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Exclusive: Navy Drops Some Charges Against Accused ‘Spy’

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin will still face a court-martial for allegedly passing secrets. But he will no longer be on trial for prostitution and adultery.

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An Navy officer of accused of espionage will stand trial, but the military has dropped some of the charges against him, The Daily Beast has learned.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin is no longer charged with adultery and soliciting prostitutes, which are crimes under military law, said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a Navy spokesman. Lin’s civilian lawyer, Larry Youngner, said in a statement that he was “pleased” that the charges had been dropped and that Lin had always maintained his innocence.

However, Lin will still face a general court-martial for the far more serious charges of espionage and attempted espionage, as well as failing to follow orders and making false statements. U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Philip S. Davidson recommended on Tuesday that the case proceed.

“As previously stated, we maintain that Lt. Cmdr. Lin is innocent of espionage” and the other charges, Youngner said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Now that the remainder of Lt. Cmdr. Lin’s case has been referred to a court-martial, we request a speedy trial on the merits and look forward to defending” him.

Military officials suspect Lin of providing classified military information to Taiwan and possibly China. He worked in and around military reconnaissance planes that employ surveillance technology used to spy on U.S. adversaries. The equipment is considered some of the most sensitive and highly classified used for military intelligence.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, there had been indications that not all of the charges against Lin would stick and that the case faced significant challenges, particularly getting clearance to introduce classified information at trial. The decision to drop some of the charges only further fueled a perception that the government case could be trouble or end in a plea.

Lin was arrested in September at the Honolulu airport following a sting operation using an FBI informant. He was interrogated over the course of two days, and military officials say Lin confessed. But he was then held in pretrial confinement without being formally charged for eight months, an unusually long time that suggested the military and Lin might be trying to reach a plea agreement, experts said.

Now it’s clear that Lin will defend himself at trial and that the military believes it can prove an espionage charge. Among Lin’s likely lines of defense is that he didn’t reveal classified information to the FBI informant, but was only disclosing information that he was told to when dealing with foreign government officials.

At a pretrial hearing known as an Article 32, held in April, Lin’s attorney said that his client had spoken to the person who turned out to be an FBI informant. But Youngner insisted that Lin was merely repeating “talking points” that the Navy had given to him.

The exact nature of those talking points is unclear. But Youngner’s argument suggests that Lin might claim he was meeting with the foreign official for reasons known to the military.

It’s also not clear when military and law enforcement officials began to suspect Lin of espionage. But the adultery accusations surfaced after Lin was arrested in Honolulu and investigators combed through his email. At that point, officials discovered communications between Lin and someone other than his wife.

Lin’s family has maintained his innocence and said he is a patriotic American who only wished to serve his country. Lin, who was born in Taiwan, became a U.S. citizen in 1998 and had been held up by the Navy as a model officer.

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Lin’s family said “he is no spy for Taiwan or any other foreign country” in a statement posted to a website that challenges the military’s case against him.

Lin will be arraigned on Tuesday at noon in Norfolk, Va., where he’s being held, Hawkins said.