Federal officials tell ABC News the recruitment of the alleged White House spy began in July 2000. At that time, Joseph Estrada, then president of the Philippines, came to the White House for a state visit with President Clinton.
Officials say Estrada and his aides used offers of small amounts of money and appeals to ethnic loyalties to recruit Leandro Aragoncillo, the alleged spy, who was half a million dollars in debt.
“There’s a lot of things this person could have access to, and the Philippines would want to know, ‘What is the U.S. going to do?’“ explained Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent who is now a consultant for ABC News. “‘What are they going to give us in terms of military support? What decisions are they going to make about us?’”
At the time of the recruitment, Aragoncillo was working as an intelligence analyst for Vice President Al Gore. He later told Philippine television that he was eager to stay in the White House and work for Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Because with the change of administration, everybody was asked if they wanted to stay and asked me, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t have to think twice. I will not think twice about staying here,’” he said.
Officials say even after Philippine President Estrada was forced out of office for corruption, Aragoncillo continued to feed him secret files in an apparent attempt to start a coup.
“The notion that classified documents would be transferred from the vice president’s office into the hands of some political party challenging the regime of a foreign country is staggering,” said Jane Harman, a Democratic congresswoman from California.