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Betrayal Excerpt

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Clinton Wouldn’t Back Navy Officer

By Bill Gertz, The Washington Times

The phone rang in the middle of the night at the Canadian home of U.S. Navy Lt.

Jack Daly. “The Kapitan Man is inbound about to enter the strait,” the watch

officer told Lt. Daly over the phone from the joint intelligence center at

Canada’s military base near Esquimalt, on Vancouver Island.

The Kapitan Man for years had masqueraded as a merchant vessel but actually was

one of two Russian spy ships that tracked nine U.S. nuclear submarines based

nearby in Bangor, Wash.

Now the Kapitan Man was at the mouth of the 100-mile Juan de Fuca Strait,

heading into Puget Sound.

Lt. Daly’s orders: secretly photograph it from above with a digital camera as

part of the crew of a Canadian helicopter.

It was 3:30 a.m. April 4, 1997. The mission would change Lt. Daly’s life — and

his opinion of the U.S. government and the Navy he loved.

He showered, grabbed his flight suit and headed for the base as reports on the

Kapitan Man’s movements continued to flow from the Coast Guard.

Lt. Daly sat in a jump seat on the port side of the CH-124 helicopter, hooked up

to a safety line, as the aircraft took off about noon and flew southeast from

Victoria International Airport.

“We’ve got an outbound boomer on the surface,” Capt. Pat Barnes, the pilot,

announced as they reached the water.

The huge, black submarine was the USS Ohio, which had dropped off an ill crew

member at its home port, Bangor. Because its missions are secret, the nuclear

sub was not supposed to be on the surface. It had just had a direct encounter

with the Kapitan Man.

“If we had launched five minutes sooner, I would have been able to photograph

both vessels in the same frame,” Lt. Daly said.

Three merchant ships came into view, the Kapitan Man in the middle. At Lt.

Daly’s direction, Capt. Barnes made a single circle over the U.S.-flagged

container ship President Jackson and then headed east for three passes of the

Kapitan Man.

After three circles, the chopper flew directly over the top of the ship. It was

about 12:30 p.m.

“As far as I knew,” Lt. Daly said, “the camera was working and the mission was

successful.”

‘You better take a look’

Lt. Daly, a foreign intelligence liaison officer, was assigned to Maritime

Forces Pacific, a joint command staffed by about 1,500 Canadian navy, air force

and army personnel who defend Canada’s West Coast and work closely with the U.S.

Navy.

In an informal debriefing back at the airfield, the crew reported having seen

someone on the bridge of the Kapitan Man holding what appeared to be binoculars.

A Canadian intelligence officer saw a man on deck, his arms crossed over his

head.

About 4 p.m. at Esquimalt, Lt. Daly handed the digital camera to U.S. Navy

Chief Petty Officer Scott Tabor, who was trained in imagery technology and

analysis. Chief Tabor downloaded the images to an office computer.

About 5:30 p.m., Chief Tabor walked into Lt. Daly’s office.

“Are you having any problems with your eyes?” he asked.

“Yeah, my right eye is bugging me,” Lt. Daly replied. “I guess I must have

gotten something in it when I stuck my head out the door because of the wind.”

“Are you experiencing any kind of headache?”

“Yeah, I have a real bad headache.”

“Well, I think you better take a look at this.”

Chief Tabor handed him a photo. It showed a red dot of light on the bridge of

the Kapitan Man.

“I think you may have caught a laser beam in this picture,” Chief Tabor said. “I

know this is supposed to be the running-light area, but the signature of the

light in this picture just doesn’t look right to me.”

‘Definitive evidence’

The former Soviet Union often used lasers for military purposes. During the Cold

War, the Russians fired lasers at pilots. Air crews had been warned to don

protective eye gear, but pilots spotting intelligence ships nevertheless were

injured.

In 1998, Human Rights Watch obtained a declassified U.S. intelligence report

that stated: “Russia leads the world in the development of laser blinding

weapons.”

But the use of a laser against a Canadian helicopter was not something most

officials in Washington expected from America’s former enemy.

“I wasn’t close to being convinced,” Lt. Daly recalled.

The next morning, he awoke with a sharp pain in his right eye. Looking in a

bathroom mirror, he saw a large blob of blood in the white of the eye.

An eye doctor in Victoria found the eyeball was swollen.

That night, around 10 p.m., the phone rang. It was Capt. Barnes, the chopper

pilot, and he had eerily similar symptoms.

