Taiwan-born officer in US Navy admits revealing defence secrets

Edward Lin tells court martial he mishandled classified information in an attempt to impress women, but more serious espionage charge is dropped

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 May, 2017, 9:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 May, 2017, 11:12pm

The US Navy abandoned efforts to convict a Taiwan-born officer of spying for mainland China or Taiwan, striking a plea deal on Thursday on a lesser charge that portrays him as arrogant and willing to reveal military secrets to impress women.

The agreement was a marked retreat from last year’s accusations that Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin gave or attempted to give classified information to representatives of a foreign government.

But it still appears to end the impressive military career of a man who came to the United States at 14. Lin joined the staff of an assistant secretary of the Navy in Washington and was later assigned to a unit in Hawaii that flies spy planes.

Lin, 40, now faces dismissal from the Navy and up to 36 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for early June.

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During the day-long court martial in Norfolk, Virginia, Lin admitted he failed to disclose friendships with people in Taiwan’s military and connected to its government. He also conceded that he shared defence information with women he said he was trying to impress.

One of them was Janice Chen, an American registered in the US as a foreign agent of Taiwan’s government, specifically the country’s governing Democratic Progressive Party.

Lin said he and Chen often discussed news articles she emailed him about military affairs. He admitted he shared classified information about the navy’s Pacific Fleet.

He also divulged secrets to a woman named Katherine Wu, whom he believed worked as a contractor for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was actually an undercover FBI agent.

“I was trying to let her know that the military profession in the United States is an honourable and noble one,” Lin told the military judge. Lin said the military was less prestigious in Taiwan.

Lin also had friends with other connections, including a woman living in mainland China whom he met online, and a Chinese massage therapist who moved to Hawaii.

Lin said he gave the massage therapist a “large sum of money” at one point, although he did not say why.

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Lin also admitted to lying to superiors about flying to Taiwan and planning to visit mainland China. But he said he did it only to avoid the bureaucracy that a US military official must endure when traveling to a foreign country.

“Sir, I was arrogant,” he told the judge.

A navy press release about Lin’s attendance at his naturalisation ceremony in Hawaii in December 2008 said he was 14 when he and his family left Taiwan.

“I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land,’” Lin was quoted as saying. “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland.”