Lawyers for a Navy intelligence analyst charged with espionage for allegedly leaking U.S. secrets to a British defense magazine have asked the government to identify official sources for related stories in other publications.
The case, which is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 8 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, is considered important for journalists because the analyst, Samuel Loring Morison, is being prosecuted as a source for Jane's Defence Weekly. He is charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act and with theft of government property.
Morison, who worked at the Naval Intelligence Support Center in Suitland, allegedly provided the magazine with satellite photos of Soviet ship-building activities and information from the center's "weekly wires," which are classified in-house updates, on an explosion in the Soviet Union last year.
In yesterday's request for information about other government officials who have given similar information to the media, Morison's lawyers argued that the other government officials had briefed at least 10 news organizations in June 1984 on American intelligence reports about the explosion at a navy ammunition depot the previous month in Severomorsk before Morison could have given Jane's the information about the explosion.
The news reports resulting from other government leaks "suggest a large measure of cynicism and hypocrisy over the prosecution of defendant Morison for 'stealing' or retaining information which other government officials had already revealed to numerous members of the media," Morison's lawyers argued.
Michael Schatzow, an assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the case, said yesterday that there was a great deal of difference between the information that government officials told various reporters about the Severomorsk explosion and the information in the "weekly wires."
He refused to elaborate on any possible differences between what was in the wires and what had been reported because he said the wires were "classified."
"This prosecutor strongly resents the language that they used," Schatzow added, alluding to the accusation of hypocrisy.
"I think that language was chosen to have exactly this conversation and not to further any courtroom goals of the defendant."
Lawyers for Morison in the case are Robert F. Muse in Washington and Mark H. Lynch, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation.