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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 12, 2002

Secret files stolen at North Shore

Advertiser Staff
and News Services

The FBI, military and Honolulu police are investigating the theft of classified military files from the car of a Hawai'i-based military officer who stopped for a swim at the North Shore last month, the U.S. Pacific Command confirmed yesterday.

The files on computer compact discs were among items taken from the trunk of the car parked at Waimea Bay on June 14, officials said. The officer was at the beach with three other military officers.

"I can confirm that the military is investigating the possible loss of classified materials," said Navy Capt. John Singley, Pacific Command's public affairs officer.

He declined to characterize the security level of the missing files.

Singley, reached in the Philippines, said he doesn't believe anyone had been arrested, adding that the FBI has the lead in the case with assistance from the military and Honolulu police.

The FBI here confirmed the investigation, but spokesman Kevin Rickett said he could provide no details while it was ongoing.

The FBI was called in because of the theft of government property. The military is looking into the circumstances of the loss of the materials, including how it happened and who is responsible.

Military officials were not sure yesterday if the car involved was a military or private vehicle. The computer discs were in a backpack locked in the trunk. Officials said it appeared the break-in was random and not targeted at sensitive information.

Four Army and Air Force officers were together when the documents were stolen, an official said.

Singley said it is premature to discuss possible discipline, if any, for the mid-ranking officers who had custody of the classified materials. All are based in Hawai'i and are part of the same unit, which officials would not identify.

"I can assure you Pacific Command takes very seriously any possibility that classified material was mishandled, and we are vigorously investigating the circumstances surrounding this," Singley said.

Police identified for federal investigators a number of people who have been suspects in past break-ins at the popular beach, said Sgt. Robert Olmos at the Wahiawa police station.

"All we were told is that it was some highly classified information that involved national security," he said. "I don't know if they have picked anyone up yet."

Teams of federal agents raided a home July 5 in Wahiawa, in connection with the investigation, but residents there said they knew nothing about the theft.

Advertiser Military Writer William Cole and The Associated Press contributed to this report.