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Posted: 10/10/2005 8:54:44 PM EDT
Spy in the White House

Leandro Aragoncillo, a former US Marine of Filipino origin has been arrested for passing classified documents to foreign leaders, over a period during which he may have been assigned to the White House.  SBS News Australia says Aragoncillo passed 100 classified documents from FBI computers which included material damaging to the current President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The information was given to "opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation" -- including, apparently, former President Joseph Estrada, in jail on various corruption charges. According to SBS:

Deposed Philippine president Joseph Estrada admitted last month receiving information from Mr Aragoncillo. ... Mr Aragoncillo apparently gave his information to Mr Estrada while the deposed leader was being held in a military hospital, some time between mid-2001 and 2003.

A Filipino Senator close to Joseph Estrada, a certain Panfilo Lacson has been linked by innuendo to the espionage plot. From SBS again:

Michael Ray Aquino, a former official with the Philippines National Police arrested in March for overstaying a tourist visa, was charged alongside Mr Aragoncillo with "acting as unregistered agents of a foreign official and passing classified information to that official and others in the Republic of the Philippines." Mr Aquino is a known protege of opposition leader Senator Panfilo Lacson, who has been active in opposition efforts to oust Ms Arroyo.

Aragoncillo was a US Marine in a security capacity at the White House from 1999. According to the Washington Post:

Officials ... confirm that Aragoncillo first went to work at the White House in 1999, when Al Gore was vice president. ABC News reported last night that Aragoncillo had admitted taking classified documents while he worked in Cheney's office. ... Joseph Estrada ... has acknowledged receiving documents from Aragoncillo while the suspect was still in the Marines. Estrada told a Philippine newspaper last month that Aragoncillo had passed material while visiting him at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Manila, where the former president was receiving treatment while being held on corruption charges from 2001 through 2003. Part of that stay would coincide with Aragoncillo's time in Cheney's office.

The Washington Post also fingers Filipino Senator Panfilo Lacson, who prior to election had been a high ranking police officer.

Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who unsuccessfully challenged Arroyo in the presidential election last year, said in an interview that he had received e-mails from Aquino. Lacson, a retired national police chief, was the head of a special organized crime task force, and Aquino (Michael Ray Aquino) was a senior aide on that force.

Those interested in further background on Aragoncillo and Michael Ray Aquino can go to this link CIC Center, which includes a link to Aragoncillo's court indictment.  Here is a further link to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, which has a plethora of inside sources in that country.

(Speculation alert) One might reasonably ask how Joseph Estrada and Panfilo Lacson recruited a spy in the White House. Estrada's most notorious route of access into the 1999 White House was through Mark Jimenez, sentenced to two years in a Miami jail for federal election fraud in 2003. His sentence coincidentally, will be completely served this month.

MIAMI, FLORIDA, November 15, 2003 (STAR) — Manila congressman Mark Jimenez ... was sentenced yesterday to more than two years in prison for federal election fraud. Jimenez, who pleaded guilty to election conspiracy and tax evasion charges, was also ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution Thursday. Federal prosecutors said Jimenez made about $41,500 in illegal contributions and caused false information to be submitted to the Federal Election Commission. US law forbids foreigners from making contributions to election campaigns. ...

He also thanked the US justice system. As part of a plea-bargaining agreement with the US Department of Justice, he will be detained in a camp complete with facilities but without a security fence. ... Jimenez had admitted using money from his Miami company and a closely related company to reimburse employees for illegal donations to then US President Bill Clinton and other Democrats. He moved back to the Philippines after Clinton was caught up in a series of fund-raising scandals.

Mark Jimenez knew a lot of people in the Democratic Party. Newsmax has connected him with John Kerry in an article dated from 2004.

According to the Federal Election Commission records Kerry has taken money from Bernard Schwartz the CEO of Loral Corporation, convicted China-gate figure Johnny Chung, convicted China-gate figure John Huang, and convicted fundraising scandal figure Mark Jimenez.

Michelle Malkin described Mark Jimenez's access to the Clinton White house in the following 2001 Jewish World Review article:

In all, Jimenez visited the White House 12 times between 1994 and 1996. He even shelled out $100,000 toward the restoration of the former president's ancestral home in Arkansas. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism notes that photos made available to the press by Jimenez are "usually the ones showing him dining with Bill and Hillary."

