San Diego County : Judge Cites Privacy of Those Named : Cubic Bid for Affidavit Rejected

Times Staff Writer

U. S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez on Wednesday denied Cubic Corp. access to still-secret portions of the sealed affidavit that authorized the FBI's June 14, 1988, search of the company's offices as part of the federal investigation into procurement fraud in the Department of Defense.

Gonzalez, who on Jan. 4 granted Cubic access to highly edited copies of that document, refused Wednesday to give the San Diego-based company access to sections that had been blanked out.

In a related ruling, Gonzalez also granted the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers access to the highly edited version of the document that was turned over to Cubic. Most of the information contained in the edited document had already been released elsewhere by federal courts involved in the investigation.

Gonzalez ruled that the still-secret portions, based largely upon wiretaps of telephone conversations, will remain sealed until they are "admitted into evidence in a criminal trial or in some other public proceeding."

"To publish the documents simply because the government no longer has an interest in maintaining them sealed would frustrate Congress' objectives in protecting the rights" of those people named in the documents, Gonzalez ruled.

Nationwide Probe

The FBI used the affidavit to obtain the warrant that agents used to search the San Diego office of Cubic Defense Systems President C. C. (Sam) Wellborn on June 14. That search was one of more than 40 conducted during "Operation Ill Wind," a nationwide investigation into Defense Department procurement fraud.

Cubic had not seen the newly released document, spokesman Jerry Ringer said Wednesday.

In one section of the edited document, a federal investigator argued that the search warrant for Wellborn's office was needed because, "There is a significant possibility that if the evidence sought were subpoenaed, some of the notes, memoranda and other documents would be destroyed by those with criminal responsibility."

According to a related document released in January by a federal court in Maryland, the FBI was seeking information about Cubic's attempt to win contracts to install air-combat training systems. Federal investigators also searched Wellborn's office for information about an "Advance Tactical Air Reconnaissance System" contract that Cubic did not win.

Ringer, who downplayed the significance of the newly released document, noted that "Our name has appeared in affidavits before and no action has been taken against us."

Cubic Is Uncharged and Cooperating

"The company has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing, and no evidence (has been) presented against the company," Ringer said. "Cubic is cooperating with the government" in the Ill Wind investigation.

The 26-page document that Gonzalez released Wednesday was heavily edited. Four pages were completely blank and five other pages contained little more than a sentence, a phrase or a paragraph.

But, despite those deletions, the edited pages strongly resembled the document released in January by the federal court in Maryland.

That affidavit alleged that Cubic paid Victor Cohen, a top U. S. Air Force official, for information that Cubic used to pursue at least three defense contracts. Cohen, the document alleged, "illegally assisted" Wellborn when Cubic was seeking contracts for the air-combat training systems that generate much of Cubic's profit and revenue.

The document released Wednesday in San Diego made several references to Cohen and Wellborn, as well as to William Galvin, a Washington-based consultant who worked for several defense contractors, including Cubic.

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