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Case against Navy petty officer dropped

Daniel King
Daniel King  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Navy petty officer is a free man, after the Navy threw out charges of espionage against him.

The accused spy, Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel M. King, was released from a military prison at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, Friday night after more than 500 days in the brig and spent the night at the home of his attorney.

King was arrested October 29, 1999, and charged in November of that year with espionage and "wrongful disclosure of classified information" and later confessed to investigators he sent a computer disk containing top-secret information to the Russian embassy in Washington.


King's attorney Jonathan Turley tells CNN the Navy's actions in this case were "perfectly medieval...there was never any evidence of espionage."

The investigation into King began when he failed a routine polygraph test required because of the sensitive nature of his work as a cryptologist at the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The recommendation to drop the case came Friday from Navy Cmdr. James P. Winthrop, who was the lead investigating officer in the case.

Winthrop said in a memo to his superior that he was "compelled to recommend that you dismiss the charges in the case now, because "the government has not been able to effectively prosecute the case."

"I don't believe the government evidence of any of the charges in this case is strong," Winthrop wrote, adding in the four-page memo that even King's "confession lacks strong corroborating evidence."

Winthrop cites a long list of problems related to a legal hurdle known as the Grunden law, which could require the Navy and the NSA to publicly reveal more classified information in the trial that was allegedly compromised by King. He also cited the Navy's apparent inability to get witnesses to testify and "mistakes" made by the government in the case.

Turley, King's attorney, said that King's confession was forced after weeks of interrogations in various locations some of which lasted for more than 19 hours.

"They never had a spy," said Turley, who took on the case free of charge.

Turley said that Navy investigators denied having audio tapes of King's confession, but tapes later surfaced and showed that King told his interrogators that the confession was false but he was "only telling them what they wanted to hear," he said.

Turley says King is taking his release "very well, he is very happy and his family is flying in today." King's parents live in Ohio. He is not married.

Turley says King is eight days away from his 20-year mark of service in the Navy, at which point he will resign from service with full pension.

Turley also says the case is not over, that King will be taking "every possible action to reveal the abuses" of the Navy and is looking into possible civil and congressional options in pursuing a case against the Navy. Turley would not say who on Capitol Hill he was working with.

U.S. Navy man charged as spy who gave secrets to Russians
November 29, 1999

U.S. Navy
The National Security Agency
Embassy of the Russian Federation
Russian FSB (former KGB, in Russian)

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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