PENTAGON - A U.S. Navy officer with access to highly sensitive intelligence allegedly admitted to spying and patronizing prostitutes. The alleged acknowledgement came during a two-day interrogation following his arrest at an airport in Hawaii last September.
The revelation is the latest in a series of twists and turns in the case of Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, who has been in U.S. custody for eight months but whose case only became public following a hearing April 8.
The 39-year-old naval officer is a Taiwanese native and fluent in Mandarin who moved to the U.S. when he was 14 and, according to his family, became a U.S. citizen in 1998.
According to the charging document, Lin faces two counts of espionage and three counts of attempted espionage. He is also accused of patronizing a prostitute and adultery.
The document says only that Lin shared secret information with a "foreign government," though officials suspect him of working for Taiwan or China, or possibly both.
In an audio recording of the preliminary Article 32 hearing held at Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia, and played for members of the media Thursday, Lin is heard saying little more than "Yes, sir" when advised of his rights by the hearing officer, Cmdr. Bruce Gregor.
Still, Navy prosecutors pushed for the hearing officer to recommend the case for a full court martial.
They said 11 hours of video from the interrogation in Hawaii, combined with information given to an FBI informant, emails and additional evidence collected from Lin's home, leaves little doubt as to his guilt.
But Lin's lawyer contended the evidence is anything but clear, alleging the government has "engaged in a nefarious scheme to entrap" his client.
"He was never given his rights," said Larry Youngner, with the Washington-based law firm Tully Rinckney. "Perhaps purposefully."
Youngner argued that because of the failure to advise Lin of his rights, much of the evidence — including emails collected from Lin's home — should be suppressed.
He also raised doubts as to whether the secret information Lin is accused of sharing was actually secret, saying much of it was easily available from so-called open sources on the internet.
As for what Lin supposedly told the FBI informant, his attorney said most of it amounted to standard talking points.
"He is proud to be an American citizen," Youngner said. "He was doing the same thing he was trained to do, with all of his classmates, at the Naval War College."
Neither side called any witnesses during the almost two-hour preliminary hearing, about 30 minutes of which was held behind closed doors.
Lin could face a court martial or lesser, administrative actions.
In the meantime, Lin's family has come to his defense, with a website proclaiming his innocence.
It accuses the U.S. government of concocting an "easy-to-digest, sensationalized tale of espionage, misdirection, and sexual perversion."