updated 9/30/2008 4:33:56 PM ET 2008-09-30T20:33:56

A Minot Air Force Base officer admitted taking an obsolete missile launch control device as a souvenir, saying he thought it would be "a cool thing to have," his supervisor testified Tuesday.

Capt. David Walbeck told a military hearing that he was shocked when Capt. Paul Borowiecki made the admission because he had performed his duties "flawlessly."

The Air Force hearing for Borowiecki, a missile combat crew member assigned to the base's 91st Missile Wing, was to determine whether he will face a court-martial on charges of dereliction of duty, mishandling of classified items and other counts. It is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court.

Borowiecki is accused of taking the domino-sized launch control device in July 2005, rather than destroying it as required when it was no longer in use. Officials say he admitted the theft in May and returned the device.

While the device is obsolete, Walbeck testified that had the technology been compromised, it could have led to "unintended detonation" of a nuclear missile.

Borowiecki's attorney, Capt. Tiwana Wright, asked Walbeck if the device was the only safeguard for the weapons system. Walbeck replied that many safeguards are in place.

Officials said the theft came to light when Borowiecki was given a lie-detector test in applying for a job with the National Security Agency. As part of the test, he was asked if he had ever stolen classified material. Walbeck said Borowiecki answered yes and asked to meet with his supervisor.

The Air Force said Borowiecki also told officials that another officer had lied in saying he destroyed a launch component. That device remains missing, and the other officer's name has not been released. The Air Force says it is handling the cases separately.

Walbeck said as a result of the apparent lapses, procedures for destroying old launch devices were tightened.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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