Hamilton Tried to Prevent a War
Frederick C. Hamilton was a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency assigned as a bilingual research technician in the Defense Attachés Office at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. He was arrested in 1991 for passing classified DIA reports to the Ecuadorian Military Attaché office in Lima.
Hamilton was unmarried, lived in an apartment on the economy rather than in the U.S. Embassy compound, and spent most of his free time associating with local citizens rather than Americans. He had learned Spanish from his Spanish mother. He devoted much time to humanitarian efforts, helping a local community establish a hospital and volunteering assistance during a cholera epidemic. Hamilton was particularly impressed by his experiences touring sites where Peruvian civilians had been massacred by terrorists. Peru had a major terrorism problem at that time.
Hamilton learned in early 1991 that the Peruvian government was concerned about a possible border war with Ecuador. It was relocating troops to the Ecuadorian border that had been deployed against the terrorist threat. Two concerned officials from the Ecuadorian Military Attaché Office in Lima asked Hamilton if, in the event of war, they and their families could take refuge in Hamiltons apartment. Hamilton agreed.
Hamilton began to consider ways to reduce tensions between Peru and Ecuador. His colleagues in the U.S. Defense Attachés Office agreed that if either side knew the true capabilities and intentions of the other, the tensions would be greatly reduced. However, it seemed unlikely that DIA Headquarters would grant approval in a timely manner to pass information to the Peruvians or Ecuadorians.
Hamilton identified so closely with the local citizens that he lost his ability to remain objective. He also had a disdain for "bureaucracy," which he saw as often hindering rather than helping U.S. foreign policy. He took it upon himself on two occasions to pass classified documents to the Ecuadorians. These included raw intelligence reports that could have compromised a confidential source. He was motivated by a desire to prevent a war between Peru and Ecuador and was not paid for his efforts. He rationalized that what he did would be in the best interests not only of the people of Peru and Ecuador, but also of the U.S. Government.
Although Hamiltons desire to prevent a war was laudable, his unilateral action to compromise classified information cannot be condoned. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison.
Related Topics: How Spies Are Caught.