Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Taiwanese agent helped FBI case against Keyser

DANGEROUS LIAISON An FBI memo contains details from an NSB agent on her relations with a former US diplomat, and allegations that the two had an affair

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Isabelle Cheng Nian-tzu (程念慈), a Taiwanese intelligence officer formerly based in Washington, provided the FBI with a trove of secret cables and e-mail messages related to her relationship with former State Department official Donald Keyser, after Keyser was arrested in September 2004, an FBI memorandum to a federal court in Virginia shows.

The FBI released the documents in a 43-page filing seeking the court's permission to bring new charges against Keyser in what a government prosecutor has called an "espionage-related case."

The documents produced by the FBI allegedly demonstrate that Keyser provided "extensive" information to Cheng that "was valuable to her work as an intelligence officer," the FBI says. The bureau also says the information proves Keyser was not honest in his dealings with investigators in the case.

Keyser's lawyer, Robert Litt, rebutted those contentions.

"Mr. Keyser denies that he was ever acting on behalf of Taiwan's intelligence agency," he said. "The government's submission contains numerous inaccuracies and misinterpretations of innocuous facts."

Keyser was arrested after having lunch at a suburban Washington restaurant with Cheng and her boss, Huang Kuang-hsun (黃光勳), reputedly the National Security Bureau's (NSB's) top intelligence operative at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), during which Keyser was seen handing them an envelope.

The FBI had followed Keyser for some time, observing his relationship with Cheng between 2002 and 2004, after Keyser allegedly failed to report to his superiors a rendezvous he had in Taipei with Cheng the previous September.

In a plea bargain reached last December, Keyser pleaded guilty to three charges related to that incident, failing to report his relationship with Cheng and the possession of thousands of classified and secret documents, found during an FBI raid of his home. In return for guilty pleas, the FBI said it would not pursue additional charges.

Revisiting the deal

However, in a court hearing before District Court Judge T.S. Ellis last month, the prosecution asked the judge to be released from the agreement, alleging that Keyser did not keep his end of the bargain, but lied to investigators in subsequent questioning.

Litt, in a 29-page rebuttal filed with the court on Friday, said that all the information in the latest FBI filing was known to the agency before it agreed to the plea bargain. It also asserted that Keyser's constitutional right to a fair trial was being violated because the FBI has refused to show him much of the information on which its contentions are based, most of which is secret and cannot be shared with him.

The defense response refers to "the government's stubborn and erroneous belief that Mr. Keyser was a spy."

It said that Keyser "disclosed no classified information to Ms. Cheng or her superior, Mr. Huang, and his communications were all in furtherance of US government interests."

Sexual allegations

In the new memorandum, the FBI for the first time specifically alleged that Keyser and Cheng engaged in sexual relations. Although the FBI says Keyser denied that Cheng had offered "sex for information," the memorandum cites a series of encounters in Keyser's car, Cheng's apartment and elsewhere.

At one point, after the pair spent 20 minutes in Keyser's car in a side street in which Cheng's head was said to be "leaning toward the defendant and disappearing in front of him," Keyser allegedly said in an intercepted cellphone call to Cheng, "The food was good, the wine was good, the champagne was good and you were good."

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