Samuel Loring Morison
Samuel Loring Morison is a former American intelligence professional, who was convicted of espionage and theft of government property in 1985, and pardoned in 2001. He was "the only [American] government official ever convicted for giving classified information to the press.


Morison was born in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, where his father was stationed during World War II. His paternal grandfather, Samuel Eliot Morison
Samuel Eliot Morison
Samuel Eliot Morison, Rear Admiral, United States Naval Reserve was an American historian noted for his works of maritime history that were both authoritative and highly readable. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912, and taught history at the university for 40 years...

, was a distinguished naval historian, a Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

 in the Naval Reserve
United States Navy Reserve
The United States Navy Reserve, until 2005 known as the United States Naval Reserve, is the Reserve Component of the United States Navy...

 and Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 professor. Morison spent much of his younger years in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

. He attended Tabor Academy
Tabor Academy
Tabor Academy is a highly selective independent preparatory school located in Marion, Massachusetts, United States. Tabor is known for its marine science courses...

, a college preparatory school in Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 and graduated from the University of Louisville
University of Louisville
The University of Louisville is a public university in Louisville, Kentucky. When founded in 1798, it was the first city-owned public university in the United States and one of the first universities chartered west of the Allegheny Mountains. The university is mandated by the Kentucky General...

 in 1967.

Morison worked as an intelligence analyst at the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) in Suitland, Maryland, from 1974 to 1984, specializing in Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 amphibious and mine-laying vessels. During those years, Morison also earned $5,000 per year as a part-time contributor and editor of the American section of the London-based Jane's Fighting Ships
Jane's Fighting Ships
Jane's Fighting Ships is an annual reference book of information on all the world's warships arranged by nation, including information on ship's names, dimensions, armaments, silhouettes and photographs, etc...

, an annual reference work on the world's navies.

Conflicts with his supervisors led Morison to seek a full-time position with Jane's in London. At this time, he began overstepping the boundary of permissible information that could be sent to Jane's. As a GS-12 Soviet amphibious ship analyst with a Top Secret
Top Secret
Top Secret generally refers to the highest acknowledged level of classified information.Top Secret may also refer to:- Film and television :* Top Secret , a British comedy directed by Mario Zampi...

 clearance, Morison provided Jane's with three secret satellite photographs that he had taken from the desk of a coworker at NISC in July 1984. Morison cut classified control markings from them before mailing them to Jane's.

In 1984, two images of Soviet aircraft taken by a KH-8
The KH-8, codenamed Gambit 3 was a long-lived series of reconnaissance satellites of the "Key Hole" series used by the United States from July 1966 to April 1984, and also known as Low Altitude Surveillance Platform. The satellite ejected canisters of photographic film that were retrieved as they...

 or KH-9 satellite were inadvertently published in records of Congressional hearings. That same year, Jane's Defence Weekly
Jane's Defence Weekly
Jane's Defence Weekly is a weekly magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, edited by Peter Felstead. It is one of a number of military-related publications named after John F. T. Jane, an Englishman who first published Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships in 1898...

 was provided with several images taken by a KH-11
The KH-11 KENNAN, renamed CRYSTAL in 1982 and also referenced by the codenames 1010, and "Key Hole", is a type of reconnaissance satellite launched by the American National Reconnaissance Office since December 1976...

 satellite of a Soviet naval shipbuilding facility. A 1984 computer-enhanced KH-11 photo, taken at an oblique angle, was leaked, along with two others, to Jane's Defence Weekly
Jane's Defence Weekly
Jane's Defence Weekly is a weekly magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, edited by Peter Felstead. It is one of a number of military-related publications named after John F. T. Jane, an Englishman who first published Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships in 1898...

. The image shows the general layout of the Nikolaiev 444 shipyard in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

. Under construction is a Kiev class aircraft carrier
Kiev class aircraft carrier
The Kiev class carriers were the first class of fixed-wing aircraft carriers built in the Soviet Union....

, then known as the Kharkov, along with an amphibious landing ship
Amphibious assault ship
An amphibious assault ship is a type of amphibious warfare ship employed to land and support ground forces on enemy territory by an amphibious assault...


