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US Air Force deserter caught in California after 35 years

12 June, 2018, 05:00 | Author: Lucille Rivera
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But federal authorities were interviewing a man named Barry O'Beirne last Tuesday as part of a passport fraud investigation, and when they challenged him over his identity's inconsistencies, he said he was Hughes and had deserted the Air Force in 1983, the news release said.

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

He was assigned to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB, in New Meixco where his duties included classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems. On December 1983, the Air Force declared Hughes a deserter.

Hughes, now 66, told investigators that he was "depressed" about his Air Force career, so he assumed the fictitious identity of O'Beirne and had been living in California ever since.

William Howard Hughes, Jr. was apprehended at his home in California without incident and is now awaiting pre-trial confinement, the OSI said. He had been last seen in New Mexico, where he withdrew almost $30,000 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations.

Hughes was assigned to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, where he was involved in classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems.

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. On Aug. 1, 1983, he was supposed to return to work at Kirkland, but never turned up. There were even rumors he might have been defected to the Soviet Union.

Told one of Hughes' three sisters at the time, 'We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily'.

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The Air Force classified Hughes, who had a "Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation" clearance, as a deserter a few months later.

Capt Hughes disappeared in 1983 after returning from temporary duty in western Europe.

An article from Maddy Hayden for the Albuquerque Journal referenced a story from journo Tad Szulc about Hughes' disappearance in 1986, which suggested he'd defected to the Soviet Union.

Card said Hughes' family has been notified of his apprehension, but it is unknown whether they had been in contact with him or knew his whereabouts.

"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", the LA Times quoted an intelligence officer as saying.

"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information..." If convicted, the officer could face reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement in a military prison for up to five years and a dishonorable discharge, FindLaw.com reports.

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

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