The top secret KH-11 spy satellite is still operating just as it was supposed to work when a Soviet agent bought its official manual from a CIA officer in Athens 7 1/2 years ago, it was disclosed in federal court here today.
This confirmation came from a government prosecutor, with elaborations from a high-ranking CIA official, at the espionage trial of former Navy intelligence analyst Samuel Loring Morison on charges of leaking three KH-11 photos to a British magazine last year.
Richard E. Hineman, deputy CIA director for science and technology, said he still regarded Morison's disclosures to Jane's Defence Weekly as "potentially" damaging to the United States and "potentially" helpful to the Soviets.
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Mark Lynch, Hineman acknowledged that all the details that could be gleaned from the pictures about the KH-11's capabilities, including its ability to single out tiny details from distances of hundreds of miles, were set out in the original 1976 manual that was sold to the KGB two years later.
But he testified that the Soviets could not have been sure of the satellite's capabilities without "confirming evidence," such as the photos of the nuclear carrier in the Black Sea shipyard.
The computer-enhanced KH-11 photos published in Jane's, showing a nuclear-powered Soviet aircraft carrier under construction, were taken on a slanting angle and from as far away as 504 miles, Hineman disclosed. Surface-to-air missile sites and much smaller details were plainly visible. It was the equivalent, as U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. Young observed, of watching the "the Colts play in Indianapolis" from a seat in Baltimore.
The testimony at Morison's espionage trial here amounted to an unprecedented series of official revelations about the KH-11. Hineman confirmed, for instance, that a 1981 shot published in the Dec. 14, 1981, editions of Aviation Week of Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow had been taken by a KH-11 only a few days earlier, on Nov. 25. It showed three Soviet aircraft, one of them a new swing wing Blackjack bomber.
The CIA official also indicated that the KH-11, which transmits electronic images back to earth in "near real time," usually a matter of seconds, is used "against active military targets for early warning purposes," and not simply to verify arms control agreements.
The young CIA official who sold the KH-11 manual to the Russians, William Kampiles, was sentenced in 1978 to 40 years in prison, but after a trial that contained only vague allusions to what the Russians had learned.
Hineman, by contrast, said the document included detailed descriptions of the satellite system's "coverage capacity," the quality of its photographs, its timeliness, and its responsiveness to assignments from the U.S. intelligence community. He said the manual set out the "planned-for and hoped-for capabilities of the system" since it was written before the satellite became operational. Hineman added the KH-11 "turned out" just as planned.
Added government prosecutor Michael Schatzow: "We will acknowledge that the  manual describes the system as it is operating today."
Hineman conceded under cross-examination that much the same confirmation could have come from the Aviation Week photo and from a whole series of KH-11 photos that were left behind in the abortive 1980 mission to rescue the American hostages in Tehran. They were subsequently published by Iranian students in a magazine sold on the streets.
The CIA official took the position, however, that it was still potentially helpful to the Soviets to know that the system was still operating in 1984 and being targeted so frequently on such slow-moving projects as the aircraft carrier code-named "Black Com II."
Morison's lawyers are contending that the pictures published in Jane's told the Russians nothing they didn't already know and are still apparently powerless to prevent.
Morison, who worked at the Naval Intelligence Support Center in Suitland, had official approval for his part-time job as American editor of Jane's Fighting Ships since 1976, according to some testimony. But John R. Lewis, Morison's supervisor at the NISC, said, "I felt that it was immoral" for Morison to use NISC facilities for the work. It was largely because of his difficulties with Lewis that Morison had been hoping for a full-time job with Jane's when he sent them the KH-11 photos in the summer of 1984.
Morison told of taking the pictures from a colleague's desk and mailing them to the magazine in a statement to the FBI and the Naval Investigative Service immediately after his Oct. 1, 1984, arrest.
NIS agent David W. Swindle took the stand today to recount Morison's statements to the jury. He said he informed Morison in the Oct. 1, 1984, interview that scrutiny of his typewriter ribbon had shown a letter to a Jane's executive in which Morison said that "the public should be made aware of what is going on on the other side."
At that, Swindle said, Morison told him "you hit it" and that "this was the reason he stole the classified photos and mailed them to Jane's Defence Weekly."