"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

White House computers part of spy probe
Seattle Times/AP
By Mark Sherman
The Associated Press
October 7, 2005

WASHINGTON — FBI agents examined computers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and talked to former and current White House aides yesterday as they investigated an FBI intelligence analyst accused of passing classified information to Filipino officials.

Meanwhile, former Philippine President Joseph Estrada acknowledged receiving an internal U.S. government report on the Philippines from the analyst, Leandro Aragoncillo, but played down the importance of the information, comparing it to material aired in his country's media.

The FBI is looking at whether Aragoncillo, a former Marine, took classified information about the Philippines from the White House when he worked for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Cheney from 1999 to 2002.

The type of information has not been disclosed. Though Aragoncillo had top-secret clearance, that status would not have made him privy to highly sensitive intelligence.

Aragoncillo, a U.S. citizen originally from the Philippines, was charged last month with providing classified information from his FBI posting at Fort Monmouth, N.J., to former and current Philippine officials who oppose President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Aragoncillo began working at Fort Monmouth after retiring from the Marine Corps last year.

Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said the criminal complaint against Aragoncillo suggests the information could have been intended to destabilize the Philippine government.

Michael Ray Aquino, a former top Philippine police official who acted as Aragoncillo's alleged go-between, was indicted by a Newark, N.J., federal grand jury yesterday on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Aragoncillo, 46, of Woodbury, N.J., and Aquino, 39, living in Queens, N.Y., have been jailed since their arrests last month.

Federal prosecutors in Newark did not seek an indictment against Aragoncillo because he is negotiating a plea, court records show.

Aquino lawyer Mark Berman said his client rejected a deal. "There's a fundamental difference between Aragoncillo and Aquino," Berman said. "Aquino is not an FBI agent and had no reason to know that the information the government laid out in the indictment was classified."

While the criminal complaint is limited to Aragoncillo's time at Fort Monmouth, the investigation has widened to include his stint, while a Marine, in the vice president's office.

Estrada told The Washington Post that he received a three-page internal U.S. analysis of political developments in his country from Aragoncillo. He did not remember the date, but said he received the document when Aragoncillo came to see him after his January 2001 ouster.

"This document was about the graft and corruption happening in the country. It's nothing new," Estrada said.

Estrada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer last month he had received e-mail from Aragoncillo. Estrada, who was toppled in massive street protests in 2001 on charges of corruption and is under house arrest while on trial, also told the newspaper that Aragoncillo visited him in detention and passed on documents on the Philippine situation.

The transfers apparently occurred between mid-2001 and 2003, the Inquirer quoted Estrada as saying. He did not elaborate.

A Philippine opposition senator also has acknowledged receiving information from Aquino. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief under whom Aquino served, said he and "many others" received information passed by Aquino, but he played down the value of the reports, describing them as "shallow information."

White House and Justice Department officials declined to comment.