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By James MacPherson, Associated Press Writer, Published January 14 2010

Military allows accused Minot officers to quit

BISMARCK – Two officers accused of stealing classified material from an underground missile launch facility at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota have been allowed to resign rather than face courts-martial, the military said Wednesday.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley approved the resignation of Capt. Paul Borowiecki in September and Capt. Javed Abbas last month, the military said. Abbas is currently stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., and “will be out of the Air Force in the near future,” an Air Force statement said.

Borowiecki has been discharged from the service, and is living in Mesa, Ariz., records show.

Neither Borowiecki nor Abbas could be reached for comment Wednesday. Neither man had a listed telephone number, and Abbas did not respond to a message left for him at the base through an Air Force spokesman.

The Air Force had not named Abbas until Wednesday, the day it released the status of both officers, after months of inquiries by The Associated Press.

The men were missile combat crew members assigned to the base’s 91st Missile Wing. They were among the crew members who work 90 feet underground prepared to launch nuclear missiles.

They were accused of taking classified material in July 2005, rather than destroying it as required when it was no longer in use.

The device was used to detect equipment tampering in the launch facility, said Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Thomas.

The Air Force said Borowiecki admitted the theft in May 2008 and returned the device.

A hearing was held in September 2008 to determine whether Borowiecki would face a trial. A supervisor, Capt. David Walbeck, testified at the hearing that Borowiecki wanted the domino-size device as a souvenir because he thought it would be “a cool thing to have.” Walbeck also testified that had the technology been compromised, it could have led to “unintended detonation” of a nuclear missile.

The Air Force later downplayed Walbeck’s statement, saying the launch device is one of many safeguards that must work together to ensure security.

The Air Force has said Borowiecki told officials that Abbas had lied by saying he destroyed his device. The Air Force refused to confirm whether that device remains missing.

“An investigation determined there was no compromise of the safety or reliability of the system,” an Air Force statement said.

Officials said the theft became known when Borowiecki was given a lie-detector test in applying for a job with the government’s National Reconnaissance Office. Officials said he answered yes when asked if he had ever stolen classified material.

Borowiecki was charged with dereliction of duty, making false official statements, wrongful appropriation of military property and mishandling of classified items in violation of federal law.

A court-martial had been scheduled in March for Borowiecki but was postponed.

The Air Force said Abbas also had faced military and federal charges but would not elaborate. The cases were handled by the military separately.

“It was determined that acceptance of these officers’ requests for resignation and directing their administrative discharge from the Air Force was an appropriate resolution for this matter,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Both individuals have been held accountable for their actions.”

The Air Force has said the case led to changes in the procedure for destroying the launch devices after they are no longer in use, and that they are now destroyed at the base under the supervision of two other people with top-secret clearance.

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