OverviewPERSERECEspionage Cases1988

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1988

1988 - CLYDE LEE CONRAD, retired Army Sergeant First Class, was arrested on 23 August 1988 in West Germany and charged with copying and transmitting classified documents to the Hungarian intelligence service for nearly a decade. He was recruited in 1974 by a Hungarian-born immigrant, ZOLTAN SZABO, a veteran of Vietnam who served as an Army Captain in Germany. Szabo began working for Hungarian intelligence in 1967. (He was convicted of espionage by an Austrian court in 1989, but served no jail time because of his cooperation with authorities in the prosecution of Conrad.) Two Hungarian-born doctors arrested at the same time in Sweden are said to have acted as couriers in the espionage operation and Conrad is believed to have hired at least a dozen people in the US Army to supply classified information—one of the biggest spy rings since World War II. Conrad's recruits continued to work for him after returning to the US, illegally exporting hundreds of thousands of advanced computer chips to the East Bloc through a phony company in Canada. In June 1990, former Army sergeant RODERICK JAMES RAMSAY, 28, was arrested in Tampa, Florida, following a two-year investigation. Ramsay worked in West Germany from 1983 to 1985 directly under Conrad. He provided Conrad with sensitive documents on the use of tactical nuclear weapons by US forces and NATO allies and plans for the defense of Europe, and manuals on military communications technology. Conrad was granted a Top Secret security clearance in 1978 when assigned to the US 8th Infantry Division headquarters in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. Despite his administrative specialist's job which gave him access to extensive classified materials, Conrad had not been subject to a periodic reinvestigation before his retirement in 1985. Documents provided to Hungarian agents concerned NATO's plans for fighting a war against the Warsaw Pact: detailed descriptions of nuclear weapons and plans for movement of troops, tanks and aircraft. Conrad, in charge of a vault where all the 8th Infantry Division's secret documents were kept, took suitcases stuffed with classified papers out of the base. The former sergeant is reported to have received more than $1 million for selling secrets. The two Hungarian couriers, SANDOR and IMRE KERCSIK were sentenced by a Swedish court on 18 October to 18 months in prison. In 1989 Conrad was charged with treason under West German law. It took more than a year to charge him formally due to the complexity of the case, which initially was declared one of espionage and then broadened to include the more serious charge of treason. Tried in a West German court, Conrad was sentenced to life imprisonment on 6 June 1990. In January 1998, Conrad died in a German prison, of heart failure.

Washington Post 27 Aug 1988, “US Ex-Sergeant Accused in Spy Case Not Given Mandatory Security Check"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch 2 Sep 1989, “Former US Sergeant Accused of Treason”
Richmond Times-Dispatch 7 Jun 1990, “Former GI Given Life for Spying”
Los Angeles Times 9 Jun 1990, “Alleged Spy Called Brilliant, Erratic”


1988 - HOU DESHENG, a military attaché of the People's Republic of China, was detained by FBI agents on 21 December 1987 while attempting to obtain Secret National Security Agency documents from a Federal employee. Desheng was taken into custody at a restaurant in Washington's Chinatown after accepting what he believed to be classified NSA documents. The Federal employee, a US citizen, had been working under FBI direction. Arrested at the same time was ZANG WEICHU, a PRC consular official in Chicago. Both diplomats were asked to leave the country as a result of “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status” – the first Chinese diplomats expelled since formal relations were established with the PRC in 1979.

New York Times 31 Dec 1987, “2 Chinese Depart in Espionage Case”
Washington Post 31 Dec 1987, “US Expels Two Chinese Diplomats as Spies”


1988 - THOMAS JOSEPH DOLCE, civilian research analyst at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, admitted in Federal court on 11 October 1988 that he had supplied scores of Secret documents related to Soviet military equipment to the Republic of South Africa between 1979 and 1983. Dolce, who had been under investigation by the FBI since April, resigned from his position on 30 September “for personal reasons.” Dolce had held a Secret clearance at the Army Material Systems Analysis Activity at Aberdeen where he had been employed since 1973. In pleading guilty to a single count of espionage, he acknowledged passing documents on 40 or more occasions by mail or in person to military attachés at the South African Embassy in Washington and at South African Missions in London and Los Angeles. According to Dolce, he was motivated by ideological rather than financial reasons and had a long-term interest in the Republic of South Africa. He had in fact moved to South Africa in 1971, but later returned to the US because of better employment opportunities. Prior to 1971 Dolce had been a US Army clandestine warfare specialist. His contacts with South African representatives began when he sent them an unclassified paper on clandestine warfare that he had written. There is no evidence that Dolce received money in exchange for documents. On 20 April 1989, the former analyst was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $5,000.

