The family of a Navy officer accused of espionage has launched a counter-attack on the military, accusing officials of painting a “sensationalized” tale of his activities through press leaks and of withholding evidence that might be used against him in a trial.
On Sunday, the family of Lt. Cmdr. Edward Linn created a website accusing anonymous U.S. officials of feeding journalists a “conventional, easy-to-digest, sensationalized tale of espionage, misdirection, and sexual perversion.”
Promising to “take back the narrative,” the family insisted that Lin “is innocent of the alleged crimes with which the government has charged him. He is no spy for Taiwan or any other foreign country,” the website states.
Lin, 39, worked in and around military reconnaissance aircraft and had extraordinary access to information about highly-classified equipment that the U.S. uses to spy on its adversaries. He was arrested in Hawaii on September 11, 2015. U.S. officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss Lin’s case, have told The Daily Beast that he is accused of sharing classified information with Taiwan, the country of his birth, and possibly China.
Officials also said that Lin, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998, may have been compensated for his spying with sexual favors. Lin is accused of hiring prostitutes and adultery, crimes under military law.
But Lin’s defenders say he has been unable to see all of the evidence the military believes proves his guilt.
“Almost nine months after the government placed Eddy behind bars in pre-trial confinement, his defense team is still asking the government to release evidence,” the website states. “Meanwhile, the government charged Eddy with a litany of crimes that peddles a narrative fit for a spy novel--espionage, falsification of an official document, failure to report a foreign contact, as well as prostitution and adultery.”
A Navy spokesman declined to comment on the Lin family’s allegations. “We have no response at this time out of respect for the ongoing judicial process, the rights of the accused, and to ensure the process is fair and impartial,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Daily Beast. “The military judicial system, like the civilian justice system, is based on the principle that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.”
The site offers no specific information to refute the specific allegations against Lin. But it accuses the military of hiding behind a veil of secrecy, apparently in an effort to make it difficult for Lin to defend himself.
“The government has characterized his case as a ‘national security case,’ a sly move that allows the government to control the information--or disinformation--that it shares with Eddy's family, his colleagues and the news media,” the website states. Lin’s defenders say that the “opaqueness” of the events that have transpired since his arrest have made it difficult to communicate with him about the case or to use information from the case to obtain a lawyers and craft a defense strategy.
Lin’s supporters also allege that the Navy had tried to discourage them from proceeding with a defense at all.
“Initially, Navy officials told us that the government wanted to resolve the case quickly and quietly, and discouraged us from seeking a civilian defense counsel or community support. It was only after we ignored this guidance and hired an experienced former military judge advocate to represent Eddy that we started to see the government's case for the house of cards that it is.”
On Friday, the Navy Times reported that Lin had hired a former Air Force lawyer, Larry Youngner.
Last week, a report on Lin’s case was forwarded to Adm. Philip S. Davidson, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, who will make the ultimate decision on whether to proceed to a court-martial. That report was supposed to have been delivered the previous week, and the delay suggests that negotiations for a deal or some charge besides espionage may be underway, military law experts said.
That Lin’s family would attack the government’s case before officials have even decided whether to proceed to a court-martial also suggests that military’s case may be weaker than it appears.
The Daily Beast previously reported that the military may be trying to avoid a public trial. One sign is that Lin was held in pretrial confinement for eight months, an unusually long time, military law experts said, before the military announced charges against him last month.
“The military is normally very conscientious about making sure the trial process moves quickly,” said Michel Paradis, a military law expert and fellow at the Center on National Security. “Service members have very clear rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to have any criminal accusation dealt with promptly.”
A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Lin’s case, told The Daily Beast, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends in a plea.”
A court-martial could be administratively burdensome for the prosecution. Military lawyers would have to get permission to introduce classified information from any agency or department whose secrets might be aired in a public trial. At a minimum, lawyers would have to get permission from the Navy, and potentially any intelligence agencies that developed or also use the equipment found on the aircraft, experts said.
Lin could also try to introduce classified information in his defense that the military wants to keep secret, a strategy known as “gray mail” that is intended to encourage the government not to bring espionage charges.
--Nancy A. Youssef contributed additional reporting.