Government says it will seek death penalty in attempted espionage case


Saturday, April 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) _ A retired Air Force master sergeant accused of trying to spy for Iraq, Libya and China could face the death penalty upon conviction, if the government gets its way.

Brian Patrick Regan, 39, created a ``grave risk of death'' to U.S. military pilots patrolling the no-fly zone over Iraq, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Friday. Regan allegedly intended to sell Iraqi President Saddam Hussein secret details about American satellites that could help Iraq hide its anti-aircraft missiles.

Regan has pleaded innocent to the charges. His lawyer, Nina J. Ginsberg, did not return messages seeking comment. A hearing was set for Monday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

In court paper, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty accused Regan of ``exceptional planning and premeditation'' in plotting his espionage. Prosecutors said Regan apparently used a form letter to solicit money from at least two foreign countries.

McNulty also accused Regan of using the threat of the death penalty as a ``marketing tool'' when he demanded $13 million in Swiss currency from Saddam. Investigators said Regan told the Iraqi leader in a letter, ``If I am caught, I will be imprisoned for the rest of my life, if not executed for this deed.''

Authorities said a debt-ridden Regan hoped to strike a bargain with Saddam, allegedly writing that his payment demand was a ``small price'' compared with the salaries of movie stars and athletes.

Justice Department officials had previously declined to say whether Regan turned over any secret or otherwise classified information to foreign governments, or whether he actually sent the letter he is accused of writing to Saddam.

But in the filing Friday, McNulty said Regan ``actually committed espionage, not just attempted espionage.'' He cautioned, however, that the evidence of actual espionage the government intends to cite during sentencing may not be admissible during the trial itself.

The indictment said Regan flew last June to Berlin and possibly Munich before returning to Washington seven days later, and the trip was ``not in connection with any official duties.''

U.S. officials have said Regan worked at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va., a U.S. intelligence agency that designs, builds and operates the nation's vast network of spy satellites. He worked there from July 1995 _ first for the Air Force, then as a defense contractor for TRW Inc. from October 2000 until his arrest last August.

Prosecutors said Regan wrote a letter to Saddam sometime between 1999 and 2001 asking for $13 million to provide information about U.S. satellites and other military secrets. They said he offered to send a sample of secrets for $1 million, with additional information to come afterward for $3 million and $5 million payments.

``There are many people from movie stars to (athletes) in the U.S. who are receiving tens of millions of dollars a year for their trivial contributions,'' Regan allegedly wrote, falsely describing himself as a CIA officer near retirement. ``If I am going to risk my life and the future of my family, I am going to get paid a fair price.''

Court records indicated that Regan carried debts of at least $53,000 earlier this year. He told a judge in November that he could not afford to hire a lawyer.