Thursday, October 06, 2005

Spy discovered in the White House

ABC News reported yesterday that a U.S. Marine who has been working in the White House over the past several years has been accused of espionage:

Oct. 5, 2005 — Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history.

Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I don't know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House," said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.

Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.

In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore. When interviewed by Philippine television, he remarked how valued Philippine employees were at the White House.

"I think what they like most is our integrity and loyalty," Aragoncillo said.

This is not necessarily a new story although it may be the first time we are hearing about the White House angle. But the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism tells us in their blog that Aragoncillo was actually charged in mid-September along with an accomplice named Ray Aquino:

THE U.S. Department of Justice has released the rap sheets filed against Michael Ray Aquino, a former ranking official of the Philippine National Police, and Leandro Aragoncillo, an intelligence analyst of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The two were charged with espionage on two counts, first with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by disclosing classified information under the following circumstances:

a. On or about January 2, 2005, defendant MICHAEL RAY AQUINO sent a message to a public official in the Philippines about LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO and provided sensitive information furnished by ARAGONCILLO.

b. On or about February 24, 2005, defendant LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO transmitted classified information from a computer in New Jersey to a public official in the Philippines.

c. On or about February 24, 2005, defendant MICHAEL RAY AQUINO transmitted classified information to defendant ARAGONCILLO at a computer in New Jersey.

and second, with knowingly acting in the United States as agents of a foreign government, namely, as agents subject to the direction and control of a foreign official, without prior notification to the Attorney General, as required by law."

Aragoncillo, who is detailed with the Fort Monmouth Information Technology Center, was additionally charged with having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization and exceeding authorized access to sensitive information for reasons of U.S. national defense and foreign relations.

FBI investigation also revealed that Aragoncillo transmitted classified information 17 times via email, phone and SMS (text messages) to Aquino and still unnamed Philippine public officials.

And according to the PCIJ, Aquino has a rather colorful past:

Aquino was a chief inspector of the defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) headed by then Vice Pres. Joseph Estrada. When the PACC was disbanded to form the now also defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), he was promoted as senior superintendent. During his stint as a PACC agent, Aquino was implicated in five bank robberies and the Kuratong Baleleng rubout case, along with his superior, erstwhile chief superintendent (now senator) Panfilo Lacson, and 32 other police officials. The case was dismissed by a Quezon City trial court judge in 2003.

More to come...

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