OverviewPERSERECEspionage Casesstate

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Department of State

1978 - RONALD HUMPHREY, an employee of the US Information Agency, and DAVID TRUONG, a Vietnamese immigrant, were indicted in early 1978. A search of Truong's apartment at the time of his arrest in January uncovered two Top Secret State Department documents. Humphrey had turned over classified cables and documents to Truong who in turn sent them to the North Vietnamese delegation in Paris via a woman who was a Vietnamese double agent working for the FBI. Testimony indicated that Humphrey supplied documents to Truong in order to obtain the release of his common-law wife and her four children from communist Vietnam. Both Humphrey and Truong were convicted on six counts of espionage on 20 May, and on 15 July each received a 15-year sentence.

Washington Post 21 May 1978, “FBI Continues Spy Case Investigation”
Washington Post 24 May 1978, “Cables in Spy Case Larded with Gossip”


1993 - GENEVA JONES, a secretary with a Top-Secret clearance in the State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, was arrested 3 August 1993 and indicted 31August for theft of government property and transmission of defense information to unauthorized persons. FBI agents say she smuggled classified documents for two years to her friend, West African journalist DOMINIC NTUBE, indicted at the same time. Jones was carrying classified government documents with her at the time of arrest. Agents who searched Ntube's Washington, DC, apartment after his arrest on 4 August found thousands of classified cables and 39 CIA documents marked Secret, including documents relating to US military operations in Somalia and Iraq. Some of the material apparently made its way to West African magazines, which had been publishing classified State Department cables for several months. Agents indicated they wire-tapped Jones' phone after several classified US documents were found 10 months earlier in the West African command post of Charles Taylor, leader of a violent movement to overthrow the Liberian government. Ntube reportedly faxed 14 documents he received from Jones to the Liberian rebels. The former State Department employee told the FBI she had been giving Ntube classified cables for about 18 months. In a preliminary hearing, the FBI testified that agents watched her on 16 occasions take documents from the department and hide them in newspapers or a grocery bag. During the month she was under surveillance, she allegedly took more than 130 classified documents from her office. On 31 August, Ntube was indicted with Jones for receiving stolen property and for transmitting national defense information to unauthorized persons. In June 1994, Jones pleaded guilty to 21 counts of theft and two counts relating to the unlawful communication of national defense information. In delivering a sentence of 37 months in prison (longer than what the prosecution had asked), US District Judge Harold H. Greene stated, "Somebody would have to be a complete moron not to know that when you work for the State Department you can't take documents out and give them to anybody."

Washington Post 5 Aug 1993, “FBI Arrests Two in Theft of State Dept. Documents”
Washington Post 31 Aug 1993, “Two Indicted in Theft of State Department Documents”


2004 - DONALD WILLIS KEYSER, who submitted his resignation from the State Department in July 2004, was arrested 15 September of the same year, charged with trying to conceal a 2003 trip to Taiwan where he met with two Taiwanese intelligence agents. Fluent in Mandarin, Keyser was an expert on China and had worked in the US Foreign Service since 1972. He had had postings in China and Japan and at the time of his resignation was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. In that position, he was involved in policy debates that were of concern to Taiwan. Because the US does not have formal relations with Taiwan, American diplomats are not allowed to travel to Taiwan on official business. Yet in August 2003, Keyser traveled to China on business and a few days later flew to Tokyo. From there he flew to Taiwan where he spent three days meeting with a young Taiwanese woman, Isabelle Cheng, at Taiwan’s National Security Bureau. To conceal his Taiwan trip, Keyser claimed three days of leave for time purportedly spent in Tokyo. He was arrested on 15 September 2004. It was reported that Keyser had been removing classified documents from the State Department since 1992, and had 3,600 documents in his home, some of which were highly classified. After the arrest, Cheng agreed to cooperate with the FBI and handed over copies of Keyser’s emails to her that showed he had shared sensitive information with her, Chang, and that indicated he was having an affair with her. In a 13 December 2005 plea-bargain, Keyser pleaded guilty to keeping numerous classified documents in his home and to concealing his relationship with the Taiwanese intelligence agent. He was scheduled to be sentenced 24 February 2006 but sentencing was repeatedly delayed. Finally, on 22 January 2007, Keyser, by then 63, was sentenced to one year in prison, payment of a $25,000 fine, and three years of supervised release for the unlawful removal of classified material from the State Department and for making false statements to the government.

