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Ex-Air Force sergeant pleads not guilty to attempted spying

Brian Regan in an earlier court appearance on August 24, 2001.
Brian Regan in an earlier court appearance on August 24, 2001.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A retired Air Force sergeant Friday pleaded not guilty to charges that he was attempting to sell valuable U.S. national security secrets to Iraq, Libya and China, alleged acts the Justice Department condemned as a "betrayal of his country."

The U.S. says that part of the evidence against Brian Regan -- who earlier had been indicted on one count of attempted espionage -- is a letter he is said to have drafted to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in which he boasts of his "top-secret clearance" and demands millions of dollars in exchange for U.S. national security secrets, said Larry Thompson, deputy attorney general, at a news conference Thursday.

"I am willing to commit espionage against the United States by providing your country with highly classified information," he wrote, according to Thompson. "Considering the risk I am about to take, I will require a minimum payment of 13 million U.S. dollars. There are many people from movie stars to athletes in the U.S. who receive tens of millions of dollars a year for their trivial contributions."

Read the indictment: U.S. v. Patrick Regan (FindLaw)

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A similar letter, Thompson said, was written to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Thompson refused to say whether the letters were received by either leader.

"The grand jury indictment being released today details a systematic and calculated plan to damage our country's national security," Thompson said. "Regan is charged with attempts to sell our intelligence agency's most valuable secrets for the purpose of enriching himself."

The secrets, according to the indictment, pertained to satellites, early-warning systems, means of defense against large-scale attacks, communications information and major elements of defense strategy.

Regan, 39, was arrested in August at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, shortly before boarding a flight to Switzerland. At that time, Thompson said, FBI agents recovered from Regan's wallet a piece of paper with information about two classified images of missile facilities in Iraq and China.

A 20-year veteran of the Air Force, Regan last worked as a contractor at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Virginia. He retired from the military in 2000.

He had originally been indicted in October on the single count of attempted espionage. The new indictment supersedes that one, charging him with three counts of attempted espionage and one count of gathering national defense information.

Thompson said Regan "made a regular practice" of accessing the intelligence community's classified Internet last August.

Two of the charges, Thompson said, would make Regan eligible for the death penalty upon conviction, but no decision has been made on whether the government will seek it.

Regan's attorney, Nina Ginsberg, said there had been early discussions of a plea agreement with the government, "but they did not reach fruition."




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