from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
April 4, 2001


Yesterday the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a closed hearing to consider the case of Daniel M. King, a Navy officer who was accused of espionage, held for 520 days, and then released last month when the Navy was unable to substantiate the charges against him.

"What happened to Petty Officer King is alien and antithetical to our system," said Jonathan Turley, King's civilian attorney, in a lengthy prepared statement submitted to the Committee.

Among numerous government abuses alleged by the defense team in its testimony, the handling of King's indeterminate polygraph examination stands out. "A routine 'no opinion' glitch on a polygraph was allowed to mutate into an espionage investigation from the very first day," said Turley.

A blow by blow account of the repeated polygraph sessions was provided in a statement by JAG attorney Lt. Matthew Sidney Freedus, a member of King's defense. Told that he had failed the polygraph test, "King admitted that he had occasional fantasies about espionage over his 20-year career, but stated unequivocally that these were just fantasies and that he would never do anything to hurt the Navy."

"It should be noted that it is very common for individuals working in the national security field to have fantasies of committing espionage," according to Lt. Freedus.

"In fact, during an interview several months later, [the polygrapher who examined King] acknowledged that fantasies of espionage were common and even admitted that he had thoughts of espionage."

"It is deeply troubling to me that the Navy has never issued a formal apology to CTR1 King and his family for this colossal miscarriage of justice and that no government officials have been held accountable," Freedus concluded.

Rather inexplicably, "the Navy congratulated the prosecutor in this case and awarded her the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal."

Testimony that provides the government's view of the case is classified. None of the government statements from yesterday's closed Senate Intelligence Committee hearing can be released, a Committee spokeswoman said.

But the statements of the three defense attorneys are presented here:

A press release issued yesterday by the King defense, including a relatively concise Fact Sheet presenting its perspective on the case, is posted here:


The protection of classified intelligence information in an airborne Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) is governed by Director of Central Intelligence Directive 1/21, Annex C, Part II:

"If an aircraft landing in unfriendly territory is anticipated, all SCI [i.e., "Sensitive Compartmented Information"] material will be immediately destroyed, with the destruction process preferably taking place prior to landing."



In 1985, Samuel L. Morison became the first and only person ever convicted of "leaking" classified information to the press. On January 20, 2001 President Clinton granted a pardon to Mr. Morison, making it significantly less likely that anyone else will ever be prosecuted for a similar crime.

One of the influential figures who intervened in support of Mr. Morison's application for a pardon was Senator Daniel P. Moynihan. In 1998, Senator Moynihan wrote to the President noting that "The selective action against Mr. Morison appears capricious at best."

"What is remarkable is not the crime, but that he is the only one convicted of an activity which has become a routine aspect of government life: leaking information to the press in order to bring pressure to bear on a policy question," Moynihan wrote.

Senator Moynihan's September 29, 1998 letter, recently released by the Justice Department in response to a FOIA request, is posted here:

Mr. Morison's successful pardon application was also supported by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and two others.


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