Washington Post 12 Oct 1988, “Md. Man Admits to Espionage for South Africa”
Washington Post 13 Oct 1988, “Spy for S. Africa Called Reserved”


1988 - DAVID FLEMING, Navy Chief Petty Officer, was convicted by a six-member military court on 4 October 1988 for the theft of 16 Secret photographs and four classified training manuals that he had at his home. At the time of his arrest in October 1987, Fleming was chief photographer aboard the submarine USS La Jolla, based at San Diego, California. At that time Federal agents found classified material in Fleming's apartment. Fleming contended that cramped quarters aboard the ship led him to develop photographs at home. Concluding that he knew that the materials, if kept at home, could result in damage to national security, the court convicted Fleming under statutes which apply to acts of espionage. However, no evidence was presented to the court that the Chief Petty Officer had intended to provide classified materials to representatives of another country. Fleming was sentenced to four years’ confinement and was given a bad conduct discharge from the Navy. In April 1989 a Navy parole board in San Diego recommended that the remainder of the four-year sentence be commuted. He was released on parole in 1990.

Los Angeles Times 5 Oct 1988, “Sailor Gets Prison in Classified Data Case”
San Diego Union 15 Apr 1989, “Early Release Backed for Sailor Convicted on Security Charges


1988 - WILFREDO GARCIA, Navy Master-at-Arms 1st Class, was found guilty of espionage on 22 January 1988 following a two-year investigation by agents of the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI. In late 1985, NIS and FBI officials received information that a civilian businessman in Vallejo, California, was attempting to sell classified Navy documents to representatives of a foreign government. A cooperating witness identified Garcia, who was then stationed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, as the source. Confidential documents stolen by Garcia dealing with submarine activities were sold to the civilian for $800,000, with a promise of more money when they were resold to a foreign government. Evidence indicated that the final destination could have been an East-Bloc country. The espionage scheme resulted in a number of classified documents being taken to the Philippines for sale to a foreign power there. Participants in the conspiracy couriered the documents on commercial aircraft and had gathered the material in a residence in Manila. NIS agents in Manila entered the home with a search warrant and recovered the documents before the planned sale. At a general court-martial convened in January 1988, Garcia was found guilty of espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, larceny, conspiracy to commit larceny, sale of government property, and violations of military regulations. He was sentenced to 12 years’ confinement, reduced in rank to E-1, forfeited all pay and allowances, and received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy. Garcia had served in the Navy for 15 years.

Naval Investigative Service Command, Espionage, 1989
Sentry Spring/Summer 1988, "MA1 Convicted of Espionage"


1988 - JAMES HALL III, Army Warrant Officer, was arrested on 21 December 1988 in Savannah, Georgia, after bragging to an undercover FBI agent that over a period of six years he had sold Top Secret intelligence data to East Germany and the Soviet Union. At the time, Hall believed that he was speaking to a Soviet contact. During this conversation he claimed that he had been motivated only by money. He told the FBI agent posing as a Soviet intelligence officer, “I wasn't terribly short of money. I just decided I didn't ever want to worry where my next dollar was coming from. I'm not anti-American. I wave the flag as much as anybody else.” Also arrested, in Bellaire, Florida, was HUSEYIN YILDIRIM (nicknamed “the Meister”), a Turkish national who served as a conduit between Hall and East German agents. He was working as a civilian mechanic at an Army auto shop in Germany at the time. According to FBI sources, Hall started passing documents to East German agents in 1982 while serving in West Berlin as a communications analyst monitoring East Bloc cable traffic. Later, Hall was transferred to Frankfurt where he continued to pass “massive amounts” of highly classified data on communications intelligence. Hall is believed to have received over $100,000 from agents of two countries during this period of time. In July 1987 he was reassigned to Ft. Stewart, near Savannah, Georgia. Hall had been under investigation by FBI and Army counterintelligence agents for several months before his arrest and had been observed meeting Yildirim three times in November and December. Hall's detection as an espionage source may have resulted from reports that Hall was living in a style far above what his pay scale would allow. According to US officials, the operation appears to have inflicted serious damage on US electronic intelligence collection activities in Europe. On 9 March 1989 Hall was sentenced to 40 years in prison, fined $50,000 and given a dishonorable discharge. Yildirim was convicted 20 July 1989 of scheming with Hall and sentenced to life. Prosecutors contended that from 1982 to 1988 Yildirim carried classified military intelligence from Hall to East Bloc agents and returned with money.

