Three Lose Bid to Get Defense Contract Papers

Associated Press

Three men charged with illegally obtaining classified documents for a Pentagon contractor to help win a contract bid lost an attempt Friday to subpoena mountains of paper from other companies that, they contend, followed the same practice.

U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris rejected a motion to subpoena the documents from such contractors as General Dynamics Corp., McDonnell Douglas Corp. and Boeing Co., calling the quest "a fishing expedition."

But left alive was a defense effort to subpoena as many as 100 Defense Department employees to show that the practices of which the three men are accused are common in the defense industry.

The case is the first in which government prosecutors have used espionage statutes against defense contractors for allegedly circulating classified information among employees who had security clearances.

Firm Pleaded Guilty

In a related case last November, GTE Government Systems Corp. pleaded guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government in its bidding process. Under the terms of the plea, GTE was allowed to bid on other defense contracts.

At the same time, a grand jury indicted the three men who are charged with illegally obtaining the documents for GTE. Their trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 18. Two of them, Walter R. Edgington, a GTE vice president, and Bernie E. Zettl, a former GTE consultant, are charged with espionage and stealing government property. The third, former GTE marketing manager Robert R. Carter, is charged with taking part in the alleged conspiracy.

Defense attorneys had sought to subpoena documents from other Pentagon contractors in an effort to prove that the companies commonly obtained classified Pentagon planning documents before bidding on government deals.

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