OverviewPERSERECEspionage Cases1981-82

Return to  HOME  DATES  NAMES  ORGANIZATIONS

1981 - 1982

1982 - OTTO ATTILA GILBERT, Hungarian-born US citizen, was arrested 17 April 1982 after paying $4,000 for classified documents provided by an Army officer who was working as a US Army double agent under Army control. The officer, CWO Janos Szmolka, had been approached in 1977 by agents of Hungarian military intelligence while on a visit to his mother in Hungary and had reported the contact to Army intelligence. While stationed in Europe, Szmolka agreed to work as a double agent. In 1981 he received $3,000 for 16 rolls of film of unclassified documents and was offered $100,000 for classified material on weapon and cryptographic systems. Szmolka was reassigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia, in 1980, but maintained his contacts with Hungarian intelligence, which led to the meeting with Gilbert. Gilbert was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 15 years in prison. This case is considered to be a classic example of recruitment based on a hostage situation since implied threats were made against the Hungarian relations of the US service member.

Washington Post 20 Apr 1982, “Spying is Charged to New Yorker of Hungarian Origin”
New York Times 20 Apr 1982, “Native of Hungary is Jailed in South on Spying Charges”


1982 - BRIAN PATRICK HORTON, was a US Navy Intelligence Specialist Second Class, assigned to the Nuclear Strike Planning Branch at the Fleet Intelligence Center, Europe and Atlantic, located in Norfolk, Virginia. Between April and October 1982, Horton wrote one letter and made four telephone calls to the Soviet Embassy, offering to provide information on the Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP). Based upon evidence accumulated during the investigation, Horton chose to plead guilty under a pretrial agreement which included a posttrial grant of immunity. This allowed the Naval Investigative Service to question Horton after his conviction and sentencing for a period of up to six months to determine any damage to national security caused by his actions. (This technique of posttrial grant-of-immunity encourages the suspect to cooperate in an effort to reduce his sentence.) He was sentenced by a general court-martial on 12 January 1983 to six years’ confinement at hard labor, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a dishonorable discharge, and reduction in pay grade to E-1 for failing to report contacts with the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, and for attempting to sell classified information to the USSR. No classified information was actually exchanged and no money was received by Horton. His defense attorney argued that Horton was working on a novel and approached the Soviets to learn their modus operandi. The prosecution stated that he had attempted to get between $1,000 and $3,000 for classified information.

Washington Post 14 Jan 1983, “Sailor Sentenced after Bid to Sell Plans to Soviets”
Naval Investigative Service Command, Espionage, 1989


1982 - BRIAN EVERETT SLAVENS, Marine Corps PFC, reportedly deserted his sentry post at the Marine's Modified Advanced Undersea Weapons Command, Adak, Alaska. He advised his sister that he did not intend to return to the Marine Corps and that he had visited the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, during late August/early September 1982. Slavens's father alerted the Marine Corps of his son's intent to desert, and abruptly Slavens was arrested by Naval Investigative Service Special Agents on 4 September 1982. During interrogation, Slavens admitted entering the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, and offering to provide information concerning the military installation where he worked in Adak. Slavens denied transferring any classified material to the Soviets, but explained that his intent was to sell US military information for $500 to $1,000. According to Slavens, he was actually inside the Soviet Embassy less than 30 minutes, during which time he was asked to provide an autobiographical sketch and to reconsider his actions. Slavens subsequently requested legal counsel, and his lawyer later agreed for Slavens to undergo a polygraph examination. Slavens was administered a polygraph exam on 5 September 1982, the results of which indicated that he did not disclose any classified information to the Soviets. On 24 November 1982, Slavens pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted espionage at a general court-martial held at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was sentenced to two years’ confinement and forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and given a dishonorable discharge.

Naval Investigative Service Command, Espionage, 1989


1981 - STEPHEN ANTHONY BABA, an ensign in the US Navy, was arrested on 1 October 1981 for sending a classified electronic warfare document and two microfilm indices of key code words to the South African Embassy in Washington, DC. He reportedly asked for an initial payment of $50,000 for the material. Other charges against Baba at the time included armed robbery, extortion, and assault. Baba mailed the documents from his frigate, the USS Lang, in September 1981, while stationed at San Diego. The South African Embassy returned the unsolicited materials to US officials. In court testimony it was asserted that Baba had attempted to sell documents to raise money for his fiancee in the Philippines so that she could attend college. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced 20 January 1982 by court-martial to eight years of hard labor.

