WASHINGTON -- Defense attorneys for Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, who is accused of spying for China and Taiwan, challenged the case against him, saying the classified information in question is available on the Internet and the interrogation that led to most of the charges against him was unlawfully conducted.
Lin, 39, was arrested Sept. 11 in a Hawaii airport by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents after a two-month investigation. According to the charges, an undercover Mandarin-speaking FBI informant met five times with Lin and received what federal prosecutors allege was classified information intended to aid a foreign government. Lin, who is married, also faced separate charges of adultery and soliciting sex from a prostitute.
An 80-minute audio recording of the unclassified portions of Lin's Article 32 hearing, which took place April 8, was shared Thursday afternoon with reporters. The hearing was convened to determine whether the Navy would recommend some or all of the charges against Lin be referred to a full court-martial, a lesser administrative punishment or possibly dismissed.
Recommendations from the hearing were provided to the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, on April 26, said Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a Navy spokesman. He did not say Thursday what the recommendations were.
Prosecutors presented two binders of information, one classified and one unclassified, containing 45 pieces of evidence including transcripts of an 11-hour interrogation at the Honolulu airport that they said supported charges against Lin.
"Given the magnitude" of the charges against Lin, Navy Judge Advocate General Cmdr. Johnathan Stephens said the only appropriate recommendation "is general court-martial."
Lin's defense attorney said most of the evidence from the interrogation, during which Lin admitted to many of the charges brought against him in the Article 32 hearing, should not be allowed because the NCIS agents did not read Lin his rights during the questioning at the airport.
The agents "never verbally informed [Lin] of his right to counsel," said Larry Youngner, Lin's defense attorney.
Youngner also said the information that Lin is charged with providing was available through open sources.
"Just what was classified, specifically?" he challenged during the hearing.
That the information is available on the Internet does not declassify it, Stephens countered. Declassifying the information would be based on "whether the U.S. government made it public -- not whether anyone else made it public," he said.
The interrogation at the airport was the basis for a warrant that searched Lin's emails dating back to 2012. It was not clear whether the prostitution and adultery charges were a result of the email search, though Lin's attorneys sought to have those charges removed from Article 32 consideration. The inclusion of those charges could confuse a court-martial jury and lead them to think Lin "was potentially spilling secrets to prostitutes," argued Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak, Lin's military defense counsel.
Lin was born in Taiwan and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998, according to a website set up by his family. He joined the Navy in 1999 and spent his career in maritime intelligence and reconnaissance, operating the P-3C Orion, an aircraft specialized in detecting submarines.