The Sailor We Left Behind

As President George W. Bush signals that he is prepared to go to war with Iraq, it is important that our men and women in the military know that the United States will stand behind them when the going gets tough, as surely it will.

On Monday, the very day of his address to the nation, a trial was just getting underway in Seattle that is a national embarrassment: Lt Cmdr Jack Daly vs. the Far Eastern Shipping Company, better known as FESCO.

The trial is a result of a close encounter on April 4, 1997, between this highly decorated intelligence officer and one of the Russian company's merchant ships, the Kapitan Man. It occurred in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a narrow bottleneck of a waterway, which separates British Columbia from Washington state and Puget Sound. This is the home base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet's nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines and many of its aircraft carriers.

Until recently, commercial ports on Puget Sound like Seattle and Tacoma have been off limits to Russian and Chinese ships for obvious reasons: These governments often use commercial ships for spying and if one of these spy ships gets close to one of our subs, it can target the sub for destruction. In 1992, as a gesture of friendship, this restriction was lifted.

On that fateful day in 1997, Daly was aboard a Canadian helicopter piloted by Capt Pat Barnes on a joint intelligence mission to photograph the Kapitan Man, which had been observed altering its movements in and out of that waterway to coincide with the movement of our subs.

The mission of that helicopter was clear to the Russian crew as Barnes circled low over the ship with Daly in the wide-open cargo door with his camera. It didn't matter. This ship was in our waters. It was our right to photograph it.

Someone aboard that ship obviously was unhappy about it. Hours after the mission, Daly and Barnes begin to experience eye pain and a photograph taken by Daly indicated that he had been shot with a laser. The Clinton administration then went into overdrive to cover up the incident.

The Kapitan Man was detained by the U.S. Coast Guard and later searched. However, the trial revealed that men unfamiliar with this technology conducted the search. They were looking for large bulky items, while a laser capable of causing this injury could be as small as a cigarette pack. Also, the search of this 570-foot vessel was limited to two hours and the search party was locked out of the ship's library. Bill Gertz of the Washington Times obtained classified documents indicating that the State Department took the unusual step of giving the Russians 24-hours advance notice. During that time, the Russian crew was free to come and go unobserved.

Surprise, surprise: No laser was found and the Kapitan Man was allowed to leave the port as if nothing had happened.

Unfortunately, something had happened. The injuries to Barnes and Daly effectively ended their careers. Barnes has been on painkillers and was no longer able to fly. Barnes explained that due to the jury he was allowed to retire and the Canadian government gave him a 15 percent increase in pension benefits because of this eye injury.

Daly was not treated that well. After being examined by experts at the U.S. Army Medical Research Detachment in San Antonio, Texas, the center of expertise for the assessment and treatment of laser-induced eye injuries, he was found to have five lesions on the retina of his right eye and two on the left, but the Pentagon swept this incident under the rug, even doctoring a photograph which was released to the public.

The official U.S. government position is that nothing happened to Daly. His country, in effect, left him at sea. He was retaliated against for testifying before Congress on the threat these ships pose to the Pacific Fleet and to the nation. He has been left alone to bear the pain, which has grown steadily worse.

Judicial Watch is representing Daly in this civil suit against FESCO, which is owned by the Russian government. The purpose of the suit is two-fold: One is to make Jack Daly whole. The other is to expose the security breach that occurred under President Clinton and unfortunately still has not been reviewed or adequately addressed by President Bush.

In fact, those surveillance flights, which were conducted over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, were suspended after that incident and still have not been resumed.

Daly has made it clear that the reason for pursuing his case in civil court is as much about protecting this nation against hostile acts in U.S. territory as it is about recovering damages for what he has lost.

He also is intent about exposing the continuing U.S. government cover-up of this incident in order to make sure that no other military personnel are ever treated this way. The pain in his heart over being abandoned by his country is far greater than the pain from his injury, which often is debilitating. That cannot be lost on our soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines now waiting in the wings.

Jane Chastain WorldNetDaily

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