After a lengthy investigation, a U.S. Navy officer assigned to an intelligence gathering unit has been charged with multiple counts of espionage and providing secret information to China and Taiwan, according to U.S. officials and charging documents.
Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, a flight officer who spent much of his Navy career in reconnaissance and patrol squadrons, is being investigated by the FBI and the Navy Criminal Investigative Service on suspicion of failing to disclose foreign travel, passing classified information and patronizing prostitutes.
Lin was born in Taiwan and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He has been in custody for eight months at a Navy brig in Chesapeake, Va., officials said.
The case became public when Lin faced a preliminary hearing, known as an Article 32 hearing, on Friday. The hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to refer the case to a general court-martial.
A heavily redacted charge sheet released by the Navy does not name Lin or any foreign government. The three-page charge sheet says the suspect was assigned to the headquarters of the Navy's Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, which oversees intelligence-collection activities.
The suspect faces five counts of espionage and attempted espionage, according to the charge sheet. It alleges that on numerous occasions, the suspect did "with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the advantage of a foreign nation, attempt to communicate SECRET information relating to the national defense to a representative of a foreign government."
The suspect was also charged with four counts of "wrongfully transporting material classified as SECRET" and seven counts of communicating defense information "to a person not entitled to receive said information." He also is accused of patronizing a prostitute and adultery, which are violations of military law.
The charge sheet does not say what information was passed or when.
Under U.S. law, information is classified "secret" when its unauthorized disclosure would cause "serious damage" to national security. The maximum punishment for an espionage conviction under U.S. military code is the death penalty.
The Navy declined to comment on the case and has not identified Lin's lawyer.
USNI News, which first reported Lin's identity, said he speaks fluent Mandarin and managed the collection of electronic signals from the EP-3E Aries II spy plane.
Lin enlisted in the Navy in 1999 and was commissioned as a flight officer three years later, according to military records.
He was deployed in 2004 with an air reconnaissance squadron based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. The unit, nicknamed World Watchers, flies EP-3E spy planes, which are outfitted with electronic surveillance equipment.
The unit conducts surveillance from the West Coast of the United States, across the Pacific and Indian oceans, to the east coast of Africa — roughly two-thirds of the world's surface.
After three years, Lin was assigned to U.S. Pacific Fleet, based in Honolulu. In 2008, a Navy news release titled "Hawaii Sailor 'Dogged' to Become U.S. Citizen" profiled Lin.
In it, Lin said he was 14 when he and his family left Taiwan. His Chinese name had 20 letters in it and was hard to pronounce, so he picked a new name.
"I was barely able to spell 'ABC.' The only name that I knew back then as an American name was Eddy," Lin said. "Eddy was the name of my mother's dog.... I was very fortunate that my mother did not name her dog 'Fluffy.'"
Lin served aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Eisenhower, spent two years at the Naval War College and two years in Washington working for the Navy's chief budgeting officer.
In 2014, Lin went back to Hawaii, where he was assigned to the Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay. Nicknamed the Wizards, the squadron flies P-3 submarine-hunting aircraft.
According to the charge sheet, he was arrested in Hawaii as he prepared to travel overseas, but had falsely listed his destination.
Military records show he was officially reassigned on March 25 to "Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake."
Spokesmen for China's Foreign Ministry and Taiwan's Defense Ministry said they had no information on the case, according to Reuters wire service.