- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Retired Air Force Sgt. Bryan Regan was convicted Thursday of attempting to sell national military secrets to Iraq and China.

A federal jury in Alexandria, Va., still must decide if the secrets were serious enough to warrant the death penalty.

The Justice Department filed notice earlier in the trial that it intended to seek the death penalty.

But a final decision would have to go through a department review process before being made by Attorney General John Ashcroft, even if the jury rules that the crime is eligible for the death penalty.

The last federal penalty for espionage occurred in 1953, when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for passing atomic secrets to Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.

However, Regan's case was very low-profile compared with CIA traitor Aldrich Ames and FBI traitor Robert Hanssen.

Both cut deals after being charged with spying for Moscow in exchange for money, escaping the death penalty, though prosecutors said their actions resulted in the deaths of American agents in Russia.

The Justice Department is treating Regan's case very seriously because of the nature of the secrets he tried to divulge.

"Brian Regan's attempts to sell our national security were a direct violation of his repeated oaths to protect and defend the United States of America, its Constitution and its national security secrets," Ashcroft said in a statement after Thursday's verdict. "The conviction today demonstrates that a man who had been gifted with our nation's trust and betrayed that trust, will be held accountable in our system of justice."

Prosecutors said Regan was deeply in debt and tried to sell U.S. secrets for money.

Regan was arrested in August 2001 as he was passing through the security point at Washington Dulles International Airport. Regan was due to take a Lufthansa flight to Zurich, Switzerland, through Frankfurt, Germany.

Regan, 40, of Bowie, Md., retired from the Air Force in August 2000. He was employed by a government contractor and most recently was assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va.

"The NRO designs, builds and operates the nation's reconnaissance satellites," according to the agency's mission statement. "NRO products, provided to an expanding list of customers like the Central Intelligence Agency … and the Department of Defense … can warn of potential trouble spots around the world, help plan military operations, and monitor the environment."

The NRO is a Defense Department agency, but is staffed by employees from that department and from the CIA.

The U.S. attorney's office said Regan had access to classified information at the NRO.

The federal jury was given a look at some of the information Regan allegedly tried to divulge, but the material was withheld from the public.

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