OverviewPERSERECEspionage Casesnsa

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National Security Agency

1998 - DAVID SHELDON BOONE, a former Army signals analyst for the National Security Agency, was arrested 10 October 1998, and charged with selling Top Secret documents to agents of the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991. Compromised documents including a 600-page manual describing US reconnaissance programs and a listing of nuclear targets in Russia. Boone was arrested at a suburban Virginia hotel after being lured from his home in Germany to the United States in a FBI sting operation. He had worked for NSA for three years before being reassigned to Augsburg, Germany, in 1988, and retired from the Army in 1991. In October 1988, the same month that he separated from his wife and children, Boone walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington and offered his services. According to an FBI counterintelligence agent’s affidavit, Boone was under “severe financial and personal difficulties” when he began spying. His former wife had garnished his Army sergeant’s pay, leaving him with only $250 a month. According to the Federal complaint, Boone met with his handler about four times a year from late 1988 until June 1990, when his access to classified information was suspended because of “his lack of personal and professional responsibility." He held a Top Secret clearance from 1971 and gained access to SCI information in 1976. He is alleged to have received payments totaling more than $60,000 from the KGB. Boone was indicted on three counts: one for conspiracy to commit espionage and the other two related to his alleged passing of two Top Secret documents to his Soviet handler. On 18 December, Boon pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and on 26 February 1999 he was sentenced to 24 years and four months in prison. Under a plea agreement Boone was also required to forfeit $52,000 and a hand-held scanner he used to copy documents.

Washington Post 6 Nov 1998, “Ex-NSA Indicted for Spying”
Washington Post 9 Nov 1998, “Trial Set for Ex-NSA Analyst”
Washington Post 27 Feb 1999, "Ex-NSA Worker Gets 24 Years for Spying"


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”


2004 - KENNETH WAYNE FORD, JR., employed as a computer expert by the National Security Agency (NSA) from June 2001 until late 2003, was arrested on 12 January 2004 and accused of taking national security documents without authorization. On the last day of his employment at NSA, Ford packed cardboard boxes with highly classified documents, left through an unguarded exit, and loaded the boxes into his vehicle. Acting on his then-girlfriend’s tip, FBI agents executed a search warrant for Ford’s home in Waldorf, Maryland, and discovered sensitive classified information stashed throughout the house, including Top Secret documents in two boxes in the kitchen. Ford was arrested the same day. Prosecutors did not allege that Ford took the documents to give or sell to a foreign government, and Ford claimed that he stole the documents because he thought they would help him get a new job with Northrop Grumman. However, he did not get the job and a few months later, a federal judge told Ford that if he applied for any other job requiring a security clearance, he must divulge that he had been charged with unlawfully possessing national security documents. Ford did subsequently apply to Lockheed Martin but failed to disclose on the government clearance form the charges pending against him regarding the theft from NSA. Ford was convicted in December 2005 after a two-week trial for unlawful possession of classified information and making a false statement to a US government agency. On 26 March 2006, he was sentenced to six years in prison, followed by three years’ supervised release.

Washingtonpost.com 30 Nov 2005, “Md. Man on Trial Over NSA Documents”
U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of MD Press Blog 30 Mar 2006, “Former Maryland NSA Employee Sentenced for Wrongfully Possessing Classified Information”
FBI Headline Archives (fbi.gov) 31 Mar 2006, “You Can’t Take It With You: Maryland Man Sentenced for Stealing Secret Documents”


1996 - ROBERT STEPHAN LIPKA, former National Security Agency staff member, was taken into custody on 23 February 1996 at his home in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and charged with committing espionage while working as a communications clerk from 1964 to 1967. An Army enlisted man between the age of 19 and 22, Lipka worked in the NSA central communications room and reportedly provided the KGB with a constant stream of highly classified reports. He is believed to have caused extensive damage to US intelligence collection activities. According to James Bamford, writing in the Los Angeles Times, since Lipka provided Top Secret information to the KGB during the war in Vietnam, he may have been responsible for the loss of American lives. He is said to have used dead drops along the C&O Canal near the Potomac River in Washington and was paid between $500 and $1000 per delivery. Lipka left NSA in 1967 and stopped meeting with his KGB handlers in 1974. He became a suspect in 1993 as a result of information believed to have been provided to the FBI by his ex-wife. His role in espionage was confirmed by FBI agents posing as Russian contacts. According to an FBI spokesman, while the government was aware of a major security breach in the 1960s, it had not been able to identify Lipka as a suspect until it had received the additional information. It is believed that Lipka is the young soldier described in the autobiography of former KGB major general Kalugin who tells of a walk-in in the mid-1960s who was interested in money. According to Kalugin, the documents that the soldier passed included Top Secret NSA reports to the White House and copies of communications on US troop movements around the world. The price reportedly paid by the Soviets during the period of his betrayal was $27,000. On 23 May 1997, Lipka pleaded guilty to one count of espionage in exchange for a jail term of no more than 18 years. On 24 September, he was sentenced to serve a term of 18 years in Federal prison.

Washington Post 24 Feb 1996, “FBI Arrests Ex-Soldier as Mysterious KGB Spy in Supersecret NSA”
Los Angeles Times 3 Mar 1996, “Has a 30-year Mystery Unraveled?”
Wall Street Journal 21 Nov 1996, “How the FBI Broke Spy Case That Baffled Agency for 30 Years”
Baltimore Sun 24 May 1997, “Ex-clerk at NSA Is Guilty of Spying; Former Soldier Sold Secret Documents to Soviets in Mid-1960s”


1985 - RONALD WILLIAM PELTON, communications specialist with the National Security Agency for 14 years, was identified as a spy for the Soviet Union based on facts provided by a defector. He was arrested in Annapolis, MD, on 25 November 1985. During his employment at NSA, Pelton had access to information on a wide range of highly classified projects. He was said to be a highly skilled technician and fluent in the Russian language but a poor manager of his personal finances. Three months before resigning from his agency, Pelton declared personal bankruptcy, listing debts of over $65,000. While at NSA he expressed hostility toward the agency and dissatisfaction with his position. Failing at several subsequent jobs and with only a few hundred dollars in the bank, Pelton walked into the Soviet Embassy in January 1980 and offered his services to the KGB for money. He was debriefed at length and provided highly classified information about US intelligence collection locations. He also made several trips to Vienna, Austria, to speak with Soviet agents. According to reports in the media, no documents were passed by Pelton; however, former coworkers stated that he had an excellent memory and an encyclopedic knowledge of intelligence activities carried out by the agency. He allegedly received $35,000 from the Soviets between 1980 and 1983 for information about classified US intelligence collection programs targeting the Soviet Union. In July 1985, the KGB colonel who had initial contact with Pelton in Washington, DC, Vitaly Yurchenko, defected to the US and provided information that led to his prosecution. At the time of his arrest, Pelton admitted selling intelligence information to the Soviet Union. He was indicted 20 December 1985 on six counts related to espionage. Despite his statement at the time of arrest, Pelton pleaded not guilty. Following a highly publicized trial, he was convicted on 5 June 1986 on one count of conspiracy and two counts of espionage. On 6 December 1986 Pelton was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences.

Washington Post 26 Nov 1985, “FBI Says Spy Suspect Admits Selling Data”
New York Times 28 Nov 1985, “Ex-Security Agency Employee Said to Have Admitted Spying”
Washington Post 7 Dec 1985, “Accused Spy Ronald Pelton Was Preoccupied with Money”
Washington Post 6 Jun 1986, “Pelton Spy Case Chronology”


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