Alaska soldier charged with attempted espionage

William millay blog photo 2A military policeman stationed in Alaska has been formally charged with attempted espionage by military prosecutors, who say he handed over unclassified national defense information to a contact he believed was a foreign intelligence agent.

The formal charges filed Monday against Army Spc. William Millay, assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, offer the first glimpse of the government's case against the 22-year-old soldier, who was arrested last week.

The Army statement released Monday suggests there was no actual contact between Millay and a foreign government, nor was any sensitive information handed over. Rather, Millay appears to have been caught by investigators, likely with the help of an informant, dealing with someone the young policeman purportedly believed was a foreign agent.

"It was because of the close coordination between the Army and other agencies [including the Federal Bureau of Investigation] that he was observed and apprehended before any damage could occur," Army spokesman Lt. Col. William Coppernoll said in an interview.

According to the Army's statement on the charges, Millay transmitted "unclassified national defense information" to an individual he believed was a foreign intelligence agent with the intent of aiding a foreign nation.

The information he had gained was gleaned both in the course of his normal duties as a military policeman in the United States and on a previous deployment, the Army said. Millay served one combat tour of duty in Iraq, from December 2009 to July 2010, as part of the 164th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade.

Millay also is charged with failing to report "multiple contacts" with the person he believed to be a foreign agent and with making false statements to Army counterintelligence officers regarding those contacts. Another charge: soliciting a fellow service member to obtain classified information and "tangible items" for the purpose of delivering them to the foreign agent.

Millay's lawyer, Kenneth P. Karns, said he had not had a chance to study the charges in detail, but said he has talked with Millay about the case.

"I found him to be as his friends described him, a simple young kid from Kentucky, who loves his country and has followed in his brother's footsteps in joining the Army," Karns told The Times. "The charges sound far worse than what I think anyone who knows him would say he's capable of doing."


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Photo: Specialist William Colton Millay. Credit: U.S. Army


Ricin: Is it the perfect way to kill?

Ricin_as_biological_weaponIf ricin weren't real, Hollywood would have to invent it.

Ricin is easy enough to find. It's a poison that is naturally found in castor beans, produced by the pervasive castor bean weed (shown at left). It can be formed into a powder, mist or pellet, or even added to water, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because it doesn't kill instantly, a perpetrator could use it to poison a victim in a crowded room and then make a casual getaway.

Indeed, even the symptoms of ricin poisoning might not raise an alarm until it's too late. They begin  benignly enough -- respiratory distress, followed by nausea, coughing, fever and, ultimately perhaps, death.

And then there's this: No antidote exists for ricin poisoning.

Ricin was thrust into the spotlight this week when federal officials arrested four members of a Georgia militia group for allegedly planning to attack state and federal buildings with guns and explosives and to carry out attacks with ricin.

One suspect described a plan to blow ricin out of a moving car on U.S. freeways and interstates, a scenario that could give the culprits enough time to make their getaway while potentially poisoning hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting motorists and residents.

The men were being monitored by a government source and now face a variety of charges including attempting to use ricin as a biological weapon.

It wouldn't be the first time.

The U.S. military is said to have experimented with using ricin as a possible warfare agent, and ricin was possibly used in the 1980s in Iraq. Some terrorist organizations have also tried to harness its power, according to the CDC.

But the single most infamous ricin incident occurred in 1978 and has been dubbed "the umbrella murder."

Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident writer and journalist who was living in London at the time, was assassinated by a man who used a rigged umbrella to fire a poisonous ricin pellet into his leg. Markov became ill and died several days later.

Although Markov's death-by-ricin poisoning remains unsolved -- making it one of the most enduring mysteries of the Cold War -- it's speculated that the Bulgarian secret police and the Soviet KGB were behind Markov's death.


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Military policeman arrested in Alaska on suspicion of spying


A young military policeman stationed in Alaska has been arrested on suspicion of espionage, but military officials disclosed no details in their announcement Tuesday.

Specialist William Colton Millay, 22, was taken into custody Friday in Anchorage, where he is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the Army said in a brief statement.

"The investigation is being conducted right now, and I don't have anything else to add," Lt. Col. Bill Coppernoll, public affairs office for the Army in Alaska, told The Times.

Millay, of Owensboro, Ky., is a military policeman assigned to the 164th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade -- known as the "Arctic Enforcers."

The arrest followed a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Army Counterintelligence and the Army's criminal investigative division, officials said, and will be prosecuted in the military court system.

"Today's arrest was the result of the close working relationship between the FBI and its military partners in Alaska. Through this ongoing partnership, we are better able to protect our nation," Mary Frances Rook, special agent in charge of the FBI in Alaska, said in a statement.

The Army Times broke the story of the arrest over the weekend but had few substantive details. It quoted a friend of Millay's, Janssen Payne, as saying the young MP was "as loyal to his country as he is to his best friends."

"He was really patriotic and really loved his country," Payne said. "I just don't see the motivation for him to do it."

Millay's company has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq over the past five years and last spring redeployed to Afghanistan to train Afghan police. Millay remained in Alaska as part of the company's rear detachment during the current deployment. The battalion's headquarters were moved from Germany to Alaska in 2010.



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Photo: Guards at the former Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. The base merged last year with Ft. Richardson to form Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Credit: Al Grillo/Associated Press



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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal

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