WASHINGTON — The Navy is weighing charges of espionage against an officer who is a naturalized American citizen and has been under investigation since last year on suspicion of providing secret information to China and Taiwan, United States officials said.
The allegations against the officer, Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, 39, who was born in Taiwan, are part of a secretive espionage case in which Commander Lin is also accused of visiting a prostitute. United States officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation into the officer is continuing, said Navy investigators believed that Commander Lin provided secret information to a Chinese girlfriend.
The officials could not say how the information was then passed on to Taiwanese or Chinese officials, but Commander Lin, a flight officer who worked on Navy spy planes, is accused of communicating secret information knowing that it would be used by a foreign government. The other charges being considered against Commander Lin include hiring a prostitute, committing adultery — a crime in the military — and not disclosing foreign travel to the United States government, and then lying about it.
For Commander Lin, who moved to the United States as a teenager, the allegations represent a huge reversal. The Navy had held him up as an example of what immigrants can achieve in the United States and in the military.
The Navy featured his personal story in December 2008 in a public affairs report on his naturalization ceremony, which took place in the United States District Court in Honolulu.
“Lin was 14 years old when he and his family left Taiwan,” the report said. “They had to travel halfway around the world, stopping in different countries along the way where they had to quickly adapt to new cultures and to find inventive ways to communicate while learning new languages.”
The report quoted Commander Lin as saying, “I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land.’”
“I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland,” he added, according to the report. It went on to say that “upon arriving, he quickly found out that it was not about where the roads lead, but where his future in America would take him.”
Until his arrest in September, Commander Lin’s path did appear to be that of an American success story. He enlisted in 1999, and three years later he attended Officer Candidate School, receiving his commission in May 2002, according to his Navy biography.
He went on to serve in a variety of roles as a flight officer, and attended the United States Naval War College in Newport, R.I., from December 2010 to February 2012. From there he went to a job on the Navy staff at the Pentagon, and then was assigned to the Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 in Hawaii, the last assignment before his arrest.
An Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury, was held for Commander Lin on Friday, and a decision about whether to formally bring his case before a full court-martial is expected by next week, the officials said.
The charge sheet that was considered at the Article 32 hearing, two officials said, included only allegations of spying for Taiwan; the possibility that he also spied for China is still the subject of the investigation, which is being conducted jointly by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the F.B.I., they said.
Commander Lin has been in pretrial confinement at the Navy Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Va., since his arrest, the officials said.
The Navy has not formally identified Commander Lin in connection with the case, but it was first reported by USNI News and later confirmed by United States officials.
An earlier version of this article misstated the status of charges against Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin as part of a secretive espionage case. The Navy is weighing charges, he has not been charged.