The Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday decided not to press charges against 15 civilians and military officers who were allowed into a restricted military base and to board an Apache helicopter, on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
The 15, including five officers in an elite special-forces unit, faced disciplinary measures after television personality Janet Lee (李蒨蓉) posted photographs on Facebook showing her and her husband sitting in the cockpit of an Apache helicopter at a military base in northern Taiwan.
The photographs caused a furor due to the perception that the aircraft is off-limits to visitors, as it has classified weapons technology. Photographs of the cockpit’s instrument panel were also posted.
Photo: Li Shao-ling, Taipei Times
According to the office, during the four-and-a-half-month-long investigation, 37 people were summoned for questioning and investigators searched 16 locations, as well as confiscated smartphones, cameras, dashboard cameras and tablet devices and laptop computers from the 15 suspects.
Surveillance footage from the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade base in Taoyuan’s Longtan District (龍潭), as well as related files, were requested and sent to the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation for inspection.
The investigation revealed no violation of the National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法), the Punishment Act of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍懲罰法) and Vital Area Regulations (要塞堡壘地帶法) by Lieutenant Colonel Lao Nai-cheng (勞乃成), who conducted the tour for Lee and her entourage, or any of the other defendants.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
According to the office, Lao had not given false information to the duty officer when he led Lee and her entourage into the base as the duty officer did not ask for identification after seeing that Lao outranked him.
Lao, 40, is a pilot-instructor for the aircraft and head information security officer at the base. He was sent to the US for 18 months of training on Apache helicopters and was seen as a rising star in the airborne unit prior to the incident.
Claims that Lao took the Apache helmets, with heads-up-displays, off base to parties were refuted as other flight trainers confirmed that officers often take their helmets when they moved bases or were out on missions.
Flight trainers called in by the office for questioning said that the helmet was just an ordinary military helmet when not electronically connected to devices inside the helicopter cockpit, adding that it was not considered a military weapon.
Queries sent to the US by the Ministry of National Defense received response stating that the layout of the Apache helicopter and its instrument panel are not considered classified, and provided photographs of the Apache instrument panel found on the Internet that were clearer than Lee’s photographs.
Separately, the office also said that the case against former commander of the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade Major General Chien Tsung-yuan (簡聰淵) bringing family into a military base without permission was closed without charges after inconclusive investigations.
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