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Methods of Interrogators Under Fire in Sex-Spy Case

June 14, 1987|GAYLORD SHAW | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — One day after the Marine Corps dropped all espionage charges against Cpl. Arnold Bracy in the sex-and-spying scandal at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, there were new signs Saturday of problems for the prosecutors of the remaining espionage case against Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree.

The decision to release Bracy, a former security guard at the embassy, left only Lonetree facing a court-martial on espionage charges. It also left naval investigators of the case under attack for their methods.

The Times has learned that at least two other former Moscow embassy guards, Cpl. Robert J. Williams and Staff Sgt. Vincent Downes, have signed sworn statements complaining that agents for the Naval Investigative Service used lie-detector tests and threats to pressure them into falsely accusing their fellow Marines.

"A lot of Marines are being punished on the basis of statements contrived by NIS," Williams said in a statement he signed May 15.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 20, 1987 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 2 National Desk 2 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Marine Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, who dismissed espionage charges June 12 against Cpl. Arnold Bracy, a former guard at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was incorrectly quoted in a June 14 story as saying that the Naval Investigative Service had conducted "an intensive and thorough investigation" of Bracy's conduct in Moscow. That quote should have been attributed to Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Va., which included it as part of a June 12 statement on the dismissal of charges.

Williams urged in his statement, now being circulated on Capitol Hill, that the tactics of the NIS be investigated. "Their job is to find the truth," he said. "Their job is not to fabricate a story or to change people's words so as to make themselves and others look guilty."

In a statement Friday, the Pentagon insisted that the massive NIS investigation was conducted in an "absolutely . . . correct and professional manner."

But one military lawyer called it "a worldwide wild goose chase," another termed it "heavy-handed, at best" and Bracy's civilian lawyer charged that the NIS went "into a frenzy."

Williams, in his statement, says that he was interrogated during three days in April by NIS agents who pressed him for information about $35,000 they contended Bracy had been paid by the Soviet KGB.

"This kept up for hours and hours about Bracy," Williams said, and the agents "continued to harass me, trying to get me to say I had knowledge of the fact that Bracy received $35,000. We went over and over this fact. They kept saying that if I had this knowledge I would later be charged for withholding evidence, that I would go to jail and that I could be relieved or my career would be ruined. They would not accept the truth. . . . "

Williams said that his interrogation "did not finish until I agreed with their so-called case scenarios. . . . All day long, I kept arguing with them about what could have happened and their changing around what I was saying. They asked me to speculate. When I told them what could have happened they documented it as fact."

'Twisting the Truth'

Later, Williams said, he talked with other guards and discovered "the agents did that to all the Marines. The agents had put words in the other Marines' statements as well, thereby twisting the truth."

In another sworn statement also being studied by congressional aides, Downes, a Marine staff sergeant and former assistant detachment commander at the Moscow embassy, told of nine lie-detector tests he was given by NIS agents.

"After being mentally and physically drained, the NIS agents informed me that I could not resume my military career until my name was cleared from their list," Downes said. "They told me my life would never be the same because they would open a file on me called the 'Person of Particular Interest' file.

"They told me that someone would always be looking into my life, if not NIS then the FBI. They told me my military career would be at a standstill, if not completely over, because I could never be assigned overseas and my security clearances would be pulled. They told me that I could forget about ever getting any government or federal job.

"They also told me that because I was not coming up with the presumed knowledge I had on Cpl. Bracy that the Soviet-U.S. contacts in Moscow were being killed, and I was partially responsible for their deaths. After numerous days and hours of questioning, I requested to go under hypnosis, or truth serum, to try and uncover this knowledge."

Tells of Misgivings

Downes said that when he expressed misgivings about signing any statement, "the NIS agent . . . told me I was only swearing to him and not to God so I had nothing to worry about."

Bracy and Staff Sgt. Robert Stufflebeam, another former Marine security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, also were the subjects of extensive lie-detector tests.

Bracy was arrested for espionage, based on statements he made during his March interrogation but quickly recanted. He spent nearly three months in solitary confinement at a Marine brig before being released Friday, when all charges against him were dropped because of insufficient evidence.

Stufflebeam also was arrested, based on statements he made during his interrogation, and he is now awaiting the military's decision on whether he will be court-martialed on charges that he had forbidden contacts with Soviet women. He has not been charged with espionage.

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