According to an FBI affidavit filed last week in Virginia, two days later Keyser boarded a plane to Taiwan. There, he allegedly met a 33-year-old female Taiwan intelligence agent who had flown from Washington, where she worked for Taiwan's representative office. He spent $570.01 at a Taipei Christian Dior shop, according to the affidavit, and paid a bill at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei hotel in the amount of $333.19. Then on Sept. 6 he flew back to Japan. By his own admission, the FBI says, he didn't tell his wife of the trip, and he didn't tell Kelly. Last May, Keyser failed to report the Taiwan trip on an electronic form as part of a routine security background investigation and certified that his answers on the form had been correct. Keyser's lawyer did not return calls requesting comment.
Diplomats and spies have always shared worlds. Most U.S. intelligence officers operate out of embassies under the cover of diplomatic immunity, and America's envoys are used to the advances of foreign agents—and to reporting them promptly when they happen. So Washing-ton's diplomatic corps was stunned last week when Keyser, a practitioner known for impeccable judgment and intimate knowledge of the intelligence world, was arrested by federal agents. The diplomatic gaffe was surprising enough: the U.S. keeps contacts with Taiwan at arm's length out of deference to China, and visits to the island by key diplomats are very infrequent and require top-level approval. But the intelligence blunder—exposing himself to blackmail by making the secret trip—was even worse. "Even if he pulled [the trip] off," says one shocked former colleague, "he would then be totally in Taiwan's pocket because they could threaten to go public with it at any time."
Keyser had built a name at the State Department as a brilliant analyst and diplomatic tactician. Under Bill Clinton he was an emissary to the war in the former Soviet province of Nagorno-Karabakh, and served as No. 2 in the Department of State's bureau of intelligence and research. In the Bush Administration he was named deputy to Kelly in the Asia bureau, where he had a top-secret security clearance. But his career was not free of scandal. Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright suspended him and five colleagues after the disappearance of a computer containing classified information. Friends also say he was known for difficult relationships. He had married and divorced several times, although for the past 10 years he had apparently abandoned the volatility of his youth.
In the year following the Taiwan trip, Keyser met repeatedly with the agent from Taiwan, going to New York by train with her, picking her up after work and eating in restaurants with her and her boss. At one such meal last summer, FBI agents watched as he handed two envelopes that seemed to bear U.S. government printing to the two Taiwan officials. Keyser later left the restaurant and was seen heading to his vehicle carrying a folded manila envelope. He met again with both agents earlier this month and passed them a document. As the three left the restaurant, the FBI stopped and searched them.
Keyser has not been charged with spying, or even with mishandling classified material, but rather with trying to conceal his prohibited trip to Taiwan. The six-page document he handed the agents from Taiwan on his last visit was entitled "Discussion Topics—September 04, 2004," and investigators say they are working with the State Department to determine precisely which materials Keyser used to generate the document and whether its contents are classified. A spokesman for Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "We'd like to express our deepest concerns and hope the incident won't negatively impact Taiwan-US relations." Keyser's boss, Kelly, says he wasn't informed of any of Keyser's contacts with the agents. Keyser's friends are struggling to explain the situation. "Don Keyser is a man of impeccable integrity and patriotism," says Lord, "That's why I don't understand what's going on." Neither, apparently, does the FBI.