WASHINGTON — A Maryland man who in the 1980s was convicted of espionage and later pardoned for leaking spy satellite photos to a British magazine has been charged with stealing government records related to a famous Naval historian who was his grandfather.
Samuel Loring Morison, of Crofton, was arrested today but released pending trial. Prosecutors allege Morison, 69, stole government records tied to his grandfather, Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison, from a Navy archive in Washington.
The elder Morison wrote a seminal 15-volume history of naval operations during World War II. A Harvard professor, he was also a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in the biography category. He died in 1976.
Prosecutors say the younger Morison took the files belonging to the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington where he had been a part-time researcher. Prosecutors say approximately 34 boxes of government records were found in his home and that other records he took were being sold on eBay.
If convicted of theft of government property Morison faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
When reached by telephone today, Morison referred questions to his attorney but called his grandfather his “idol.”
Morison’s attorney, Jim Wyda, said in an email that he and his client look forward to addressing the allegations in court.
Morison was convicted in 1985 of leaking three spy satellite photographs to the British military magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly. At the time he gave the magazine the photographs, pictures the Soviet Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier under construction, he was a civilian employed by the Navy as an intelligence analyst. His attorneys defended Morison by saying he was trying to inform the public about a Soviet naval buildup and didn’t disclose anything the Soviets didn’t already know.
Morison was sentenced to two years in prison. He was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001.