A most unusual spy ring

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on October 8, 2007

The 9/11 Commission Report pinned a good part of the failure to prevent the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on the wall that had been erected to keep the intelligence and law enforcement communities from talking to each other. Intelligence information could taint criminal trials, and had to be kept from the FBI and local law enforcement officials. Of course, this was all before the government discovered that suicide bombers -- whether using explosive vests or passenger airplanes -- quickly become immune to prosecution.

But now that wall has come down? Hasn't it?

Maybe not, if this little-noticed report in Saturday's San Diego Union-Tribune is correct.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz said patriotism motivated him to join a spy ring, smuggle secret files from Camp Pendleton and give them to law enforcement officers for anti-terrorism work in Southern California.

He knew his group was violating national security laws. But he said bureaucratic walls erected by the military and civilian agencies were hampering intelligence sharing and coordination, making the nation more vulnerable to terrorists.

Maziarz, a member of the Marine Forces Reserve, had helped search for survivors in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I decided to make a difference and act,” Maziarz testified during his court-martial in July at Camp Pendleton.

Maziarz has been sentenced to 26 months in prison.

The case is an intelligence nightmare, said defense analysts briefed on it.

They also said it unmasks the military's growing role in post-Sept. 11 domestic security and confirms that U.S. officials believe al-Qaeda is active in the United States.

“It gives operational security people brain cooties to think about an incident like this,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a think tank that focuses on emerging security concerns.

“It's the apparent extent of this intelligence hemorrhage and the fact that they caught someone and prosecuted him that make this case stand out,” he added.

Steven Aftergood, a research analyst for the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists, couldn't remember another instance of people being driven by patriotic frustration to break the law.

“It's incredible. We had better understand their motivations or else this is going to keep happening,” said Aftergood, whose organization works to reduce government secrecy while improving security practices. “The failure of agencies to share information is a real one and has been raised over and over again without a satisfactory resolution.”

The people whom Maziarz described as his accomplices include:

  • Larry Richards, a Marine reserve colonel and detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He co-founded the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning Group in 1996. On the military side, he has received a Bronze Star for developing psychological-warfare strategies during the Iraq war.
  • David Litaker, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and, until recently, a Marine reserve colonel.
  • Mark Lowe, another Marine reserve officer and a pilot for Delta Air Lines.
  • Lauren Martin, a Navy reservist who worked as a civilian intelligence analyst at U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Richards, Litaker, Lowe and Maziarz came to know one another through their military ties.

Maziarz testified that Richards recruited him in 2004 as his successor for taking classified documents from Camp Pendleton. Maziarz said he routinely passed such information to Richards, plus to and from Martin.

What these guys did was obviously wrong, hence the 26 month prison sentence, but are the so-called first responders really getting all the information they need to protect us?

0 comments on “A most unusual spy ring”

  1. Why is this guy punished while those who leak to the New York Times classified information on anti-terrorist operations are never investigated, let alone prosecuted? Why aren't NYT employees who publish the information prosecuted as well?

  2. The real problem is that this guy could have been giving secrets to foreign spies, and still believing he was "helping" his country.

    If this is still an issue then it should be done by petitioning Congress or via legal routes to change things, not by assuming you are helping by passing secrets to someone who otherwise can't get them (and may be a spy for all you know).

  3. Don't tread on our turf!

    They prosecuted the sergeant. Will they try the officers next? Or will they get a reprimand?

  4. Interesting. In retrospect it does seem pretty obvious that an US intelligence agency could gain more useful information spying on other US intelligence agencies than on foreigners. If only the FBI counter terrorism effort had thought to spy on the FBI before 9/11 . . .. The real wonder is that no one thought of this before, think of how much information the CIA could get from a well placed mole in the FBI, why they might even be able to discover what the CIA is doing.

  5. I understand why this guy's career has to be over, but I hope that the sentence is reduced or commuted. Contrast what this Marine did against the JAG off(icer) who advised a US Commander not to shoot a hellfire at Mullah Omar. Who did more damage to the WOT? This Marine or the Jagoff enforcing his questionable "rules"?

  6. So Sandy Burglar gets off with a slap on the wrist for destroying classified documents, smuggling them out of the National Archives, and obstructing justice during the 9/11 panel investigations, (and who is now Hillary Clinton's go to guy for National Security) yet this guy gets nailed to the wall for what amounts to ignoring the chain of command in order to stop some terrorist scumbags.

    We truly do live in bizzaro world.

  7. Good story Matt.

    I am always glad when Glenn Reynolds links to you so a ton of people will see your good work.

  8. This guy should get a Sandy Berger-style wrist slap, if that. And then he should be invited to testify before Congress about the incompetence of our domestic intelligence operations.

    Two years in the can for helping out some fellow military....sheesh.....


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