14 April 2016

Accused Spy Served in One of the US Navy’s Most Secretive Intelligence Units

David Larter
April 12, 2016

Accused spy served in one of Navy’s most shadowy squadrons

A U.S. Navy officer charged with spying for a foreign power worked at one of the service’s most elite reconnaissance squadrons, whose operations are shrouded in secrecy.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, a naval flight officer, worked for Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 for a year before being arrested last summer, according to his Navy record. The Kaneohe, Hawaii-based VPU-2 is one of two special projects squadrons that sources say are made up of the fleet’s top maritime patrol officers, who fly the P-3 Orion and P-8A Poseidon.

“VPU guys are generally the top 25 percent of the program,” said an aviation officer who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive maritime surveillance programs. “They are specially screened.”

Lin faces charges for sharing classified information with sources in the Asia-Pacific region. His placement inside the shadowy world of VPU-2 could give foreign spymasters unparalleled access into classified reconnaissance capabilities and intelligence from the region.

Very little is public about the VPUs, including details about the aircraft they fly. The outfit has access to Joint Urgent Operational Needs funds, which sidesteps and speeds the normal acquisitions process, the officer said.

Generally speaking, the VPU officers are those who earned the highest evaluations during their first tour, the officer said.

“In the P-3 community they are known as ‘Jerry’s Kids’ because they are special,” the officer said, referring to the charity run by comedian Jerry Lewis that aided children with special needs. “Basically what that means is that whatever the special projects guys need, they get.”

The squadrons are set aside for “national-level tasking,” the officer said, which could mean any number of things but the details of their missions are highly classified.

These squadrons fly specially outfitted maritime patrol airplanes designed to collect signals and electronic intelligence, among other types of surveillance.

“They have the coolest stuff, as much of it as they need and what they do with it is classified,” the officer said.

The squadrons have been known to fly planes with high-tech electronic surveillance gear designed to look like standard maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft,according to a website dedicated to P-3 Orions and their missions.

Who is Edward Lin?

Lin went before a preliminary hearing Friday on charges of espionage, attempted espionage and communicating defense information, according to his charge sheet released to Navy Times.

Investigators believe Lin was spying for Taiwan or the People’s Republic of China, or both, according to U.S. officials who asked for anonymity to discuss an ongoing legal case.

Lin enlisted in the Navy in 1999 and was in the nuclear power training pipeline until he was picked up for officer candidate school in 2002, according to his bio.

Lt. Edward Lin, a native of Taiwan, shares his personal stories about his journey to American citizenship to 80 newly nationalized citizens at a Dec. 3, 2008, naturalization ceremony. (Photo: MC1 Sarah Murphy/Navy)

He was commissioned in May of that year and went on to flight training and then NFO school. Over the next 11 years he joined a handful of squadrons around the country, did a sea tour on the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and a shore tour at the Navy’s comptroller’s office at the Pentagon.

Lin moved to the U.S. when he was 14 from Taiwan, according to a Navy release that covered his naturalization ceremony in 2008. In his speech, he said he grew up dreaming of coming to America.

“I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land,’” he said. “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland.”

He joined the special projects unit in the spring of 2014, according to his bio.

The judge has 10 days from the Article 32 hearing to recommend whether the case should be referred to court-martial.

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