New York Times 22 Dec 1988, “Army Technician and a Civilian are Held as Spies for Soviet Bloc
Washington Post 23 Dec 1988, “Spy Suspect Said to Act Prosperous”
New York Times 19 Jul 1989, “Jury Hears Tale of Spy Who Did It Out of Greed”
Newsweek 2 Jan 1989, “Top Secrets for Sale?”


1988 - STEPHEN JOSEPH RATKAI, was arrested by Canadian authorities on 11 June 1988 and charged with attempting to obtain US classified military documents related to the operation of a US Navy installation at Argentia, Newfoundland. Although born in Canada, Ratkai was brought up in Hungary, his father's native country, after the death of his Canadian mother. As an adult he returned to Canada to work as a short-order cook, but made frequent trips back to Hungary. Ratkai was seized as a result of a double agent operation begun two years earlier by the US Naval Investigative Service and Canadian intelligence: On 2 December 1986 Donna Geiger walked on board a Soviet scientific research vessel, the Akademik Boris Petrov, which was temporarily docked in the harbor of St. John's, Newfoundland. Geiger, a Navy lieutenant, was a double agent who had been recruited by the Naval Investigative Service. She was stationed at the US Naval Facility in Argentia. On board the Soviet ship, she portrayed herself as a “disgruntled female naval officer ... working in a world dominated by men ... assigned to an isolated duty station.” She brought classified material to prove her intentions. Two months later she received a letter indicating someone would meet with her. Finally in May 1987, acting on directions she received by mail, she met her contact, “Michael,” in the parking lot of the Hotel Newfoundland in St. John's. She was given money and some tasking to collect information. A week later Lt. Geiger met Michael in a restaurant. Classified information was exchanged for money. During this meeting she was tasked to provide information on the highly classified Sound Underwater Surveillance System, the Naval Facility Argentia's area of responsibility. After several more meetings, Michael was identified as Ratkai. At their last meeting in June 1988, Geiger steered Ratkai to a room at the Hotel Newfoundland which was outfitted with surveillance equipment. More money and classified information was exchanged. When Ratkai left the room, he was arrested. No damage is reported to have occurred. On 6 February 1989 Ratkai pleaded guilty to one general charge of spying on behalf of the Soviet Union from May 1987 to June 1988 and one charge of attempted espionage. On 9 March 1989 the Newfoundland Supreme Court sentenced Ratkai to two concurrent nine-year prison terms.

New York Times 16 Jun 1988, “Canada Holds Suspect in Spying on US Navy”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch 11 Mar 1989, “Spy Gets 9 Years”
Naval Investigative Service Command, Espionage, 1989


1988 - DANIEL WALTER RICHARDSON, a US Army sergeant stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, was arrested on 7 January 1988 and charged with attempting to spy for the Soviet Union. Richardson reportedly intended to offer unspecified national defense information to Soviet representatives in exchange for money. No information is believed to have been compromised. Officials stated that Richardson was apprehended after electronic surveillance picked up his efforts to contact Soviet representatives. This led to his negotiation with an undercover government agent posing as a Soviet. He was arrested at the Holiday Inn in Aberdeen (with an unclassified military manual and circuitry from the M-1 tank in his possession) as he attempted to meet with the undercover agent. An Army spokesman stated that Richardson had a Secret clearance but “no ready access to classified materials.” Although trained as an instructor, his job was to issue tools to students at the Ordinance Center School at Aberdeen. “Money and revenge against the military” have been identified by an administration official as Richardson's chief motivations for espionage. Described as a mediocre soldier, Richardson was demoted in August 1987 for repeated tardiness. He was charged at the time of arrest with espionage, failure to report contacts with a foreign government, theft, and unauthorized disposition of government property. On 26 August 1988 Richardson was sentenced by a military jury to 10 years in prison, fined $36,000, and discharged with a bad conduct record.

