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Sources: Deal in the works in case of accused Navy spy

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WASHINGTON (CNN) - Pentagon sources said Monday a deal is in the works that would end the Navy's espionage case against a former National Security Agency cryptologist, who has been held for the past 15 months at the military brig at Quantico, Virginia.

Petty Officer First Class Daniel King was arrested in October 1999 after Navy officials said he failed a routine lie-detector test and confessed to sending a computer disk containing top-secret information to the Russian Embassy in Washington.

Sources said that, in return for King's full cooperation, including answering questions under polygraph, the Navy will drop the espionage charges against him and allow him to retire with full pension benefits.

Pentagon sources cautioned that, while prosecutors have offered to drop the charges, no formal papers have been signed.

Navy prosecutors suffered a number of setbacks in the case last year when a military appeals court ruled the Navy violated King's constitutional rights when a military judge failed to follow procedure in determining what evidence in the case was classified.

The decision to cut a deal with King was based on a judgment by Navy officials that it was more important to determine what damage may have been done to national security than it was to win a conviction, a senior Navy official said.

King's attorney, Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University Law School professor, said his client has already cooperated with the Navy, and denied the deal amounted to a plea bargain. "Any suggestion that the government could prosecute this case is wishful thinking bordering on the delusional. It has never been a question of whether, but when this comedy of errors would be brought to an end."

At the time of King's arrest in 1999, Navy officials said the information on the disk he sent to the Russians related to sensitive intelligence gathered by U.S. submarines, classified information which could potentially compromise U.S. eavesdropping methods as well as locations where submarine operations took place.

The investigation of King, a 19-year Navy veteran from Elyria, Ohio, began in 1999, after his responses to a polygraph test during a routine security review aroused suspicion, according to Pentagon officials.

During the resulting investigation, officials said King "volunteered" that he had sent the computer disk to the Russian Embassy in 1994 while he worked for the highly secretive Naval Security Group at Fort Meade in Maryland.



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