A San Dimas advertising executive who found a cache of documents last week in a secondhand desk that once belonged to Hughes Aircraft says he is not convinced by the aerospace company's assertions that the material was not classified.
"A guy from Hughes called me yesterday and said the stuff was just a lot of theory," Mark White said Wednesday, referring to the handwritten notes and calculations concerning electronic countermeasures to be employed by an experimental Army helicopter against detection by enemy aircraft. "But, hey, man, that's some pretty heavy theory."
White bought the desk for $39.95 last Saturday from a Monrovia office supply store. When he pried open its locked drawers, he discovered materials relating to the LHX helicopter, including its maximum takeoff weight, top speed, weaponry and "reduced radar signature," which would help the aircraft to evade detection by an enemy.
White, 35, a former Navy technician with clearance for secret documents, turned the materials over to the FBI Sunday. A Hughes spokesman said that experts from the company had determined that the materials were either "pure textbook descriptions," which were "only talking about theory," or reports on information that was already available to the public.
"We went through them, piece by piece and document by document, and we found nothing there that was classified," said Hughes spokesman Ray Silvius.
Dick Mellitt, Hughes' director of security, said that one document that was marked "classified" was part of a library classification system rather than a piece of material that was classified for national security reasons.
"Of course, they're going to try to downplay it," said White.
But the FBI confirmed that the agency had determined that the materials were not classified. S. A. Hovanessian, the aerospace engineer to whom the desk had once belonged, described the materials as "working documents" he was using in preparing articles and speeches.
"You don't want to make too many of these public either," Hovanessian said. He said, however, that none of the materials contained national secrets.
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Hovanessian left Hughes Aircraft in October, 1986, to work for the Aerospace Corp. He said he left the materials on his desk for use by other Hughes employees. "What happened was that somebody pushed all the stuff into the desk and locked it," he said. "I've been told that this procedure will be reevaluated."
A spokesman for Southern California Salvage, the Monrovia-based office supply company that sold the desk to White, said that second-hand furniture coming from Hughes often contained technical documents.
"Most of them are blueprints," said assistant manager Joe Chavira. "We've gotten plans for helicopters and different types of planes. We've contacted them a few times, but the only reply we got was, 'Just throw the stuff in the trash. They're not of any value to anybody.' "