Mark Jimenez, not so coincidentally, was a close associate of Joseph Estrada, the very man that accused spy Aragoncillo was said to have passed classified information to. According to a Filipino blogger:

As a close associate of Joseph Estrada, Jimenez reputedly picked up the tabs for Estrada’s gambling loses amounting to as much as PhP (Philippine Pesos $1=50 pesos) 20 to 40M at a time. One colorful description of the man was that despite his "generous" ways with money, he somehow never ran out of it. His "generosity" extended to GROs (female Guest Relations Officers) to whom he reportedly gave six-figure tips.

But returning to the subject of Michael Ray Aquino. The question might be asked why a "senior aide" in the Philippine police and a protege of Senator Panfilo Lacson, one of the other people linked to accused spy Aragoncillo might be skulking around the US on an expired tourist visa. The answer, not surprisingly, is that he was wanted for questioning in connection with a murder in the Philippines.

Fugitive and former police superintendent Michael Ray Aquino was arrested in New York City for an alleged immigration law violation ...
"I think they [New York police] are trying to deport him," Diaz added.In an earlier radio interview on Wednesday, Diaz said Aquino was arrested for allegedly possessing an expired passport. Aquino and former police superintendent Cesar Mancao were charged with the double murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000.

Bubby Dacer, according to unverified sources, was someone who had run afoul of criminal syndicates in the Philippines and needed to be rubbed out. But the connection between his alleged killer, Michael Ray Aquino, and certain names makes interesting reading. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism says:

Aquino was a chief inspector of the defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) headed by then Vice Pres. Joseph Estrada. When the PACC was disbanded to form the now also defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), he was promoted as senior superintendent. During his stint as a PACC agent, Aquino was implicated in five bank robberies and the Kuratong Baleleng rubout case, along with his superior, erstwhile chief superintendent (now senator) Panfilo Lacson, and 32 other police officials. The case was dismissed by a Quezon City trial court judge in 2003.

This story is not so much about a "spy in the White House" -- although it is about that -- as much as a look into the kind of effluent that washed up in Washington in 1999.

A reader writes to say "By the way, the other thing Drudge got wrong is that Aragoncillo stole stuff from Cheney's or Al Gore's offices. But if you read the criminal complaint it only accuses him of downloading US intelligence on Philippine govt officials while working for the FBI in New Jersey in 2005". I noted the same thing myself in comments, which I reproduce verbatim.

The timeline contains a number of puzzling problems. The first regards when Aragoncillo contacted Estrada. The Washington Post article suggests Aragoncillo was passing info to Estrada between 2001 and 2003. However, the indictment suggests the initial transfer of info came in 2005.

"13. Additional records obtained from Hotmail and Yahoo! reveal that as early as January 2005 and continuing through September 2005, defendant LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO used the ARAGONCILLO Hotmail and Yahoo! Accounts to transmit classified documents and information to defendant AQUINO, and various current and former public officials of the Philippines."

The email cited in the first exchange has Michael Ray Aquino introducting Aragoncillo to Philippine official "b".

The other day, Leandro “Lean” Aragoncillo called me. He is the US Marine friend . . . . He already resigned from the USM and is now with the new intelligence unit . . . he is about to finish his training at the FBI NA in Quantico, Virginia."

Clearly this exchange would not have been necessary if Aragoncillo had already been to see Estrada between 2001 and 2003. Yet he is already apparently known to official "b" as "the US Marine friend", which suggests he made the acquaintance of official "b" while still in the USMC.

Update 2
Radioblogger noticed the discrepancy in dates too, which puts the acts of espionage after the Whitehouse stint. My only problem with this is that the indictment suggests from internal evidence, as I've noted above, that Aragoncillo was contacted while still a Marine.

Check the dates, people. The alleged espionage took place two years after he left the White House. It took place while he was at the FBI. The FBI are the ones who caught him. Yes, he's an alleged spy, and he's in for a world of trouble. But Brian Ross and Richard Esposito, and by extension ABC News, have a lot of explaining to do, because their insinuation that this is a White House spy scandal looks to be garbage.

posted by wretchard at 10:54 PM | 32 comments  

Link Posted: 10/10/2005 8:57:20 PM EDT
If you look at the REVISED dates, the theft of this data corresponds with Phillippine President Arroyos sudden about face on the presence of US military personal in their country and their removal from anti-Abu Sayyaf activities WHILE two Americans were still being held hostage.

A subsequent rescue attempt by the Phillippine Army left one of the American hostages dead.  
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