A senior U.S. intelligence analyst has been formally criticized for “poor judgment” after writing a letter and e-mails in support of a convicted former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, U.S. intelligence officials said.
Lonnie Henley, the deputy national intelligence officer (NIO) for East Asia, was given a letter of reprimand several months ago after an investigation within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
Mr. Henley, who could not be reached for comment, was a close friend and protege of former DIA analyst Ronald Montaperto, who was convicted in June on espionage charges that included supplying secrets to Chinese military intelligence. Mr. Henley wrote a letter to the judge supporting Montaperto, and an e-mail that criticized the FBI investigation of the former analyst.
DNI spokesman Carl Kropf declined to comment on the reprimand, noting that it was an administrative matter.
“The issue has been appropriately addressed within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” Mr. Kropf said.
Montaperto pleaded guilty in June to charges related to illegally storing classified documents. As part of a sting operation that led to his conviction, Montaperto admitted passing “top-secret” and “secret” information to two Chinese military intelligence officers. He was sentenced to three months in prison.
Montaperto’s admissions of passing highly classified data to the Chinese coincided with the loss of a major U.S. electronic eavesdropping operation against China in the late 1980s, U.S. officials said.
Mr. Henley is in line for promotion to the top post of NIO for East Asia, but the appointment could be derailed by the reprimand, officials familiar with the internal inquiry said.
Mr. Henley is favored for the job by National Intelligence Council Chairman Thomas Fingar, who officials say shares the views of Mr. Henley and Montaperto on China.
The current NIO for East Asia, James J. Shinn, is set to take a job in the defense secretary’s office.
The letter of reprimand was similar to the punishments received in two other cases of bad judgment within the National Intelligence Council, of which NIOs are a part.
Lawrence K. Gershwin, NIO for science and technology, and retired Army Maj. Gen. John R. Landry, NIO for military issues, were reprimanded for their role in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
The cases are expected to be raised during Senate intelligence committee hearings on the nomination of retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell to be the next director of national intelligence.
Mr. Henley first got into trouble after writing a private e-mail in June to a closed group of more than 100 China specialists known as “Chinasec” that included several high-ranking CIA and other U.S. intelligence officials and private China affairs specialists.
The two-page e-mail criticized the FBI for investigating Montaperto. Mr. Henley stated that he had spoken with Montaperto and that he regarded his passing of secrets to Chinese intelligence as inadvertent and minor security violations.
Mr. Henley also compared Montaperto in the e-mail to fired FBI Agent James J. Smith, a senior counterintelligence official who was convicted of lying to the FBI as part of the Chinese spying case of Los Angeles businesswoman Katrina Leung.
Montaperto’s conviction was a blow to the influential group of China affairs specialists in the U.S. government and private sector who share similar benign views of China. The group has been called the Red Team by critics and are known to harshly criticize or discredit anyone who questions or criticizes China’s communist government and its activities.