WASHINGTON – A grand jury indicted a retired Air Force master sergeant Thursday on new criminal charges that he tried to spy for Iraq, Libya and China, and accused him of offering U.S. military secrets to Saddam Hussein for $13 million in Swiss currency.
Hoping to strike a bargain with Saddam, a debt-ridden Brian Patrick Regan allegedly wrote the Iraqi leader that his payment demand was a "small price" compared with the salaries of movies stars and athletes.
Regan, 39, could face the death penalty on two charges in the four-count indictment. A grand jury in Alexandria, Va., indicted him on three counts of attempted espionage and one of gathering national defense information.
A grand jury had alreadly indicted Regan in October on a single espionage charge, though it did not specify whom authorities suspected him of spying for. Regan pleaded innocent to the charge in federal court.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry Thompson declined to say Thursday whether Regan turned over any secret or otherwise classified information to foreign governments. Thompson also declined to say whether Regan actually delivered the letter he is accused of writing to Saddam.
But the indictment indicated that Regan flew last June to Berlin and possibly Munich before returning to Washington seven days later, and the trip was "not in connection with any official duties."
Prosecutors said Regan wrote personally to Hussein in a letter — some time between 1999 and 2001 — and asked for $13 million to provide information about U.S. satellites and other military secrets. They said he offered to send a sample of secrets for $1 million, and offered additional information afterward for $3 million and $5 million payments.
"There are many people from movie stars to [athletes] in the U.S. who are receiving tens of millions of dollars a year for their trivial contributions," Regan allegedly wrote, falsely describing himself as a CIA officer near retirement. "If I am going to risk my life and the future of my family, I am going to get paid a fair price."
Court records indicated that Regan carried debts of at least $53,000 earlier this year, and he told a federal judge in November that he could not afford to hire a lawyer.
Regan allegedly described the demand to Iraq for $13 million as "a small price to pay to have someone within the heart of [a] U.S. intelligence agency providing you with vital secrets." The letter said the information being offered was worth "billions" and "worth many times what I am requesting."
Thursday's indictment also accused Regan of writing a nearly identical letter to Moammar Gadhafi of Libya between August 2000 and August 2001, but it apparently did not include demands for payment. That letter offered Gadhafi "top secret" information about satellites, early warning systems and overall U.S. defense strategies.
U.S. officials have said Regan worked at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va., a U.S. intelligence agency that designs, builds and operates the nation's vast network of spy satellites. He worked at the NRO from July 1995 until his arrest — first in the Air Force, then as a defense contractor for TRW Inc. beginning in October 2000.
Prosecutors said that shortly after he returned from Germany in July, he began repeatedly logging into the government's classified "Intelink" computer network and searching for information — including satellite photos — of military facilities in Iraq, Iran, Libya and China, even though those countries were not related to his official duties at TRW.
From Aug. 6 to his arrest on Aug. 23, officials said he logged into the system every day, Monday through Thursday, when he was in the office.
But FBI spy-catchers, alerted by then to what they described as his suspicious behavior, were watching Regan on secret video cameras during some of the times he used Intelink, officials said. On the morning he was arrested, for example, they watched Regan make notations about computer files in a small, spiral-bound notebook that he dropped in his front trousers pocket before leaving the office, court records said.
Regan, a native of New York City, lived with his wife and children in one of about a half-dozen attached townhouses at the end of a quiet street in suburban Bowie, Md.
Wary of falling into an FBI counter-espionage trap, prosecutors said, Regan also demanded that Iraq subtly alter its official Web site on computers run by the United Nations — and place an ad in The Washington Post for a 1996 Acura sports car — as proof that Iraqi officials were cooperating.
"Don't bother contacting me," he allegedly wrote. "The price is non-negotiable. I am sure you will recognize this offer as a chance of a lifetime and well worth the money."
Authorities arrested Regan on Aug. 23 as he was boarding a flight to Zurich, Switzerland, via Frankfurt, Germany, at Dulles International Airport. They said he carried in his wallet on folded paper the addresses of the Chinese and Iraqi embassies in Switzerland and Austria and also had the addresses hidden under the sole of his right shoe.