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Jury finds spy suspect guilty

©Associated Press
February 21, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Former Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Patrick Regan was convicted Thursday of offering to sell U.S. intelligence information to Iraq and China, but acquitted of attempted spying for Libya. The jury now must decide whether he can be executed.

The U.S. District Court jury deliberated 24 hours over five days before returning the verdict. Regan, standing, showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

The jury then resumed deliberations on whether Regan offered Iraq documents concerning nuclear weaponry, military satellites, war plans or other major U.S. weapons systems. After an hour, the panel recessed until Monday without reaching a decision.

If the jury finds that Regan offered those secrets to Iraq, he could be subject to the death penalty. Jurors would hear a second round of testimony to consider such a sentence.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were the last Americans put to death for spying. They were executed in 1953 for conspiring to steal U.S. atomic secrets for the Soviet Union.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said Regan's "attempts to sell our national security were a direct violation of his repeated oaths to protect and defend the United States of America, its Constitution and its national security secrets."

U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said the guilty verdicts demonstrate "that traitors can and will be held accountable. Mr. Regan betrayed his country and the men and women in uniform with whom he served. He put his love of money before his love of country."

Regan, a 40-year-old married father of four from Bowie, Md., was arrested Aug. 23, 2001, at Dulles International Airport outside Washington while boarding a flight for Zurich, Switzerland.

He was carrying information with the coded coordinates of Iraqi and Chinese missile sites, the missiles that were stored there, and the date the information was obtained. He also had the addresses of the Chinese and Iraqi embassies in Switzerland and Austria.

Regan had worked at the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the government's spy satellites, first for the Air Force and then as a civilian employee for TRW, a defense contractor.

It was unusual for the case to even reach trial. The government, wary of disclosing classified material in public, normally agrees to plea bargains in espionage cases.

It also was surprising that the government sought the death penalty in a case where prosecutors acknowledged sensitive material never was passed. In much more damaging cases, the CIA's Aldrich Ames and the FBI's Robert Hanssen were sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Regan owed nearly $117,000 on his credit cards when he wrote a letter to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein offering to sell satellite intelligence that could help Iraq hide anti-aircraft missiles. His asking price was $13-million.

The letter was found on a computer taken from Regan's home after his arrest. The computer contained a nearly identical letter to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, prosecutors said.

During the two-week trial, government witnesses portrayed Regan as a man desperate to get out of debt and willing to sell American secrets.

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