The following series of articles will consist of dozens and dozens of publicized espionage cases in United States history since the American Revolution through the year 2015.  For the past decade the media and conspiracy enthusiasts have portrayed persons like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, also known as, Chelsea Manning as something in the vein of cult.  And yet, there is nothing heroic to the actions of Snowden and Manning.  There is a lot less glamour and a lot more self-serving intent by the individuals who commit these types of crime than is found in spy novels, mysteries and movies. 

Edward SnowdenCredit: Wikipedia, Laura Poitras / Praxis Films

No Conspiracy Theories of Pending Cases

The effort in this series of articles will not be to perform a case study of a particular work group of cases.  What you won’t find in this series is a political debate or pot-shots taken at celebrities, politicians, or to promote conspiracy theories. Nor is this going to attempt to cover all the unintentional missteps made by individuals that divulged classified information or materials by “accident.” You will not find here any pending cases and unsubstantiated news headlines accusing one politician or another, or maybe a military General Officer or two, of inappropriately divulging or mishandling classified information. You also will not find stories of U.S. spy assets operating in other nations on behalf of the U.S. intelligence collection effort.    

Just with in the United State, the number of actual cases of both intentional and accidental unauthorized disclosure of classified and sensitive information that have occurred over the past two and a half centuries would fill a university library (not to mention killing whole forests or fill terabytes of computer storage space). This will simply be a summary of the major cases and some minor ones that are available through open source materials such as those stories covered by major news outlets, newspapers, properly released governmental reports and information made available through the Freedom of Information Act. Anytime I can provide you a public news sources I will state that openly following the individual case presented. Upfront: My thanks to the Washington Post and the New York Times as being the most diligent in presenting information in a fair and impartial means.

SpyCredit: Pixabay ImagesYou Did It WHY

The justifications given by those persons that commit acts of espionage, treason or spying used by every single person that has ever committed any other form of divulging classified information with the intent of causing harm to the United States has done so if purely selfish reasons regardless of any high and mighty rhetoric those individuals might spout. Unfortunately, one thing has not changed or improved over the centuries: most if not all of the cases that will be presented, to include Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, might have been avoided if concerned workers, fellow employees, supervisors, friends and family recognize the danger signs, took serious threats made by the individual or questionable behavior and had been willing to intervene.  One particular thing to know about the cases that have been selected for this series of articles is that these are not in reference to a group of foreign spies or a foreign spy agency the individuals in these cases were members of our own country and are entrusted agents are come trusted personnel that were sworn to protect and defend the nation and instead chose to turn their backs on for personal gain or vengeance. 

Too Many Cases to Cover

Because of the sheer volume of events and the duration of time to be covered in this project, along with the limitations of publishing something this cumbersome on any website, it must be broken into bite-size chunks formatted for easy neuro-digestion.  Depending on the number of events I’ve chosen for any given year, I will try to limit each article in the series to either one or two years at a time. This should make searching the content easier and allow a narrowing of study focus to specific years.

  • Before I began, the reader can find more detailed information on most of the cases described here by a simple searches via the web and yes, Wikipedia.

Let us begin our journey of espionage, spying, traitors and treachery found throughout U.S. History by starting with today. That is, let us start with the current year 2015 and work backwards to the early days of the founding of this nation. For the benefit of others desiring to research the information on their own, or for further academic and scholarly projects, I will refer to Open Sources as much as possible throughout this article series.

Bradley Manning US ArmyCredit: United States Army

Year 2015

To get this out of the way, the most proponent espionage cases in the current legal system are the Snowden case and the Manning case. It would be shocking if there is a single person in the U.S. that is not already familiar with these stories. The military court-martial of Chelsea/Bradley Manning, a former enlisted U.S. Army soldier in a military intelligence analyst role, was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing . . .

“. . . videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 500,000 Army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. Much of the material was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.”

As for the Edward Snowden case, I’m leaving that person and event out of this series until it is resolved in the legal system. The object here is to stay with actual convictions not working cases.

In January 2015, Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer from 1993-2002, was convicted of nine espionage charges for disclosing secret operational information on U.S. efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. Sterling faces a maximum possible sentence of two to three decades in prison, although the final sentence is likely to be far less. His sentencing is scheduled for April 24, 2015. Sterling’s attorney is in the process of filing an appeal.[1]

Sterling claimed he was a whistle-blower, yet evidence presented suggested his real motive was revenge against an agency he felt discriminated against him, an African American. “The defendant put his own selfishness and his own vindictiveness ahead of the American people,” Eric G. Olshan, a federal prosecutor, said during closing arguments Thursday. “For what? He hated the C.I.A., and he wanted to settle the score.” 

Sterling provided the information to a New York Times reporter, James Risen. Risen published the information in his 2006 book, State of War, without stating his source. Risen originally refused to tell federal investigators as to his source; however, federal prosecutors won a battle on this and eventually the information was turned over. A version of this article appears in print on January 27, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: C.I.A. Officer Guilty in Leak Tied to Reporter. 

2015:  Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, pleaded guilty in June 2013 to espionage-related offenses. Mascheroni, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist was sentenced to five years in prison for passing classified U.S. nuclear weapons data to a person he believed to be a Venezuelan government official. He and his wife conspired to participate in the development of an atomic weapon for Venezuela. He contacted a person he thought was a Venezuela official and claimed he could help the Caracas government to obtain an atomic bomb within 10 years. His wife was previously sentenced to a year in prison for her role in the same case.[2]

Stop SpyingCredit: Pixabay Image

Next:  History of Subversion, Espionage, and Spying Against the United States: Years 2010-2014