U.S. Navy officer suspected of passing secrets to Taiwan, China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Navy flight officer with knowledge of sensitive American intelligence collection methods faces espionage charges over suspicions he passed secret information to Taiwan and possibly to China, U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the suspect as Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin, who was born in Taiwan and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, according to a Navy article profiling him in 2008.

Lin was a flight officer assigned to the Special Projects Patrol Squadron, with experience managing the collection of electronic signals from the EP3-E Aries II signals intelligence aircraft, officials said.

Information about how the U.S. Navy carries out such signals collection operations could be highly valuable to a foreign government.

A heavily redacted Navy charge sheet twice accused the suspect of communicating secret information and three times of attempting to do so “with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

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The suspect was also accused of engaging in prostitution and adultery.

The document was redacted to blot out Lin’s name and did not identify what foreign country or countries were involved. The U.S. officials said both Taiwan and China were possibly those countries but stressed the investigation was still ongoing.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed that a Navy officer was in custody on espionage charges at Navy Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia but declined to offer additional information.

A U.S. official told Reuters that Lin was apprehended at an airport in Hawaii, possibly while attempting to leave the country. He has been held in pretrial confinement for the past eight months or so, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. Navy profiled Lin in a 2008 article that focused on his naturalization as a U.S. citizen, saying his family left Taiwan when he was 14 and stopped in different countries before coming to America.

“I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land,’” he said. “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland.”

The Navy's article can be seen here:

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was not aware of the details of the case. He did not elaborate. China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had no information on the case. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Lin enlisted in the Navy in 1999 and held a variety of positions over his 17-year carrier, including working on the staff of an assistant secretary of the Navy from 2012 to 2013. He served on the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier Eisenhower from 2009 to 2010.

Reporting by Phil Stewart, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, J.R. Wu in Taipei and Clarece Polke and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry and Jonathan Oatis