CIA officer 'is not a Chinese spy'

Posted February 6, 2018 4:46 p.m. EST

— The attorney for former CIA officer Jerry Lee defended his client from claims that he shared US secrets with the Chinese government after a hearing in Virginia federal court Tuesday.

"Mr. Lee is not a Chinese spy, he's a loyal American who served his country in the military and in the CIA," Edward MacMahon, Lee's attorney, told reporters.

At an initial appearance in the US district courthouse in Alexandria, Magistrate Judge Ian Davis ordered Lee detained before his preliminary hearing, which was set for March 19 at 2 p.m.

Lee, a 13-year veteran of the spy agency, is charged with unlawful retention of national defense information and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Lee has not been charged with espionage. Appearing Tuesday unshackled in a tan T-shirt tucked into khaki pants, Lee acknowledged the charge and the potential time he faces.

An attorney for the government, Neil Hammerstrom, argued Lee should remain in detention because he is a permanent resident of Hong Kong and a flight risk. Lee was traveling to the United States on business when he was arrested last month at JFK airport and has no US address, Hammerstrom said.

Hammerstrom added that he would argue at a future detention hearing that Lee is also a danger to the community.

MacMahon in court pushed back on the characterizations.

"He's not a flight risk or a danger to anybody," he said.

MacMahon declined a proposed date for earlier bond and preliminary hearings, and Lee waived his rights to timely ones, because, MacMahon said, he needed more time to prepare a bond package and to access the classified information that would be part of the case.