Air Force officer who vanished in 1983 found using fake ID

Air Force officer who vanished in 1983 found using fake ID

A news release via The Air Force Office of Special Investigations told of Kirkland Air Force Base officer, William Howard Hughes Jr. being apprehended at his home following a fraud investigation involving a fake identity the man had been using.

His true identity came to light during a passport fraud investigation being conducted by the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, officials stated.

In retrospect, William Howard Hughes, Jr. was maybe not the kind of guy you wanted to guard your national security.

At the time of his disappearance, he had top secret investigation clearance and was assigned to the air force operational test and evaluation centre in Kirtland, New Mexico. Hughes, a Seattle native was arrested without incident on Wednesday. The Air Force officially declared him deserted in December 1983. Hughes was single when he disappeared and said he had lived in California as O'Beirne since.

He was last seen withdrawing more than US$28,000 in Albuquerque in July 1983 after returning from a two-week holiday in Europe.

According to the USAF, his duties included "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems".

Hughes Jr. masqueraded as "Barry O'Beirne" for over 35 years after he deserted his post with the U.S. Air Force.

He was supposed to be back in Albuquerque by August 1983, but never turned up.

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Hughes was supposed to travel to the Netherlands in July 1983 to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the operations of AWACS electronic surveillance planes.

In a 1984 article by the Associated Press, Capt Hughes' family said they believed he had been abducted. There were even rumors he might have been defected to the Soviet Union.

As it turns out, it appears to be exactly what Hughes did.

There was speculation in the 1980s that Hughes, who specialized in space-launch command, control and communications for satellite surveillance systems, had defected to the Soviet Union, the Los Angeles Times reported in a July 1986 article.

Linda Card, spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal that at this stage, investigators have had "no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information".

"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", Szulc quotes an unidentified intelligence officer as telling him.

"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", she told the newspaper.

Last year, there was uproar when Bowe Berhdahl was spared prison time after being found guilty of deserting his Afghan outpost - instead he was reduced to private in rank, dishonourably discharged and lost pay.

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