Former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Ronald Montaperto, convicted last year on espionage-related charges that involved passing secrets to China, is scheduled to get out of federal prison Sunday. Prosecutors say he will be barred from meeting any Chinese intelligence personnel as a condition of his release.
Montaperto pleaded guilty in June to improperly storing classified intelligence documents and admitted as part of a plea deal that he verbally passed both “secret” and “top secret” intelligence to two Chinese military intelligence officers during 60 meetings over a number of years.
He spent three months at the minimum-security prison at Fort Dix, N.J.
The court order in the case states that Montaperto “shall have no contact with any foreign government or agents thereof, except with the express permission of [Department of Defense], and shall not seek or accept, personally or through another person or entity, any benefit from such foreign government or agent thereof.”
If Montaperto is paid or receives benefits from the Chinese or their agents, he will have to turn them over to the U.S. government.
“There’s also a provision in the plea agreement that prohibits him from disclosing classified information,” one law-enforcement official close to the case said.
Montaperto’s conviction was a major blow to a network of politically powerful pro-China intelligence officials and academics who share his views of China.
U.S. intelligence officials have said that Montaperto’s disclosures to Chinese intelligence coincided with the loss of a major electronic eavesdropping program against China that had helped track Beijing’s illicit arms exports.
Before sentencing, Montaperto received letters of support from several current and former intelligence officials, including DIA analyst and friend Lonnie Henley, who ultimately was reprimanded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for his defense of Montaperto.
Mr. Henley also had criticized the FBI for investigating Montaperto in an e-mail to a group of China specialists. The e-mail defended Montaperto as someone who only wanted to improve U.S.-Chinese relations and who was persecuted by the FBI as a result.
Despite the letter of reprimand, Mr. Henley recently was promoted to acting national intelligence officer for East Asia.
Montaperto was sentenced to three months in prison by federal Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, who said the light sentence was the result of the letters of support he received from current and former intelligence and military officials, despite what he called a “very serious charge.”
Montaperto claimed the passing of intelligence to China was unintentional and the result of being tricked by two Chinese officers.
Quds in Iraq
Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, yesterday added his voice to the chorus of officials who identified the Iranian Quds force as working against U.S. and allied forces by helping insurgents in Iraq.
“The bottom line is we believe that the Quds force has been involved in training and possibly providing funding and potentially weapons to some groups within Iraq,” Gen. Odierno said, noting that “we watch that extremely carefully.”
Gen. Odierno warned the Iranians that “we will take action” against the Quds force supporters helping insurgents.
“Their goal is to destabilize this government. So our goal is we want a stable government and we’ll do whatever we can to keep them from destabilizing what’s going on in Iraq here,” he said.
The three-star general stopped short of saying the Iranian agents are playing a vital role in backing Shi’ite insurgents but that they are assisting with weapons, training and “some money.”
Gen. Odierno declined to answer directly when asked whether a recent attack in Karbala included Iranian involvement, but said “we are looking at it extremely hard, and when appropriate, we will take the necessary action to bring those who were involved in it into custody.”
China ASAT program
China’s recent test of an anti-satellite missile warhead was part of a long-term space weapons program by Beijing’s military that has been under way in secret for years, the head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said yesterday.
“The Chinese launch represented years and years of work on their part in terms of what they demonstrated, even though their success in doing that was obviously a surprise, I think, around the world,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering told reporters.
Gen. Obering said the Chinese space weapons system currently does not threaten U.S. missile defenses against North Korea or a future defense against Iranian missiles, but “it may do so in the future … based on what we have seen them … demonstrate.”
He also said the MDA has a development program that will be able to deal with China’s anti-satellite program but there are no current plans to deploy weapons against it.
In a provocative space weapons test, China fired a missile Jan. 11 that entered space, then released a nonexplosive warhead that tracked and destroyed a Chinese weather satellite. The test, the fourth attempt at destroying a satellite, contradicted the Chinese government’s public advocacy of reaching an international treaty banning space weapons.
Moseley on China
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley told reporters in New York this week that the United States is not looking to make China a new enemy but must be prepared for the challenge of China in the future.
“I would not be looking for bad guys, I would be looking for ways to partner. I would be looking for ways to minimize uncertainty and to minimize miscalculations, I would be looking for ways to do that, as opposed for ways to find potential competitors,” Gen. Moseley said when asked about earlier comments that the Air Force will have a major role in countering China’s aggressive military buildup, including its space weapons.
While countering terrorism currently is a key priority, Gen. Moseley also suggested that China must be watched carefully as it could emerge as a threat.
“We’re also dealing in a very uncertain global context,” he said. “My job is to provide global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. My job is to provide global mobility. My job is to provide global strike, and so it’s not just about China, it is about an uncertain global setting.”
The Air Force has been given a key role in the Pentagon’s new “hedge” strategy against China, which calls for developing forces that can conduct very rapid strikes throughout China in any future conflict.
Air Force weapons being developed for the new strategy include a new long-range bomber and possibly new space-based missile systems that can strike China on very short notice.
Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at bgertz@wash