Samuel Loring Morison

Samuel Loring Morison (born October 30, 1944) is a former American intelligence professional, convicted of espionage and theft of government property in 1985, and pardoned by President Clinton in 2001. He was born in London, England where his father was stationed during World War II. Much of Morison’s younger years were spent in New York and Maine. He attended Tabor Academy, a college preparatory school in Massachusetts and in 1967 graduated from the University of Louisville.

His family has a history of service to the U.S. defense community. His paternal grandfather, Samuel Eliot Morison, was a distinguished naval historian, a Rear Admiral in the Naval Reserve and a professor at Harvard University.

Samuel Loring Morison worked as an intelligence analyst at the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) in Suitland, Maryland, from 1974 to 1984, specializing in Soviet amphibious and mine-laying vessels.

At the same time, Morison earned $5,000 per year as a part-time contributor and editor of the American section of the London-based "Jane's Fighting Ships", an annual reference work on the world's navies. There were repeated complaints about Morison using U.S. Navy office time and facilities to do his work for "Jane's" and warnings to him about conflict of interest between the jobs.Fact|date=July 2007

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

In 1984, two images of Soviet aircraft, taken by a KH-8 or KH-9 satellite, were inadvertently published in Congressional hearings. That same year, "Jane's Defence Weekly" was provided with several images taken by a KH-11 satellite of a Soviet naval shipbuilding facility. The 1984 computer enhanced KH-11 photo (pictured at the right), taken at an oblique angle was leaked, along with two others, to "Jane's Defence Weekly". The image shows the general layout of the Nikolaiev 444 shipyard in the Black Sea. Under construction is a Kiev class aircraft carrier (shown in the left side of the photo), then known as the Kharkov, along with an amphibious landing ship.

A joint investigation by the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI led to Morison, resulting in his arrest on October 1, 1984. A search of Morison’s apartment in Crofton, Maryland, revealed several hundred government documents. Some of the documents were classified. Investigations of this incident never revealed any intent to provide information to a hostile intelligence service. Morison was charged with espionage and theft of government property. During interrogation Morison revealed that the reason he sent the photographs to "Jane’s" was because the "public should be aware of what was going on on the other side" and that "if the American people knew what the Soviets were doing, they would increase the defense budget." On October 17 1985 and Morison was found guilty in Federal Court of the charges and on December 4 1985, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Morison believed that the new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would transform Soviet capabilities and therefore had a political motive for passing classified information to the media -- to influence American public opinion in favor of a stronger defense posture.

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.

During the 1980s, there have been a number of inadvertent or unauthorized disclosures of U.S. satellite imagery. In 1980, as a result of the fiasco at Desert One, KH-11 imagery of possible evacuation sites in Tehran was left behind. In 1981, "Aviation Week & Space Technology" published a leaked (and degraded) KH-11 photo of a Soviet bomber at Ramenskoye Airfield. In 1984, two images of Soviet aircraft taken by a KH-8 or KH-9 satellite were published, apparently by mistake, in the (thought to be) sanitized version of the Congressional hearings released to the public. None of these cases resulted in convictions.

In 1998, in a letter from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan 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 VENONA and Theodore Hall as serious espionage cases that were not pursued and Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo whose serious cases were dismissed. On January 20, 2001, the last day of his presidency, President Clinton pardoned Morison.


* Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan (September 29, 1998) via Federation of American Scientists []
* U.S. Satellite Imagery, 1960-1999, Jeffrey T. Richelson, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 13 (April 14, 1999). []
* P. Weiss, "The quiet coup: U.S. v. Morison - a victory for secret government," Harper’s, September 1989. []
* CI Reader: American Revolution into the New Millennium (pdf). National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX). []

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