- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

Taiwanese officials yesterday denied any wrongdoing in the arrest of a former top State Department official charged Tuesday with concealing a trip to Taiwan and accused in court papers of passing documents to two Taiwanese intelligence agents.

“I fully believe that our colleagues have done nothing wrong,” said Stephen C. J. Chang, spokesman for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, where the agents are based.

Donald W. Keyser, a former China adviser to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, kept secret from State Department officials an illegal meeting he had with one of the agents in Taiwan last September, according to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Mr. Keyser, 61, who retired in July as principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, is also accused of holding multiple meetings around Washington with the two agents, described in the affidavit as “Foreign Person One and Foreign Person Two.”

The affidavit outlines the FBI’s surveillance of the meetings, describing one at the Potowmack Landing Restaurant in Alexandria on July 31, during which “FBI agents observed Keyser hand two letter-sized envelopes (one each) to Foreign Person One and Foreign Person Two that appeared to bear U.S. Government printing.”

The two kept the envelopes, according to the affidavit, which says that after the meeting, Mr. Keyser was “observed walking toward the vicinity of his vehicle carrying a manila envelope that was folded up.”

Mr. Chang said that representatives from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office have regular contact with officials in the U.S. government. “We always abide by the law and regulations of our country and the United States,” he said.

The FBI affidavit does not explicitly accuse Mr. Keyser of passing classified materials to the Taiwanese. Nor does it say specifically that he received anything in return.

But FBI Special Agent David R. Farrell Jr., who authored the affidavit, noted that it was “not intended to include each and every fact and matter known by me or the United States Government.”

Federal law enforcement authorities yesterday were careful to point out that the only charge against Mr. Keyser is that he concealed a secret three-day trip to Taiwan, where he was not permitted to travel on official business because the United States and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic relations.

“The single offense he was charged with was making a false official statement in a Department of State re-evaluation questionnaire,” an FBI official in Washington said.

The questionnaire, known as a Standard Form 86, is used to assist in periodically re-evaluating an employee’s fitness to handle classified national security information, the official said.

At issue is a portion of the form requiring employees to disclose foreign travel and contacts with foreign governments. Mr. Keyser, according to the FBI affidavit, concealed his Taiwan trip by claiming “three days of annual leave for time purportedly spent in Tokyo.”

Officials at the highest level of the State Department, including Mr. Powell, have known for months that Mr. Keyser was under investigation. Asked yesterday during an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times whether Mr. Keyser was suspected of passing classified materials to the Taiwanese, Mr. Powell said: “I think it’s best that I not speculate on the matter.

“I haven’t seen any of the materials,” he said. “We have been working with the authorities, but not being privy what evidence they have.”

Referring to Mr. Keyser’s arrest, Mr. Powell said: “It’s an unfortunate situation. We all know him very, very well. He is a very capable professional, but things have happened that he will have to account for.”

Sharon Behn and David R. Sands contributed to this report.

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