A principal stockholder and officer of General Dynamics Corp. has been notified that the Defense Department plans to revoke his top-secret security clearance because of his involvement in an Illinois bribery case a decade ago, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
Pentagon lawyer Kathleen A. Buck told a House subcommittee that the notification was sent Sept. 18 to Lester Crown, a corporate director whose family owns 23 percent of the firm's common stock.
In other testimony, a Pentagon investigator cited General Dynamics for "major deficiencies" in security procedures at 10 of its 50 facilities, including the Washington office where company officials obtained classified budget documents "in an unauthorized fashion" and circulated them within the firm.
The security issues raised yesterday follow months of controversy centered on procurement abuses at General Dynamics, which produces several of the nation's most important weapons, including the Trident nuclear missile submarine, F16 jet fighter and M1 tank.
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger ordered a background investigation of Crown in February after Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) questioned why Crown should be cleared to see sensitive defense documents in light of his status as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 1972 scheme to bribe Illinois state legislators.
Crown, who headed a General Dynamics concrete subsidiary, admitted giving $23,000 in 1972 to a fund that lawmakers were offered for passage of legislation, Buck said. Crown was given immunity and testified against several politicians who were convicted, she said.
Buck said General Dynamics did not inform the Pentagon of Crown's involvement in the bribery case, despite requirements for such reporting and despite the prohibition against security clearances for convicted felons "and those who admit to felonious conduct." Crown has held a clearance since 1974.
Crown will be offered a Pentagon hearing before any revocation, Buck said.
Lloyd N. Cutler, Crown's lawyer, said in a statement that there is "no justification" for the Pentagon action as Crown has "scrupulously observed the terms" of his security clearance. Cutler said the issue turns on an "isolated, long-passed incident" known to defense officials since 1974.
If Crown's security clearance is revoked, he will have to relinquish his post as corporate director or else General Dynamics' clearance will be "terminated," Thomas J. O'Brien, director of the Defense Investigative Service, testified.
O'Brien said security problems at General Dynamics were revealed in inspections at the company's divisions last spring. Although the firm received a corporate-wide rating of "satisfactory," 10 of its facilities had "major deficiencies" that could "logically lead to the loss or compromise of classified information," O'Brien said.