An Air Force general and a CIA official testified yesterday that top-secret information reportedly accessed by espionage suspect Brian Patrick Regan would be invaluable to “our adversaries” in Iraq, Iran and China.
Both Maj. Gen. David Deptula and Dennis D. Fitzgerald, a CIA official for more than 25 years, referred to top-secret documents and photographs as they testified in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
“One of the reasons we have accrued a record of flying 200-plus sorties [over Iraq] without a loss has to do with keeping information that was in possession of the defendant away from the adversary,” said Gen. Deptula, who has been in charge of surveillance flights in the no-fly zone over Iraq since he planned the air attacks for the Gulf war 12 years ago.
America’s satellites can show drug operations, military installations, surface-to-air missiles, clues of terrorists and even natural disasters such as earthquakes, said Mr. Fitzgerald, an expert on the satellite system and deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly.
Both officials said they had no knowledge of the involvement of Sgt. Regan, a retired Air Force master sergeant. They testified instead about the necessity for the top-secret materials, which were displayed on television screens only for the jury and court officials.
“I’m not allowed to read Number Four aloud,” said defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro as he projected a document for Gen. Deptula to identify.
Previous witnesses testified that the materials, which were admitted as evidence, were found on the hard drives of Sgt. Regan’s Gateway and Toshiba computers.
Sgt. Regan was cleared for top-secret information when he was assigned in 1998 by the Air Force to the National Reconnaissance Office. He retired in 2000 and went to work for TRW Inc., which became a part of Northrop Grumman, and returned to a similar job at National Reconnaissance.
The FBI had him under surveillance for several months before he was arrested Aug. 23, 2001, at Washington Dulles International Airport. Witnesses said he had notes about two Iraqi geo-coordinates in his possession and had an airline ticket to Switzerland.
Gen. Deptula said the satellite visions “are a veritable blueprint of the Iraqi air-defense system.”
Questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Haynes, Gen. Deptula said Iraqi President “Saddam Hussein has offered a reward to … anyone who shoots down a coalition aircraft.”
American and coalition pilots’ lives are being saved by satellite and other surveillance information about Iraqi military equipment and sites, he said.
“I would be surprised if the adversary is fully aware of the capability of the system,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “If they know they are vulnerable to detection that way, they would make changes to avoid detection.”
Cross-examined by Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Fitzgerald acknowledged that much information is publicized, such as the launching of spy satellites. He also agreed that amateur astronomers with telescopes around the world spot and watch the satellites.
Sgt. Regan is on trial on three counts of attempted espionage and one count of illegally gathering national security information. Sgt. Regan, 40, a father of four, lived in Bowie. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death, the first such sentence since spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in 1953.