- 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
- 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.
- 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."