SAN DIEGO — A retired Navy radioman is being held here on suspicion of several spy-related charges stemming from his work in a telecommunications center in the Philippines, the Navy disclosed Thursday.
Michael H. Allen, 53, was arrested by Navy security agents in the Philippines Dec. 4 and is being held in the brig at the San Diego Naval Station pending court- martial proceedings.
Cmdr. Mark Baker, a spokesman for the base, said Allen could be court-martialed under a provision of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that permits such actions against retired military personnel who are receiving retirement pay.
Baker said Allen is being held on suspicion of espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, unauthorized removal of classified information, failure to register as a foreign agent and two charges involving alleged possession of stolen and unauthorized Navy identification cards.
The stolen card Allen is suspected of possessing belonged to a Navy Investigative Service agent, Baker said.
Baker declined to discuss details of the charges because, he said, the investigation is continuing. He would not say for which country or countries Allen is suspected of spying.
"He had routine access to confidential and secret information," Baker said. "As to whether or not he passed any information on to a foreign government, that question is still under investigation. What was passed, what damage was done, we can't comment on specific information because the investigation is still continuing."
No documents classified above the level "secret" have been compromised, Baker said.
The security scale for government documents ranges from unclassified, to confidential to secret to top secret, with various classifications of top secret, depending on the documents' national security implications, Baker said.
He said Allen, who retired from the Navy as a radioman senior chief in 1972 after a 22-year career, worked as a reproduction clerk at the telecommunications center at the Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines. In that job, he had access to classified messages sent through the station. Baker said he did not know how long Allen had been a civilian worker at the base.
The Cubi Point station is across Subic Bay from the Subic Naval Base and is the primary land base of the 7th Fleet's aircraft carrier striking force.
It is also the base of operations for flights of the P3-Orion surveillance planes, which monitor submarine movements in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, including Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. The message center at Cubi Point can receive or submit message traffic into a broader network that covers the Navy's entire Pacific operation.
Baker would not say whether Allen is suspected of obtaining the restricted documents on his own or whether he received them as part of a "sting" operation conducted by Navy security agents.
He said the Navy has "no indication that Allen was involved in espionage activities while on active duty."
Allen was arrested under a standing agreement with the Philippines giving the U.S. jurisdiction over crimes committed against U.S. security by anyone subject to military law.
His arrest came after a five-month investigation begun when co-workers said Allen had been "observed engaging in suspicious activities," Baker said.
Baker said no other agency, such as the FBI or the U.S. Justice Department, was involved in the investigation.
"At present, the U.S. Navy has the jurisdiction in this case, and we are proceeding with it," he said.
Allen could be held as long as 90 days before charges are filed, Baker said.
Times staff writer Mark Fineman in Manila contributed to this story.