New York Times 4 Dec 1981, “Ensign is Accused in Navy Spy Case”
Washington Post 21 Jan 1982, “Ensign Sentenced to Hard Labor for Sending Data to S. Africa”


1981 - WILLIAM HOLDEN BELL, project manager of the Radar Systems Group at Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo, California, and MARIAN ZACHARSKI, president of the Polish American Machinery Corporation (POLAMCO), were arraigned in June 1981 on espionage charges. Bell had been faced with financial difficulties; Zacharski in reality was an officer of the Polish intelligence service. Under the guise of business activities, and over a period of several months, Zacharski developed a relationship with Bell that resulted in the transfer of Secret documents for more than $150,000. As a result, the “quiet radar” and other sophisticated systems developed at Hughes Aircraft were seriously compromised. On 24 June, Bell was confronted by FBI agents with the fact of his involvement in espionage that had been independently established. He confessed and agreed to cooperate with the FBI in the effort to apprehend Zacharski. On 14 December, Zacharski was convicted of espionage and received a life sentence. Bell, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to eight years. In June 1985 Zacharski was exchanged, along with three other Soviet Bloc spies, for 25 persons held in Eastern Europe. This case is seen as a classic example of recruitment of cleared US personnel for espionage by hostile intelligence operatives.

Chicago Tribune 20 May 1984, “Real-life Spy Tale Robbed of an Ending”
DoD Security Institute, Security Awareness Bulletin, No. 3-83, June 1983, “Caught Unawares: The Case of William Bell and Marian Zacharski”
John Barron, KGB Today: The Hidden Hand, 1983


1981 - CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL COOKE, deputy commander of an Air Force Titan missile crew, was arrested on 21 May 1981 and charged with passing classified information to the Soviets,which seriously compromised US strategic missile capabilities during the 1980-81 time frame. On his own volition, Cooke began to phone and visit the Soviet Embassy in late 1980 with offers to provide classified information. Cooke's motives were never fully established, but it is reported that he was attempting to establish his credentials with the Soviets for the purpose of academic research. It is also known that he sought employment with the CIA on at least two occasions. Believing that Cooke was part of a larger spy ring, Air Force prosecutors offered him immunity from prosecution for a full disclosure. After being given immunity, Cooke admitted to providing classified defense information to the Soviets. The US Court of Military Appeals ordered his release in February 1982 and Cooke resigned his commission.

Washington Post Magazine 4 Dec 1983, “Spy Rings of One”


1981 - JOSEPH GEORGE HELMICH, a former US Army Warrant Officer, was arrested on 15 July 1981 at his residence in Jacksonville, Florida, for the sale of US cryptography to the Soviet Union from 1963 to 1966. Helmich served as a crypto custodian in France and at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He initiated contact with USSR embassy officials in Paris after being faced with severe financial problems. In return for extremely sensitive information related to the KL-7 cryptographic system widely used by the US military, Helmich received approximately $131,000. After being transferred to Ft. Bragg, Helmich continued to provide the Soviets with KL-7 key lists and traveled to both France and Mexico City to rendezvous with his handlers. Helmich came under suspicion in 1964 and was questioned because of his unexplained affluence. He was interviewed again in August 1980 and, although admitting he had received $20,000 from Soviet agents, denied he had compromised classified information. In early 1981 he was spotted with Soviet agents in Canada. Eventually Helmich recounted full details of his espionage involvement. On 16 October 1981, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Washington Post 16 Jul 1981, “Ex-Army Cryptographer Indicted on Spy Charges”
New York Times 16 Jul 1981, “Ex-Army Warrant Officer Accused of Being Soviet Spy”
New York Times 24 Sep 1981, “Generals Testify in Espionage Case”


1981 - MICHAEL RICHARD MURPHY, a Navy Seaman assigned to the USS James K. Polk, motivated by money, reportedly made several calls to the Soviet Mission to the United Nations in June 1981 offering to make a deal which he said “would benefit both the Soviets and himself.” He was offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperation. A polygraph examination indicated that he had contacted the Soviets three times, but had not passed any information. In August, 1981 Murphy was discharged from the Navy.


Return to  HOME  DATES  NAMES  ORGANIZATIONS