A beribboned Navy captain told a federal court jury today that intelligence analyst Samuel Loring Morison was delighted over the public disclosure of U.S. satellite photos that subsequently led to his indictment.
Capt. Thomas D. Fritz, Morison's former boss at the Naval Intelligence Support Center in Suitland, said Morison took the position that the American "public had a right to know what the Soviets were doing" and that the pictures -- of a nuclear-powered Soviet aircraft carrier under construction -- "were worth a thousand words."
Fritz, the first witness to testify at Morison's trial here on charges of espionage and theft of government documents, took the witness stand this afternoon after opening statements by opposing attorneys. A 12-member jury was picked this morning.
The chief prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Schatzow, acknowledged in his remarks that the operating manual describing the U.S. KH-11 photo reconnaissance satellite that took the photos in question had been sold to a Soviet agent in 1978 and that photographs taken by the satellite had escaped official custody twice before.
But Schatzow argued that the 1984 leak in the Morison case -- to Jane's Defence Weekly, a British publication, was still ample justification for prosecuting Morison.
"The significance [of the leak to Jane's] is that it tells the Soviets about what we were doing in 1984," Schatzow said. "It gives them the current state of the [KH-11's] art . . . how good we were in 1984."
Recounting the previous leaks, Schatzow said a KH-11 photo was published in the December 1981 editions of Aviation Week. In 1980, he added, some KH-11 photos were left behind by the U.S. Delta Force, which tried to rescue the American hostages in Iran, and some of the photos were later published by the Iranians.
Despite all that, Schatzow said, "There has never ever been any authorized release of a photograph taken by the KH-11 satellite." The prosecutor said Morison's alleged disclosures "would still be of value to the Soviets" even if there had been no change in the KH-11's abilities.
As for Morison, Schatzow said, "The evidence will show that he was trying to ingratiate himself with [Jane's] . . . trying to make himself important to them so he could get a full-time job there."
Defense attorney Robert Muse insisted in reply that Morison "committed no crime" and noted that his client had been working part time for Jane's since 1976 "with the full approval of the Navy . . . . There was no injury to the United States" in what Morison did, "not at all . . . . That man couldn't hurt the United States if you put a gun to his head."
Fritz then took the stand to recount his chagrin on seeing one of the photos reprinted in the Aug. 8, 1984, editions of The Washington Post and to say how he launched an investigation -- but only after checking with the chief of Naval intelligence to make sure no "senior ranking Department of Defense personnel had released the photos."
The next day, Aug. 9, Fritz said, Morison came into his office at NISC headquarters in Suitland "in what I would describe as a euphoric state" with an advance copy of Jane's in his hands.
"This is great," Fritz recalled Morison as saying. "Jane's has scooped them all."
Fritz said he already had suspected that the photos were the same ones that had disappeared from NISC the month before. He said he reminded Morison that they were still classified "secret" and that, in Fritz's view, the disclosures "could do damage to our country."
Morison "acknowledged that," Fritz testified, but contended that it was more important that the American public know what the Russians were up to.