Prosecution and pardon

A joint investigation by the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 led to Morison, who was arrested on October 1, 1984. A search of his apartment in Crofton, Maryland
Crofton, Maryland
Crofton is a census-designated place and planned community in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, United States. Established in 1964, Crofton held its 40th birthday celebration in 2004....

, revealed several hundred government documents, some of them classified. Investigators never demonstrated any intent to provide information to a hostile intelligence service. Morison was charged with espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 and theft of government property. Morison told investigators that he sent the photographs to Jane's because the "public should be aware of what was going on on the other side", meaning that the new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Soviet aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk
Ulyanovsk was the first of a class of Soviet nuclear-powered supercarriers which for the first time would have offered true blue water aviation capability for the Soviet Navy...

 would transform Soviet capabilities. He said that "if the American people knew what the Soviets were doing, they would increase the defense budget." British intelligence sources thought his motives were patriotic. Prosecutors emphasized personal economic gain and Morison's complaints about his government job. Morison once wrote to his editor at Jane's: "My loyalty to Jane's is above question."

The Reagan administration had been struggling to stop the leaking of government information by administering lie-detector tests and conducting dozens of investigations. It used the prosecution of Morison as a "test case" for applying the Espionage Act of 1917
Espionage Act of 1917
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code but is now found under Title 18, Crime...

, originally targeted at spies and the delivery of confidential information to foreign governments, to cover the disclosure of information to the press in the manner of the British Official Secrets Act
Official Secrets Act
The Official Secrets Act is a stock short title used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, India and Malaysia and formerly in New Zealand for legislation that provides for the protection of state secrets and official information, mainly related to national security.-United Kingdom:*The Official Secrets...

. The government did not claim that Morison's actions had damaged U.S. interests, only that further disclosures of comparable information might eventually enhance Soviet capabilities. A March 1984 report noted that "the unauthorized publication of classified information is a routine daily occurrence in the U.S." but that the applicability of the Espionage Act to such disclosures "is not entirely clear." A Time report said that the Administration, if it failed to convict Morison, would seek additional legislation. Time recognized the ongoing problem: "The Government does need to protect military secrets, the public does need information to judge defense policies, and the line between the two is surpassingly difficult to draw."

On October 17, 1985, Morison was convicted in Federal Court on two counts of espionage and two counts of theft of government property. He was sentenced to two years in prison on December 4, 1985. The Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal in 1988.

Following Morison's conviction, the Reagan administration continued its campaign against leaks. In April 1986, an Assistant Under Secretary of Defense was fired for sharing classified information with reporters. In May, CIA Director William Casey threatened to prosecute five news organizations–the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the New York Times, Time and Newsweek–and succeeded in delaying the publication of a Washington Post story.

As a result of the Morison case, policy guidelines for adjudicating security clearances were changed to include consideration of outside activities that present potential conflict of interest.

In 1998, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Daniel Patrick "Pat" Moynihan was an American politician and sociologist. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the United States Senate for New York in 1976, and was re-elected three times . He declined to run for re-election in 2000...

 asked for appeal on the grounds of "the erratic application of that law and the anomaly of this singular conviction in eighty-one years". He cited examples of serious espionage cases that were not pursued, VENONA and Theodore Hall
Theodore Hall
Theodore Alvin Hall was an American physicist and an atomic spy for the Soviet Union, who, during his work on US efforts to develop the first atomic bomb during World War II , gave a detailed description of the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb, and of processes for purifying plutonium, to Soviet...

, and other cases that had been dismissed, including those of Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, PhD, is a former United States military analyst who, while employed by the RAND Corporation, precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War,...

 and Anthony Russo
Anthony Russo (whistleblower)
Anthony J. "Tony" Russo, Jr. was an American researcher who assisted Daniel Ellsberg, his friend and former colleague at the RAND Corporation, in copying the Pentagon Papers.-Early life:...


President Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

pardoned Morison on January 20, 2001, the last day of his presidency, despite the CIA's opposition to the pardon.

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