Navy Officer Charged With Espionage In Rare National Security Case, Passed Naval Secrets To China [Update]

UPDATE: The Washington Post has confirmed the identity of the Navy officer in question as Taiwan-born US citizen Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin. The officer is reported to have passed naval secrets to China.

An active duty United States Navy officer was charged with a number of crimes, the most serious of which includes espionage and attempted espionage. The unnamed active-duty maritime reconnaissance officer who held the title of lieutenant commander is believed to have provided US military secrets to a foreign government. The case has been deemed a rare “national security case” which means it ” involves the compromise of a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or terrorist group.”

The USNI News reports that the unnamed Navy lieutenant was arrested eight months ago, but little was released about the case until the officer’s Friday preliminary hearing in Norfolk, Virginia. During the hearing it was revealed that the lieutenant was an active-duty maritime reconnaissance officer and that details of the case would be limited due to the fact it had been deemed a “national security case” containing information that is sensitive in nature to national security.

A series of charges were listed against the Navy lieutenant including charges of espionage, attempted espionage, transporting secret information out of the country without permission and lying about his whereabouts to the Navy. The officer is also accused of violating moral naval law, including patronizing prostitutes while abroad and adultery.

Since his arrest eight months ago, the Navy officer has been held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia, to wait for his trial. According to CNN News, the hearing that occurred on Friday was a preliminary Article 32 hearing in which a judge determines if the charges will be referred to a court-martial. The Article 32 hearing ruling has not been made but it was noted that the case is serious in nature and involves national security so will likely be referred to a court-martial for full hearing.

In fact, National Security Cases are extremely rare, and the last high-profile Navy espionage case was back in 1985, when a Navy warrant officer and submariner, John Walker, was charged with espionage for passing “reams of military secrets to the Soviet Union.” Walker worked with the Navy for 18 years before he was finally caught in 1985 and charged with espionage and was given life in prison. Walker died while still in prison on August 28, 2014. He would have become eligible for parole in 2015.

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The current case files against the unnamed Navy officer was released to the public following the Article 32 hearing, but a large majority of the information was redacted due to security concerns. In fact, service officials working the case will not even release the name of the country that the Navy officer is charged with helping “out of respect for the ongoing investigation.” Therefore, any identifying details have been redacted with only basic charges remaining in the text.

The Navy also did not specify which, if any, of the naval assets may have been compromised in the case. What is known is that the alleged espionage incidents seem to all revolve around dates in October of 2006. The document notes October 6, 2006, as a date that three specific classified information violations took place. The first two violations were listed as “espionage” with two others listed as “attempted espionage.”

Other charges, seemingly minor compared to the charges of espionage, include the fact that the officer frequented a prostitute in a foreign country and committed adultery as the Navy officer is a married man.

US officials have confirmed that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI are continuing to investigate the case.

[Image by Mark Wilson/ Getty Images]