Soldier held on suspicion of spying 'just a simple country boy,' friend says

Spc. William Colton Millay, 22, of Owensboro, Kentucky, was arrested Friday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Story highlights

  • William Colton Millay's friends were shocked by the news of his arrest
  • The Army specialist is suspected of espionage
  • The case had no connection to WikiLeaks nor was any data transferred, the Army says
  • A friend describes Millay as "loyal to his country"
Friends of a 22-year-old Kentucky soldier suspected of spying expressed shock Wednesday, describing him instead as a patriotic and simple country boy dedicated to his job.
Spc. William Colton Millay of Owensboro, Kentucky, was arrested Friday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, according to Col. Bill Coppernoll, the public affairs officer at the base.
The Army did not disclose the circumstances surrounding Millay's arrest but his name immediately appeared online in conjunction with Bradley Manning, the Army private suspected of leaking classified information to the website WikiLeaks.
But FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said Millay's arrest had no connection to WikiLeaks.
Nor did it involve any transfer of information, Coppernoll said.
"While we can't go into any specifics, this is completely different than the Manning case in that it does not involve the transfer of data on computer networks," he said.
Coppernoll said any information that might have been transferred was stopped and that "Millay was being observed well before any damage could have occurred."
Millay was hardly fitting of a spy persona, said longtime friend Drew Bramschreiber of Owensboro.
"He's just a simple country boy," he said. "He was never the kind of guy who would get into trouble."
Millay was not even that computer-savvy, Bramschreiber said.
Millay was assigned to the 164th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade, known as the "Arctic Enforcers."
The unit was sent earlier this year to Afghanistan. But Millay was part of the rear detachment and did not deploy, though his friends said he had done a tour the year before.
Millay had been under investigation by the FBI and Army counterintelligence agents, Coppernoll said, and will face military charges sometime this week.
CNN tried to contact Millay's family Wednesday. A man who answered a telephone call placed to his family's home in Owensboro said, "No comment," and hung up.
But his friends could not believe the news.
"You've got the wrong guy," said Janssen Payne. "That's just not who he is."
Payne, who now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, said Millay idolized his brother, who is also in the Army, and that he had been in the ROTC program in high school. He was a supporter of George W. Bush and the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, his friend said.
There wasn't much to do in Owensboro so Millay and his high school buddies hung out at the mall or at Walmart, Payne said.
They were cut-ups, making YouTube videos that spoofed Bruce Willis in the "Die Hard" movies.
But Millay dreamed of joining the Army and in 2007, he enlisted.
One summer day, while on leave from Afghanistan, he showed up at Bramschreiber's house in Owensboro. They drank a couple of beers and talked. Millay told him that it was hard being on edge all the time.
But he wasn't different at all, Bramschreiber said.
"I suppose anybody can get messed up with the wrong crowd," he said. "Colton could've done that but he's a smart guy."
Janssen said the only way Millay would do something illegal would be if he thought he were protecting someone who had been wronged. But without any details yet of why the Army suspected Millay, it was difficult for Janssen to fathom that his friend might be in trouble.
Millay was in custody Wednesday at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
His arrest "was the result of the close working relationship between the FBI and its military partners in Alaska," said Mary Frances Rook, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Alaska. "Through this ongoing partnership, we are better able to protect our nation."