New York Times 15 Jan 1988, “Army Sergeant is Arrested on Espionage Charges”
Washington Post 16 Jan 1988, “Soldier Had No Access to Army Secrets”


1988 - GLENN MICHAEL SOUTHER, On 11 July 1988, Soviet newspaper Izvestia announced that Souther, a former navy photographic specialist who disappeared in May 1986, had been granted political asylum in the Soviet Union. Just before his disappearance, Souther, a recent graduate with a major in Russian Studies from Old Dominion University, was questioned by FBI counterintelligence agents. According to one source, investigators were acting “on more than suspicions, but didn't catch him in the act of espionage, and thus couldn't hold Souther at the time he was questioned.” While attending college, Souther had been assigned as an active reservist to the Navy Intelligence Center in Norfolk where he had access to classified information. Souther's sudden disappearance was of considerable concern to FBI and Navy officials since the former Navy enlisted man had held special security clearances while on active duty with the Sixth Fleet in the early 1980s. During that time he had access to highly classified photo-intelligence materials. Souther joined the Navy in 1975 and left active duty in 1982 with the position of photographers mate. According to the Soviets, the former Navy specialist had asked for asylum because “he had to hide from the US special services which were pursuing him groundlessly.” Described as a bright but undisciplined young man by former teachers and acquaintances, Souther reportedly had wanted to become a US Naval officer, but had been turned down as a Navy officer candidate. On 22 June 1989, at the age of 32, he reportedly committed suicide by asphyxiation after shutting himself in his garage and starting his car. Russian newspapers suggested he had been disappointed by aspects of Soviet life after defecting in 1986 and was prone to depression.

Washington Post 18 Jul 1988, “Ex-Sailor Defects to Soviets”


1988 - HENRY OTTO SPADE, a former Navy radio operator, was arrested in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on 17 November 1988 for the unauthorized possession of two Top Secret documents. One of the documents was a cryptographic key card. Spade, who was discharged from the Navy in April 1988, stole the items while on active duty, but had reportedly made no attempt to sell them to any person or foreign government. While in the Navy, Spade served aboard the USS Midway and the USS Bristol County. Charged with one count of espionage, Spade pleaded innocent and was released on $25,000 bond. Spade faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when convicted, but on 14 March 1989 was sentenced to three months’ probation.

Washington Post 18 Nov 1988, "Ex-Sailor Charged in Secrets Case"


1988 - DOUGLAS TSOU, a Chinese-born former FBI employee, was indicted in 1988 on one count of espionage following his admission that in 1986 he had written a letter to a representative of the government of Taiwan in which he revealed the identity of an intelligence officer of the People's Republic of China. According to testimony at the trial (which was delayed until October 1991), the unidentified agent operating in Taiwan had unsuccessfully approached the FBI with an offer to work as a double agent. Although the information Tsou passed to a Taiwanese representative in Houston was classified as Secret, Tsou claimed that he considered the information to be declassified since the offer was not accepted. Motivation for his acts of espionage was likely loyalty to government of Taiwan. Tsou fled to Taiwan when the communists rose to power on the mainland in 1949 and moved to the US 20 years later where he became a naturalized citizen. He worked for the FBI from 1980 to 1986, first in San Francisco and later in Houston. On 4 October 1991, Tsou was found guilty as charged. However, prosecutors claimed that this represented only the tip of the iceberg of what Tsou gave to Taiwanese officials during his six years with the FBI. On 2 January 1992, Tsou was sentenced to a 10-year Federal prison term.

Houston Chronicle 22 Jan 1992, “Ex-FBI Translator Sentenced for Passing Secrets to Taiwan"


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