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FBI Alleges Air Force Cryptanalyst Planned to Sell Classified Materials

By Walter Pincus


The investigation of Brian Regan, the retired Air Force master sergeant arrested last week on espionage charges, has been widened to determine whether he assembled a large trove of secret documents with the intention of selling them gradually to various countries, government officials said Tuesday.

Regan, 38, spent the last four years of his 20-year military career at the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency responsible for the nation’s intelligence satellites, where he had daily access to Intelink, a computer system used by U.S. intelligence agencies to store and share highly classified information. If he was spying during most or all of that time, the damage to national security could be far greater than previously thought, the officials said.

Regan was arrested at Dulles International Airport last Thursday as he was about to board a flight for Switzerland via Germany. He had been under intense FBI surveillance since June, and officials believe that he was caught before he could provide significant secrets to a nation identified in a 19-page FBI affidavit as Country A, which sources said was Libya.

But officials said they fear that Regan may have begun stealing and setting aside secrets some time ago. “He may have been preparing for retirement, planning to sell the material off over the years,” a senior government official said.

Less than a month before his Aug. 30, 2000, retirement from the Air Force, Regan established an e-mail address under a pseudonym -- Steven Jacobs of Alexandria, Va. -- which he planned to use for surreptitious contacts with foreign governments, according to the FBI affidavit.

In addition, a search this year of the computer that Regan used during the four years when he was an Air Force cryptanalyst, or code breaker, at the NRO shows that he accessed and may have downloaded much more secret information than the few samples he allegedly passed to Libya to establish his bona fides, according to government officials.

As a result, investigators are concerned that he may have created a cache of classified documents somewhere, perhaps in computer files or on disks. The investigation is now focused on determining when he began collecting documents, what he did with them, and whether he started peddling them prior to leaving the service, the officials said.

According to the current issue of Newsweek, the FBI sent an e-mail to the Jacobs address purporting to come from a Libyan spy and induced Regan to fly to Munich.

Nina Ginsberg, Regan’s court-appointed attorney, declined to comment.

Regan was arraigned Friday and was ordered held without bond pending a preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. That hearing, originally scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed until Sept. 28.