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Inquiry opens into passing of secret files

A Marine sergeant on trial testifies that he gave classified military intelligence to terrorism experts for the Sheriff's Department and LAPD.

October 12, 2007|Richard Winton, Tony Perry, and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Federal and local investigations were underway Thursday into allegations by a Marine gunnery sergeant that he gave stolen top-secret antiterrorism files to a Los Angeles Police Department officer and an L.A. County sheriff's detective.

Authorities said the probes by the FBI, LAPD internal affairs and Naval Criminal Investigative Service come after Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz testified during a court-martial at Camp Pendleton in July that he gave classified military intelligence to several people, including the two Los Angeles law enforcement officials.

Maziarz was on trial for allegedly taking the classified military files from Camp Pendleton and the U.S. Northern Command, which tracks domestic terrorism activity.

After testifying, he pleaded guilty to mishandling more than 100 classified documents and passing them to at least four individuals.

In his testimony, he said that L.A. County Sheriff's Det. Larry Richards, a department counterterrorism specialist and Marine reserve colonel, "recruited" him to collect classified documents at Camp Pendleton and pass them to him and others, according to military sources.

The testimony was first reported earlier this week in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Maziarz testified that he regularly handed documents to Richards and LAPD Officer David Litaker -- sometimes over lunch at the base, the sources said.

The months-long investigation has stunned many in the intelligence community, both because of the scope of the security breach and the questions about a possible motive.

With access to the most closely guarded U.S. government secrets, most military reservists working as intelligence analysts or counterterrorism agents would have been provided access to "Top Secret" or even "Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented" information.

Los Angeles law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said they believed that much of the intelligence in the case would have eventually made its way to local law enforcement.

One source said obtaining the data would put the recipients "ahead of the curve" in analyzing sensitive intelligence data for their law enforcement agencies.

To date, the sources said, there was no indication that any of the information had been passed to foreign powers or was used for financial gain.

Richards has served two tours in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star.

He is perhaps best known as the co-creator of the Sheriff's Department's groundbreaking Terrorism Early Warning Center.

Sheriff's Chief William J. McSweeney, head of the Homeland Security office, said the department became aware of an investigation into Richards earlier this year.

McSweeney says Richards was placed on leave.

He described Richards as a respected intelligence analyst. "He is one of the top guys in the field," he said.

LAPD antiterrorism officials would not comment on Litaker but indicated that an internal inquiry was underway

"This investigation is being conducted separate and apart from our administrative inquiry, and as such I cannot comment," said Deputy Chief Michael Downing, head of the LAPD's counterterrorism and criminal intelligence bureau.

LAPD sources said Litaker is working at the Rampart Division and has been assigned to desk duty during the investigation.

The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, said Litaker recently retired as a lieutenant colonel with the Marine Corps Reserve.

The investigation into Maziarz began last year when a colonel at Camp Pendleton reported that a large quantity of confiscated weapons from Iraq was missing.

Information led to Maziarz. Authorities searched his apartment and storage lockers in Carlsbad, Calif., and Virginia and allegedly found a Russian sniper rifle, gold-colored and nickel-plated AK-47s, Iraqi swords, foreign military helmets, Iraqi plaques and several classified documents.

The Washington Post reported last year that two folders containing about 250 pages of material marked "SECRET" were also discovered in one of the storage units.

Maziarz this summer was convicted of theft, wrongful possession of steroids, making a false official statement, possession of unregistered assault rifles and violations relating to the improper handling of classified materials.

A judge sentenced him to seven years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

A pretrial agreement reduced his time to 26 months and required that he fully cooperate with the investigation.

Maziarz's final sentence will be up to the Marine general overseeing the case.

richard.winton@latimes.com

tony.perry@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

--

Times staff writer Greg Krikorian contributed to this report.

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