FAIRFIELD, California — An Air Force captain with top secret clearance whose disappearance 35 years ago raised the specter he had given sensitive missile secrets to the Russians, has been found, authorities said.
Capt. William Howard Hughes, 66, was declared missing in 1983 after failing to return to Kirtland Air Force base in Albuquerque, New Mexico following a temporary assignment at NATO headquarters in the Netherlands.
A probe revealed that Hughes had withdrawn $28,500 from his accounts at 19 different bank locations in Albuquerque before he disappeared. His car was found at the Albuquerque airport.
He was finally located on June 5, when investigators conducting a passport fraud probe in California interviewed a man who claimed to be Barry O’Beirne. But after questioning him about inconsistencies in his story, he admitted he was Hughes.
He told investigators that at the time of his disappearance, he had been depressed about being in the Air Force and decided to leave. He said he moved to California and had lived there since as Barry O’Beirne.
At the time of his disappearance, Hughes had top secret security about matters relating to NATO. His family told reporters at the time that they thought he had been abducted.
In 1984, a report in the Los Angeles Times speculated that Hughes had possibly defected to the Soviet Union and given them sensitive information about NATO defense systems.
Authorities say they have no reason to believe at this point that Hughes had given information to the Russians but were continuing to investigate.
He is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California.