Grandson of US naval historian charged with stealing records

Posted June 10, 2014, at 4:59 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The grandson of U.S. naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, once jailed for passing classified photos to a magazine, has been charged with stealing records related to his Pulitzer Prize-winning grandfather, authorities said on Tuesday.

Samuel L. Morison, 69, of Crofton, Maryland, appeared in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

He is accused of offering to sell to a bookstore owner U.S. records relating to his late grandfather’s work during World War II, when President Franklin Roosevelt assigned him to write a history of American wartime naval operations.

The bookstore owner is alleged to have taken the records on consignment to sell them on eBay. Agents with the National Archives and Records Administration found that the documents offered online belonged to the Naval Historical Center.

Prosecutors said a search of Morison’s residence turned up about 34 boxes of his grandfather’s papers suspected of being taken from the naval archives. Morison was a part-time researcher at the archives from March 2010, the statement said.

Morison faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for theft of government property. Under his pre-trial release, he is barred from visiting libraries and archives without court approval.

Morison, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was charged in 1984 with illegally passing secret photographs of Soviet ships to a magazine, Jane’s Defense Weekly.

Morison was the first person convicted under the U.S. Espionage Act for divulging secrets to the press. He was sentenced to two years in prison but later paroled by President Bill Clinton.

The elder Morison wrote a 15-volume history of U.S. naval operations during World War II. He won Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of Christopher Columbus and of Revolutionary War sailor John Paul Jones.

 

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