National Guard intelligence officer Rafael Davila admits he spent years bringing home secret and top-secret documents, stacking them in his basement and finally in a rented storage locker. He told the FBI he just wanted to read them.
Prosecutors have accused Davila and his ex-wife, Deborah, of espionage. Investigators are still trying to track down hundreds of files apparently containing information about nuclear, chemical and biological warfare.
A federal indictment charges the Davilas with unauthorized possession of sensitive documents during the first eight months of 1999. Deborah Davila is also charged with trying to deliver the documents to an unidentified person in August of that year.
During a hearing this week, Davila, 51, sat silently with Deborah, 40, as prosecutors vilified them for allegedly exposing the nation to danger from terrorists and anti-government extremists.
"He doesn't care about the national security interest of the United States," Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks said of Davila. A judge ordered the two held without bail.
The Davilas, whose marriage ended in 1999 after less than a year, have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said there is no evidence that foreign governments are involved in the case.
The investigation began in 1999 after Deborah Davila called FBI agents in Spokane and told them she had secret documents obtained by her husband. But instead of cooperating, she repeatedly lied to agents and obstructed the investigation, Hicks said.
The FBI found that more than 300 top-secret documents were illegally distributed by Deborah Davila to addresses in North Carolina, Texas and Georgia in exchange for $2,000, prosecutors said.
The FBI said the documents have not been recovered.
The government has refused to disclose the contents of the secret files, but an FBI agent said they had titles like "Strategic, Korea, Russia, chemical warfare, chemical mixtures, nuclear, biological."
According to the transcript of an interview Rafael Davila gave the FBI in January 2000, he said he stole documents while he was a senior military intelligence officer with a top-secret rating with the Washington National Guard's 96th Troop Command, based in Tacoma.
"All classified documents I received, I took home and stored," he told the FBI. "Because of the volume of the information and the fact that I never got around to reading them, I cannot remember specific classified documents."
Davila said he joined the Army out of high school in 1969, served 18 months in Vietnam and became a Special Forces soldier who won the Bronze Star. He spent 30 years in the Army and reserve units in Tacoma, Wenatchee and Spokane. He rose to the rank of major.
If convicted, the Davilas could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000.