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State Department Official Accused of Concealing Trip to Taiwan - 2004-09-16

A veteran U.S. State Department official has been arrested and charged with concealing a trip to Taiwan. The official, until recently an adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, reportedly is also suspected of passing documents to Taiwanese intelligence agents.

The case against veteran diplomat Donald Keyser is understood to have been under investigation by federal authorities for many weeks.

But it emerged publicly on Wednesday, when the 61-year-old Asian affairs specialist appeared in federal court in a Virginia suburb of Washington, and was charged with making a false statement to an FBI agent.

It is alleged that Mr. Keyser concealed a trip to Taiwan last September by failing to report it on State Department security clearance forms that required him to disclose foreign travel.

But, The Washington Post newspaper reports that he is also under investigation for allegedly passing documents to Taiwanese agents in a series of meetings in 2003, and in recent months in the Washington area.

Mr. Keyser, a career foreign service officer, who served in senior embassy posts in Beijing and Tokyo, was the second-ranking official in the State Department's bureau of East Asian Affairs, until July.

Officials here say he was assigned at that time to a training position at U.S. Foreign Service Institute, and remains on the State Department payroll.

The officials say the State Department is cooperating with the investigation, but will provide no other information, referring questions to the Justice Department.

His alleged visit to Taiwan and association with Taiwanese agents came at a time of friction between the United States and Taiwan. The island's president, Chen Shui-Bian, who has supported independence from China, was campaigning for another term in an election he narrowly won in March.

Since it switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 1979, the United States has had only unofficial relations with the island. It opposes independence for Taiwan, and supports a political resolution of the conflict between it and the mainland.

Mr. Keyser had been one of several State Department officials disciplined in 2000 in connection with the disappearance of a laptop computer containing secret information from the office of the then-secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

Mr. Keyser was not accused of actually taking the computer, however, and he continued his career after a job transfer.

His is the second recent case of a senior official being implicated in passing documents to a friendly government.

It was reported late last month that the FBI is investigating whether a Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, may have passed a draft policy paper on Iran to Israel through the pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC. No charges have been filed in that case.