Navy Intel Officer Hit By
Russian Laser Denied Promotion
By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
A Navy intelligence officer injured by a laser while photographing a Russian spy ship has been passed over for promotion by the Navy, effectively ending his career.
Navy Lt. Jack Daly, an intelligence officer, said yesterday he is bitter at the Navy's decision not to promote him to lieutenant commander rank following House testimony in February criticizing the Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence.
It was the second time he failed to be promoted. Under Navy rules, he must leave the service in seven months.
"I think this was an effort to get me to shut up and go away," Lt. Daly said in an interview. "I'm convinced this is all part of a cover-up ordered by the White House."
The Navy officer, a "mustang" who rose up from the enlisted ranks, was referring to the April 1997 incident aboard a Canadian military helicopter photographing the Kapitan Man, a Russian ship near Washington state's Puget Sound. It was spying on an outbound U.S. nuclear-missile submarine it had sailed past a short time earlier.
After the photographic mission, both Lt. Daly and Canadian Capt. Pat Barnes came down with symptoms of laser exposure that caused permanent damage to their eyes.
A search of the Russian ship was limited by the State Department to public areas of the vessel, and State also tipped off the Russian Embassy in advance of a Navy boarding party looking for the hand-held laser that could have caused the damage.
No laser was ever found and the ship was allowed to leave. The incident was kept secret for weeks until it was disclosed to The Washington Times by Pentagon officials.
Pentagon officials said the State Department appeared to have deliberately undermined the search of the ship by notifying the Russians in an effort to avoid upsetting relations with Moscow.
A subsequent Pentagon investigation confirmed that a laser had been fired at the two men, but investigators claimed its source was unknown.
The Navy inspector general currently is investigating whether Lt. Daly was treated unfairly.
Yesterday, Lt. Daly criticized White House National Security Council staffer Robert Bell, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins for their roles in letting the Russians off the hook.
"Bell, Talbott, Collins and others have given aid and comfort to the enemy, and this is nothing less than treason," Lt. Daly said.
A Navy spokesman declined to comment.
Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, angrily criticized the Navy's decision against Lt. Daly and said he would protest it.
"This is an absolute outrage," Mr. Weldon said in an interview. "He is a loyal American who had a stellar career and because he simply wants his government to protect him, he's being treated like a piece of dirt.
"It reflects this whole administration's attitude toward the military," Mr. Weldon said. "This administration talks a lot, but when it comes to defending the men and women in the military, they are absent without leave -- AWOL."
Mr. Weldon, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on research and development, said he will write Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and the Navy to protest the decision.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said earlier that he had written to the Pentagon warning military officials not to penalize Lt. Daly for testifying before Mr. Hunter's Armed Services procurement subcommittee hearing in February.
Harold Stavenas, a spokesman for Mr. Hunter, said the congressman is very concerned about the Navy's handling of the case and is planning to investigate.
"He is very concerned about Lt. Daly's case and will be looking into the matter when he returns to Washington," Mr. Stavenas said.
Lt. Daly told the Armed Services procurement subcommittee Feb. 11 that he and Capt. Barnes were "shot, targeted with a laser" while monitoring the Kapitan Man on a mission for the Office of Naval Intelligence.
"Both Capt. Barnes and I continue to suffer agonizing chronic pain 24 hours a day from this incident and our vision continues to deteriorate, with little expected relief, since there is no known medical treatment," he said.
The Pentagon and administration covered up the incident as part of a "coordinated effort . . . by select individuals to disprove that this incident had ever actually occurred," he said. "Evidence was altered, ignored, omitted and refuted."