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Missing Air Force officer with top-secret clearance found after 35 years

U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations shows William Howard Hughes Jr. Hughes a Kirtland Air Force Base officer with top security clearance who disappeared 35 years ago who has been found in California. The Air Missing Air Force officer with top-secret clearance found after 35 years
Bennie Garza | 12 June, 2018, 06:42

When investigators confronted him about "inconsistencies about his identity", the man confessed that his real name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted the Air Force in 1983, according to the Office of Special Investigations.

His true identity came to light during a passport fraud investigation being conducted by the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, officials stated. This is the last time he was seen as William Howard Hughes until last week.

Hughes "was the "lead analyst" of the Command Control and Communication Surveillance Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., which tests new space-related weapons systems", the Times said.

Hughes was unmarried when he disappeared, but the Seattle native had three sisters. On December 1983, the Air Force declared Hughes a deserter.

He said that he had been depressed about being in the air force, so chose to leave and create a new identity - since then, he has been living in California.

OSI agents assigned to Travis AFB in northern California went to his home and arrested the fugitive captain without incident.

Missing Air Force officer with top-secret clearance found after 35 years

Hughes was last seen in the Albuquerque area withdrawing $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branches, the Air Force said, though not indicating when. He had been at Kirtland since 1981, working on highly classified operations involving NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems, according to the news release. There were even rumors he might have been defected to the Soviet Union.

It is unknown whether family had been in contact with Hughes or knew of his whereabouts following his 1983 disappearance.

After several rocket ship failures in the U.S. and France, including the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc theorised Capt Hughes may have been to blame. Hughes was recently apprehended 35 years after he is alleged to have deserted.

Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal Sunday that to this day officials still do not have any evidence indicating leaks of classified information.

In Jan. 1984, Hughes' sister, Christine Hughes, told the Associated Press that the family believed Hughes had been abducted. Hughes's Cold War-era disappearance prompted concerns and theories that the Air Force officer had been abducted by the Soviet Union or had defected to the USSR. He faces up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".

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