Spy Probe Finds Plan to Overthrow Philippine Government

A former White House and FBI intelligence analyst and a former Philippine police officer wanted to weaken and ultimately overthrow the government of President Gloria Arroyo, according to prosecutors.

In court documents filed late Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's office in Newark contends the FBI analyst, Leandro Aragoncillo, a former Marine who used to work in the White House, and former Philippine police officer Michael Ray Aquino conspired to overthrow the Philippines government.

"The evidence will show that Aragoncillo, Aquino ... and others possessed a powerful motive to enter and participate in the criminal conspiracy referenced in the indictment: the destabilization and removal of the current government of the Republic of the Philippines," Assistant U.S. Attorney Karl Buch wrote.

Both men are charged with conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Aragoncillo also is accused of misusing an FBI computer. Aragoncillo has been negotiating a plea deal, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say Aragoncillo stole sensitive, classified documents and gave them to Aquino, who then passed them along to current or former Philippine officials.

"I would rather you take over — if the Constitution would suggest — rather than them," Aragoncillo wrote in an e-mail in April to Aquino and an unnamed government official, according to the court filing.

The documents were filed by prosecutors opposing a motion to let Aquino remain free on bail until the start of his trial, which could be months away. Prosecutors said he faces prosecution in his homeland for a 2000 murder, and assert he is likely to flee if released.

U.S. District Judge William Walls agreed, and during a hearing Wednesday declined to let Aquino remain free, ruling he was a substantial flight risk.

Prosecutors claim Aquino "actively investigated the activities of Philippines President Gloria Arroyo and other public officials in the Philippines," and either obtained or tried to obtain sensitive personal and financial information about them. For example, prosecutors said, Aquino obtained toll records for a telephone in the president's office at Malacanang, the Philippines equivalent of the White House.

Aquino's lawyer, Mark Berman, has acknowledged Aquino received documents from Aragoncillo, but said none of them were marked as confidential, adding Aquino had no reason to believe otherwise.

Berman on Wednesday said Aquino is part of the Phillipine political opposition but did not commit a crime.

"Aqunio is Filipino patriot who is opposed to the current administration. In America, it's not a crime to be in the opposition," Berman said.