A US Navy flight officer with knowledge of sensitive American intelligence collection methods faces espionage charges over suspicions he passed secret information to Taiwan and possibly to China.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the suspect as Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin, who was born in Taiwan and later became a naturalised US citizen, according to a Navy article profiling him in 2008.
Lin was a flight officer assigned to the Special Projects Patrol Squadron, with experience managing the collection of electronic signals from the EP3-E Aries II signals intelligence aircraft, officials said.
Information about how the US Navy carries out such signals collection operations could be highly valuable to a foreign government.
A heavily redacted Navy charge sheet twice accused the suspect of communicating secret information and three times of attempting to do so “with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the advantage of a foreign nation”.
The suspect was also accused of engaging in prostitution and adultery.
The document was redacted to blot out Lin’s name and did not identify what foreign country or countries were involved. The US officials said both Taiwan and China were possibly those countries but stressed the investigation was still ongoing.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed that a Navy officer was in custody on espionage charges at Navy Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia but declined to offer additional information.
A US official told Reuters that Lin was apprehended at an airport in Hawaii, possibly while attempting to leave the country. He has been held in pre-trial confinement for the past eight months or so, US officials said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was not aware of the details of the case. He did not elaborate. China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it had no information on the case. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.