Ex-Cheney aide gets 10 years in prison in spy case

NEWARK, New Jersey Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:07pm EDT

An undated photo by ABC News shows Leandro Aragoncillo. Aragoncillo, a former White House official who took top secret documents U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office and gave them to opposition figures in the Philippines was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison. REUTERS/ABC News

An undated photo by ABC News shows Leandro Aragoncillo. Aragoncillo, a former White House official who took top secret documents U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office and gave them to opposition figures in the Philippines was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison.

Credit: Reuters/ABC News

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NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A former White House official who took top secret documents from U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office and gave them to opposition figures in the Philippines was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison.

Philippine-born Leandro Aragoncillo, a U.S. citizen and former Marine, pleaded guilty last year to taking the documents that included details on threats against U.S. government interests and military personnel in the Philippines.

Aragoncillo worked on the security detail assigned to the vice president from 1999 to 2002, where he held a top security clearance. He later took a job as an intelligence analyst with the FBI in New Jersey.

"There's no doubt that you did betray a position of trust that very few people are able to occupy," Judge William Walls told Aragoncillo.

The case caused a political scandal in the Philippines because the documents were used by opponents of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to try to oust her.

Prosecutors have named former Philippine President Joseph Estrada, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and former House of Representatives Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella as unindicted co-conspirators in the plot. The investigation is ongoing.

"I never intended to cause harm or injury to the United States, its government or its people," Aragoncillo said. "My only wish and intent was to help the poor Philippine people."

Prosecutors told the court Aragoncillo used a fax machine in Cheney's office to send documents to the Philippines. They said up to 800 classified documents had been compromised by Aragoncillo, as well as the name of a U.S. government source.

"This wasn't compassion, this was his ego. Mr Aragoncillo very much liked his access," prosecutor Karl Buch told reporters outside the court.

Michael Ray Aquino, a former top police official in the Philippines, was sentenced to more than six years prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to unlawfully possessing and retaining documents and information taken by Aragoncillo.

Aquino became involved through his attempts to introduce Aragoncillo to a leading Philippine opposition politician.

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