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Former Hawaii Navy officer pleading guilty, but not to spying

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Taiwan-born Lt. Cmdr. Edward Chieh-Liang Lin is pleading guilty to mishandling classified information, communicating national defense information, failing to report foreign contacts and lying about where he was going while on leave.

A Navy flight officer formerly with a highly secretive P-3 Orion squadron at Kaneohe Bay and accused of espionage struck a deal with the U.S. government and agreed today to plead guilty to several charges, but not to spying involving China or Taiwan.

Taiwan-born Lt. Cmdr. Edward Chieh-Liang Lin is pleading guilty to mishandling classified information, communicating national defense information, failing to report foreign contacts and lying about where he was going while on leave.

The espionage-related accusations leveled against Lin occurred between 2011 and 2015 in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Jacksonville, Fla., and Hawaii, culminating with his arrest at Honolulu Airport in September 2015, according to officials and the charges brought against the former flight officer.

Navy Times reported that at the time of his arrest, Lin was booked on a flight to China.

Lin and his attorneys were hashing out the deal in a Navy court in Norfolk, Va. A Navy judge planned to go through the details of Lin’s crimes today.

Court documents did not reveal for whom Lin was accused of spying. But officials told The Associated Press last year that the country involved is China or Taiwan, and possibly both.

At the time of his arrest, Lin was with the Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 (VPU-2) “Wizards” at Kaneohe Bay. The squadron, which flies specially modified spy planes, had been known to change P-3 Orion aircraft paint schemes and identifying numbers to blend in with other Navy planes.

The squadron and several aircraft still operate from the Oahu base.

On May 10, 2016, Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, based in Norfolk, Va., approved charges against Lin, including two specifications of espionage, three specifications of attempted espionage, three specifications of making a false official statement, five specifications of improperly communicating defense information and other charges.

The two specifications of espionage for communicating secret information to a foreign government were said to have occurred between 2012 and 2014 in Washington, D.C. During that time frame, Lin was on the staff of the assistant secretary of the Navy for financial management; a student with Patrol Squadron 30 in Jacksonville, Fla.; and with VPU-2 at Kaneohe Bay, according to biographical data supplied by the Navy.

The false official statement charges included the allegation that Lin failed to properly report foreign travel in late 2011.

Lin additionally was accused of wrongfully transporting secret material at the San Francisco airport in early 2015. He faced three specifications of attempted espionage for attempting to pass secret information in September 2015 to a representative of a foreign government while in Hawaii, the charges stated.

Lin’s sister, Jenny Lin, wrote to members of Congress last year and said the Navy lacks evidence to support the charges.

A website created by Lin’s family called “Bring Eddy Home” said following his arrest in Honolulu, the government created an “easy-to-digest, sensationalized tale of espionage.”

“That’s not the Eddy Lin we know and love. That’s not the Eddy Lin with whom and for whom you served in dangerous and austere environments,” the family said. “That’s not the Eddy Lin you sent forward to carry out high impact/critical missions. Eddy is innocent of the alleged crimes with which the government has charged him. He is no spy for Taiwan, China or any other foreign country.”

An official list of Lin’s Navy assignments said he joined the service in December 1999 as an enlisted sailor and attended Navy nuclear training at Charleston, S.C., from 2000 to 2002. He then attended Officer Candidate School and gained his commission in May 2002.

His official Navy biography says he was assigned to VPU-2 in Hawaii from Feb. 15, 2014, to March 25, 2016.

A Navy press release about a speech Lin gave in December 2008 to new citizens in Hawaii said he was 14 when he and his family left Taiwan.

“I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land,’” Lin was quoted as saying. “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland.”

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