The next day, Lt. Daly’s supervisor at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI),

Capt. Eric Myers, ordered him to write a report.

White House and State Department policy-makers were alarmed because the incident

could upset U.S.-Russia relations.

And so the public knew nothing about it for more than a month. Until a

top-secret Joint Staff report was leaked to this reporter and The Washington

Times published a Page One story on May 14, 1997.

But by about 9 p.m. April 6, the entire military chain of command had been

notified. Gen. John Shalikashvili, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

ordered more information.

“A total of 30 frames were taken with frame number 16 showing definitive

evidence of an emanation coming from the bridge area of the merchant vessel,”

the Joint Staff report said of Lt. Daly’s photos. “Initial medical exams

indicated some eye damage to both the pilot and the U.S. lieutenant, but none

that is considered permanent.”

(Lt. Daly would wonder later where that medical assessment came from. More than

two years later, he suffers from severe eye pain and headaches. And Capt. Barnes

not only has eye pain but had his flying career cut short.)

Protests, promises

At 1:30 a.m. Monday, April 7, the Joint Staff’s deputy director of operations

talked to Thomas Lynch, the State Department’s director of Russian affairs. Mr.

Lynch said State would “concur” with the Department of Defense “if we had reason

to detain the vessel.”

After consultations that included Gen. Shalikashvili and Deputy Secretary of

Defense John White, the Coast Guard was ordered to detain the Kapitan Man, set

to depart that day at 6 a.m.

What wasn’t said was that State had notified the Russian Embassy in Washington

that a search party would board the ship. The tip-off gave the Russians time to

notify their vessel so that any lasers on board could be disposed of or hidden.

The National Security Agency later confirmed exactly that through an intercept.

When The Times broke the story, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns

confirmed that senior officials there and at the Russian Embassy had discussed

the incident before the search of the Kapitan Man.

“We protested this incident forcefully to the Russian government,” Mr. Burns

said. “The Russian government in turn promised to cooperate with an

investigation.”

He denied any restrictions were placed on the Coast Guard and Navy search team:

“We wanted there to be a full search, as did the Pentagon, as did the Coast

Guard.”

Mr. Burns lied — and a secret State Department document proved it.

An interagency group led by Robert Bell, President Clinton’s top arms control

advocate at the National Security Council, met April 7 via the Secure Video

Teleconference System (SVTS).

“The nine-member boarding party has instructions to search public areas of the

ship for a laser,” State Department official Jonathan Kessler wrote in the

secret memo on the meeting. “If the Kapitan Man crew is uncooperative, a second

SVTS will be convened April 7 to decide on a further course of action.”

The crew did not cooperate, and in a two-hour search the team “found no laser or

any trace of a laser,” Mr. Kessler wrote April 8.

A member of the boarding party later said Russian sailors confronted searchers

in front of a locked compartment and denied them entry.

Free to go

During the second video teleconference April 7, “the conferees could not agree

on a course of action,” Mr. Kessler wrote. “State and NSC [National Security

Council] opted to let the Kapitan Man leave Tacoma. DoD (except for the Coast

Guard) wanted to detain the vessel until tests are completed on the helo crew.”

At 12:15 a.m. April 8, the National Security Council set up a secure conference

call among Jan Lodal, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy; James

Steinberg, the NSC’s executive director; Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of

state; and James Collins, designated as the next ambassador to Russia.

No military officials took part. The officials decided to let the Kapitan Man

go. The ship sailed later that morning.

Lt. Daly and Capt. Barnes were examined and tested for several days at the Army

Medical Detachment in San Antonio. Bruce Stuck, head of the medical group, told

Lt. Daly there was interest in his case “at the highest levels” and that Mr.

Clinton was briefed daily on his health.

Doctors discovered four or five faint lesions on the retina of Lt. Daly’s right

eye; they believed the cause was a “repetitive pulsed laser.”

Lab tests were able to duplicate the light seen in the photo. One possible

explanation is that the Russians used a hand-held laser that combined a

visible-light, red-laser “pointer” — such as is common in lecturing aids —

with a dangerous, invisible-light laser.

Though Capt. Barnes had the same painful symptoms, no lesions were detected.

Doctors believe Lt. Daly may have suffered greater damage because the laser’s

effect was magnified by the camera lens.

On April 27, three weeks after the incident, Lt. Daly and Chief Tabor flew to

Washington for a debriefing at ONI headquarters. Lt. Daly, reviewing files,

found that information he had relayed was reported inaccurately.

