Espionage Case Breaches the White House
Leandro Aragoncillo, a former Marine and FBI intelligence analyst, passed classified information from the White House to opposition leaders in his native Philippines.
Espionage Case Breaches the White House (ABC News)
Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history. Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney. “I don’t know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.
Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.
In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore. When interviewed by Philippine television, he remarked how valued Philippine employees were at the White House. “I think what they like most is our integrity and loyalty,” Aragoncillo said.
Officials say the classified material, which Aragoncillo stole from the vice president’s office, included damaging dossiers on the president of the Philippines. He then passed those on to opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation. “Even though it’s not for the Russians or some other government, the fact that it occurred at the White House is a matter of great concern,” said John Martin, who was the government’s lead espionage prosecutor for 26 years.
Last year, after leaving the Marines, Aragoncillo was caught by the FBI while he worked for the Bureau at an intelligence center at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
I’m honestly surprised this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often. The process for granting people security clearances is based on a 1950s America where everyone lives in the same place their whole life and knows their neighbors. Unless someone has a criminal record, there’s very little that a background check will turn up. Presumably, those working in the White House also have to pass extensive polygraph examinations; unfortunately, they are extremely unreliable.*
Michelle Malkin notes that there have been several security breaches involving naturalized Filipinos and that this is further evidence that we should apply additional scrutiny to that particular group. Of course, we’ve also had several cases of Jewish Americans passing classified information to Israel and/or its lobbying groups in this country; I suspect we’ll not be looking harder at them.
*For more background on this issue, see my June 2004 piece for Tech Central Station, “Bouncing the Security Check.”