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Accused spy's defense bolstered by e-mails

Attorney says Anaheim company knew about his plans. Officials say no permission was given.

March 30, 2007|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

An attorney showed a jury e-mails Thursday that he said proved officials at an Anaheim defense firm knew that an engineer accused of illegally supplying military technology to China was going to present the information at a public symposium.

Chi Mak, 67, is on trial in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, charged with 15 counts of conspiring to violate export laws, exporting or attempting to export defense information to China, acting as an agent of the Chinese government and lying to the FBI. He has been held without bail since his arrest on Oct. 28, 2005. A naturalized citizen who grew up in China, he worked on Navy warship projects for Power Paragon Inc.

Fred Witham, head of security at Power Paragon for 15 years, testified that Mak presented documents at the conferences without company approval.

The company would have had to obtain State Department permission before Mak could release the information at the symposiums, he said.

However, defense attorney Ronald O. Kaye produced e-mails Mak sent in 2004 to his supervisor Jim Edman and company President Bruce Moore that the attorney said show his plans to attend a symposium and how it would benefit the company.

Mak is charged with breaking the law by not getting permission from Power Paragon and the State Department before presenting the two reports at symposiums that foreign engineers attended.

Kaye said outside the courtroom that one of the reports that the government alleges Mak presented was instead delivered by another engineer who also worked at the Anaheim company.

The two reports covered the company's work on a quiet electric-drive motor for American submarines and a power source for warships.

Mak is also charged with copying the documents onto two computer disks that he allegedly attempted to illegally export to China. Prosecutors said this is a violation of the U.S. Munitions List, which prohibits its export to China.

However, the information, which is unclassified but considered sensitive, was placed on the list months after Mak's arrest. Kaye said it was not illegal to export the information at the time.

The government alleged that Mak intended to pass the technology to the Chinese military. Kaye said it was intended for a family friend in China who is also an engineer and owns a business.

Prosecutors said Mak also violated the law by taking home sensitive documents marked "NOFORN," which stands for No Foreign, meaning the information can be viewed only by U.S. citizens.

Witham testified that Power Paragon has a strict policy that forbids employees from taking documents home, and records are kept in a secure location.

He appeared surprised when Kaye asked him about the testimony and affidavits from an earlier hearing in the case from three Power Paragon engineers who said taking "NOFORN" documents home was a common practice.

Witham said he was unaware of that and it was a violation of company rules.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Chinese government denied involvement with Mak.

"We have reiterated many times that allegations that China stole U.S. military secrets are groundless and made out of ulterior motives," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news conference in Beijing.

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hgreza@latimes.com

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