Wednesday, July 5, 2006

A high-ranking U.S. intelligence analyst is facing an internal probe for his support of former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Ron Montaperto, who recently pleaded guilty to an espionage-related charge involving contacts with Chinese intelligence.

“The matter is being reviewed,” said Carl Kropf, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John D. Negroponte.

Lonnie Henley, deputy national intelligence officer for East Asia, recently sent a two-page e-mail to several hundred current and former U.S. intelligence and policy officials criticizing the FBI investigation of Montaperto and defending the former DIA analyst. As part of a plea bargain reached in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on June 21, Montaperto admitted to passing top-secret data to a Chinese intelligence officer.

Mr. Henley also made telephone calls to intelligence officials after the guilty plea to state that Montaperto was caught up in technical violations of classified information laws.

Because Mr. Henley works directly for Mr. Negroponte as part of the National Intelligence Council, and FBI counterintelligence also is nominally part of the DNI oversight, U.S. government officials say the Henley e-mail could be viewed as an officially sanctioned critique of the FBI and thus an appropriate subject for internal review and possible disciplinary action.

The e-mails and telephone calls by Mr. Henley were first reported in yesterday’s editions of The Washington Times.

Montaperto was a specialist on China affairs first at DIA and then at the National Defense University and the U.S. Pacific Command’s Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, the command’s think tank.

According to court papers in the case, Montaperto admitted during a “ruse” by FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents in November 2003 that he had discussions with Chinese military intelligence officer Yu Zenghe “involving top-secret information.”

Several Internet groups of China specialists have been discussing the Montaperto case and many, like Mr. Henley, criticized the FBI and defended Montaperto since the plea deal was reached.

Mr. Henley stated in one e-mail that the six classified documents found in Montaperto’s home were not a serious security breach because the material was dated to the 1980s.

Court papers in the case, however, stated that a July 2005 review of the documents found that all were properly classified and “retained their secret classification at the time of the review.”

At least a dozen persons involved in Chinese affairs in government and the academic community are proteges or friends of Montaperto’s. One of them, David Finkelstein, leads an obscure unit called Project Asia at the Center for Naval Analysis, a federally funded Navy center that conducts classified research.

Mr. Finkelstein, a former DIA China analyst, also defended Montaperto in e-mails, contending that Montaperto was unfairly investigated and prosecuted.

Officials said that the DNI’s ombudsman for analysis, Nancy Tucker, likely would have to recuse herself from any review of Mr. Henley because she formerly dated Montaperto.

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