Washington Post 13 Dec 2005, “Guilty Plea in Classified-Document Case”
New York Sun 14 Jul 2006, “A Novel-Like Tale of Cloak, Dagger Unfolds in Court”
Washington Post 6 Aug 2006, “UPDATE: Alleging Lack of Cooperation, Prosecutors Seek to Voice Plea in Classified-Document Case”
US Department of State (www.state.com) 22 Jan 2007, “Ex-Department of State Official Donald Keyser Sentenced in Classified Info Case”


1993 - STEVEN JOHN LALAS, a former State Department communications officer stationed with the embassy in Athens, was arrested in Northern Virginia on 3 May 1993 and charged with passing sensitive military information to Greek officials. Although Lalas originally claimed that he had been recruited by a Greek military official in 1991 and feared for the welfare of relatives living in Greece were he not to cooperate, authorities later stated that he began spying for the Greek government in 1977 when he was with the US Army. It is estimated that he passed 700 highly classified documents, including papers dealing with plans and readiness for US military strategy in the Balkans and a US assessment of Greece's intentions toward the former Yugoslavia. Athens was Lalas' fourth communications posting with the State Department. He had previously served in Belgrade, Istanbul, and in Taiwan. During his espionage career he earned a steady income stealing, then selling, DIA reports about troop strength, political analyses and military discussions contained in cables between the US Embassy in Athens and the White House, FBI communications about counterterrorism efforts, and the names and job descriptions of CIA agents stationed overseas. Greek handlers allegedly paid him $20,000 to provide about 240 documents from 1991 to 1993. The government first learned of the espionage activities in February 1993, when an official of the Greek Embassy in Washington made a statement to a State Department officer indicating that he knew the contents of a Secret communication from the US Embassy in Athens to the State Department. Lalas was later identified (through a video monitoring system) stealing documents intended for destruction. In June 1993 Lalas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage and on 16 September was sentenced to 14 years in Federal prison without possibility of parole. Prosecutors had recommended the 14-year sentence in return for Lalas' promise to reveal what documents he turned over and to whom. The full extent of his espionage activity was revealed prior to sentencing only after he failed two FBI polygraph examinations. Lalas is of Greek descent, but was born in the US.

Washington Post 4 May 1993, “Va. Arrest Made in a Spy Case From Greece”
New York Times 4 May 1993, “Am. Employee at Embassy in Athens Arrested as Possible Spy”
New York Times 6 May 1993, “US Embassy Employee Sold Secrets to Greeks, F.B.I. Says”
Washington Post 16 Sep 1993, “A 14-Year Sentence for Selling Secrets”


1986 - CLAYTON JOHN LONETREE, Marine Corps security guard at the US Embassy in Moscow from September 1984 to March 1986, and later in Vienna, was placed under detention on 31 December 1986 after he acknowledged his involvement with a female KGB officer, Violette Seina, who had previously been a telephone operator and translator at the US Embassy in Moscow. Soon after their relationship began, Seina introduced Lonetree to her “Uncle Sasha” who was later identified by US intelligence as being a KGB agent. It was alleged at the time that Sgt. Lonetree had a sexual liaison with Seina, and had in fact allowed Soviet agents after-hours access to the US Embassy. In December 1986, Lonetree turned himself in to authorities at the US Embassy in Vienna, Austria, where he was stationed. Also arrested and charged with collaboration with Lonetree was Corporal Arnold Bracy who was also alleged to have been romantically involved with Soviet women. As the investigation proceeded, five other Marine guards were detained on suspicion of espionage, lying to investigators, or for improper fraternization with foreign nationals. Lonetree was tried on 13 counts including espionage. Among these counts were charges that he conspired with Soviet agents to gather names and photographs of American intelligence agents, to provide personality data on American intelligence agents, and to provide information concerning the floor plans of the US Embassies in Moscow and Vienna. On 21 August 1987 Lonetree was convicted of espionage and 12 related counts by a military court. Three days later he was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment, fined $5,000, loss of all pay and allowances, reduced to the rank of private, and given a dishonorable discharge. Espionage charges against Bracy and all of the other Marines have since been dropped. According to reports in late 1987, intensive investigations have led to the conclusion that the former guards did not, as earlier believed, allow Soviet agents to penetrate the US Embassy in Moscow. In May, 1988, Lonetree's sentence was reduced to 25 years, in 1992 to 20 years, and later to 15 years. In February 1996 he was released.

Washington Post 10 Feb 1987, “'Success Story' Marine May Face Trial for His Life”
Washington Post 30 Jul 1987, “Envoy Blamed for Lax Security”
Washington Post 17 Jan 1988, “Spy Scandal Snowballed, Melted Away”
Richmond Times-Dispatch 25 Feb 1996, "Lonetree May Find Stigma Lives On"
Naval Investigative Service Command, Espionage, 1989


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