After lunch, Cmdr. Joseph Hoeing, an analyst, confided: “You do not know the

pressure I am under to sweep this under the rug.”

“As soon as I heard those words,” Lt. Daly recalled, “I knew I was in trouble.

The first thought that came to my mind was that this was a cover-up.”

Cmdr. Hoeing declined an interview. “That’s a matter I’m not going to discuss,”

he said of the Kapitan Man incident.

‘A mystery’

The NSA intercept confirmed the Russian crew refused to allow Coast Guard

inspectors to look at all areas, and that the vessel could not have been

searched thoroughly within the two-hour limit.

Under later questioning from reporters, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said

the boarding party was “granted access to every part of the ship to which they

requested access” — except for “a library to which the crew could not find the

keys.”

Mr. Bacon acknowledged it was possible the laser had been hidden in the library.

But, the official spokesman insisted, Lt. Daly’s injuries were “not compatible

with a laser having been used on the ship.”

Pressed to explain his unusual statement that a laser had been fired but not

from the Kapitan Man, Mr. Bacon said: “I think you have to describe this as a

mystery.”

The formal Pentagon report issued to the public concluded: “The Department

believes that the eye injury suffered by the American naval officer is

consistent with injuries that would result from exposure to a repetitive pulsed

laser. Available evidence does not indicate, however, what the source of such an

exposure might have been. Specifically, there is no physical evidence tying the

eye injury of the American officer to a laser located on the Russian merchant

vessel.”

The cover-up was complete.

‘Victims of a hostile act’

Lt. Daly believed ONI had bungled the investigation in ways that could not have

been accidental. The public report was rife with errors and inaccuracies, and

his efforts to get headquarters to fix them were fruitless.

He was particularly upset because Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said

publicly that his eye damage was temporary.

Lt. Daly was ordered not to talk to reporters about the experience.

The report did not mention Capt. Barnes and his injuries at all. The reason was

clear: Place all the onus on a single person, discredit his account and dispose

of the matter with little or no consequence.

On Feb. 28, 1998, Lt. Daly transferred to San Diego as an intelligence officer

with Marine Corps Amphibious Group 3. The Foreign Intelligence Liaison Officer

program that launched the U.S.-Canada joint intelligence effort, and of which he

was a part, is being disbanded.

By the summer of 1998, Lt. Daly had been passed over for promotion. In January

he got a less-than-stellar evaluation. Worse, it was suggested that he undergo

psychiatric evaluation — a tactic used against whistleblowers who make waves.

Lt. Daly finally went public Feb. 11 in testimony before a House Armed Services

subcommittee.

“In essence, this incident left Captain Barnes and I as victims of what could be

argued was a hostile act in an undeclared war, an act of terrorism, and at a

minimum, a federal crime,” he said.

‘Betrayed and sacrificed’

Today the pain affects both eyes.

“Most of the time it’s like a really bad toothache — a constant ache in the

eyes themselves,” Lt. Daly said in an interview. “On occasion, the pain

resembles someone sticking a needle in the corner of my eye.”

Lt. Daly, who enlisted in the Navy in 1982, is bitter.

“I just want justice. I want to see somebody held accountable for the way it was

handled.”

Why the cover-up?

“I firmly believe it was seen as jeopardizing our relations with Russia,” he

said. “Bill Clinton has said he doesn’t want to be the guy who blew the

opportunity for everlasting peace with Russia.”

A real threat to national security — Russian spying — is ongoing and ignored,

Lt. Daly said.

“Why should the government lie to its own people when our national security has

been compromised?” he asked.

He thinks the Clinton administration set a dangerous precedent.

“The message to the Russians is: You can get away with an intentional hostile

act within U.S. borders and not only will your crime go unpunished, your illegal

acts will be denied and your getaway assisted by the U.S. government.

“In fulfilling my duty as a naval intelligence officer,” Lt. Daly said, “I was

betrayed and sacrificed so that our continuing relations with Russia would not

be jeopardized, despite their continued illegal activities in our waters and on

our soil.

“Secretary of Defense William Cohen not long ago stated to the press, during the

Monica Lewinsky debacle, that he didn’t believe that President Clinton would

ever take risks with our national security. However, I am living proof that he

has.”

 

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From the book BETRAYAL: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security © 1999 by Bill Gertz. All rights reserved. Reprinted by special permission of Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C..