This series of articles Subversion, Espionage, and Spying against the United States continues with the 1995.  The goal is to provide some general information and references on cases already concluded. The verdict has been given and the case closed. No matter the justification these people try to make, all cases come down to greed or need for money, ideology, nationalism, revenge, sex, or a warped sense of adventure and an over-inflated ego.   

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Note to Readers: As repeated before, you will not find stories on any pending cases and unsubstantiated news headlines. This is a simple summary of the major cases 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 (FOIA).

Questionable Decision Making

In 1995, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Michael Stephen Schwartz was charged and subsequently pled guilty to passing classified documents and computer disks to Saudi Arabian Naval officers. During 1992 through 1994, Schwartz, while assigned to a United States military training operation in Riyadh, provided Saudi Navy officers with classified military intelligence (MI) information as well as messages to and from foreign nations. His justification was a combination of overstepping his role as a U.S. trainer in Saudi Arabia and an abuse of his authorized access to MI materials. Lt Cmdr. Schwartz took it upon himself to play the role of pseudo-diplomat in an effort to improve relations between the U.S. military and the Saudi Arabian military. In his view he could help relations between the two countries by providing his Saudi Navy counterparts with sensitive and classified MI information not otherwise available to them.  [1]

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Michael Schwartz’s activities were eventually discovered by Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS). Schwartz was charged with four counts of espionage and five counts of violating federal regulations on the handling and removal of classified information and materials. He managed to get a plea agreement that kept him from a court-martial and jail time. By pleading guilty to lesser charges, he received a “less than honorable discharge,” and loss of all his retirement benefits.  The Washington Post published this story in September 1995 under the heading of Norfolk Naval Officer Faces Court-Martial in Espionage Case. The Virginian-Pilot news also covered this story in October 1995, under the title of Navy Officer Accused of Spying Gives Up Retirement Benefits.

Not All U.S. Espionage Cases Are By Military Members

John Douglas Charlton, a civilian engineer who retired from Lockheed Corporation in 1989, found himself under arrest in 1995. It’s “The Case of the Disgruntled Engineer” [Just a little Sherlock Holmes humor]. Charlton thought he got away with stealing classified and sensitive information from his former employer as he walked out the door for the final time in 1989. Four years would go by before he attempted to sell the classified documents he stole. His theft of the documents was motivated at the time by his being disgruntled that, as he saw it, circumstances at Lockheed forced him into early retirement. So, for his financial future, he decided to take a few souvenirs that he could later sell to supplement his retirement income consisting of secret U.S. Navy stealth technology.[2]

In 1993, Charleton attempted to sell the classified documents to foreign agents. Unbeknownst to him, instead of actual foreign agents, he managed to contact U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) undercover agents posing as French agents. After making no less than five attempts to sell the documents for $100,000 the disgruntled engineer was arrested. Eventually, he pleaded guilty on two felony accounts and received a mere two-year prison sentence, $50,000 fine and five-year probation.  So much for the retirement plans of “The Disgruntled Engineer.”[3]  

You can find this story in the May 1995, Los Angeles Times article titled Ex-Aerospace Worker Indicted In Spy Case; followed with another article they published in April 1996 titled Retired Engineer Gets 2 Years in Defense Espionage Case.

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India-Russian Spy Ring

1995, October software engineer Subrahmanyan Kota (a naturalized US citizen) and Indian businessman Aluru J. Prasad were arrested for their involvement in a spy ring from 1985 and 1990. During that period they sold highly sensitive U.S. military technology to the KGB. Prasad, a wealthy Indian national was believed to be a KGB agent. Kota was the president of computer consulting firm. According to the FBI investigation, Kota and Prasad regularly traveled to Bermuda, Portugal, Switzerland, and other foreign locations to meet with KGB agents and pass along classified defense information. In December of 1995, FBI agents posing as Russian intelligence agents met with another of dynamic duo’s conspirators by the name of Vemuri Reddy. Reddy was arrested the previous December for attempting to sell a micro-organisms used in the production of a high-tech drug.[3]

Prasad and Kota continued their subversive activities by specifically seeking out information about mercury cadmium telluride missile detectors, radar-absorbing coating used on stealth fighters and bombers, and semiconductor components used in infrared missile-tracking systems. The KGB fee to the spy duo was $100,000 for information about each project.

The FBI (and the IRS) eventually caught up with Kota who, in 1996 accepted a plea agreement by pleading guilty to selling stolen biotech material and evasion of income taxes. Additionally, the plea agreement required Kota to testify against his spy-buddy Prasad. As a result, Prasad was convicted in 1996 for his role in the spy ring. After his incarceration he was required to leave the U.S. and return to India.

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The Boston Globe ran two articles on this story:  the first in October 1995, titled Northborough Man Charged With Espionage; and the second in June 1996, titled A Post-Cold War Spy Story Comes to Life.

Final Word

Important points to be noted from these cases are:

  1. Civilian employees of vendors working on projects for the U.S. military had access to the same classified (or level of access) as the members of the military.
  2. It was not a difficult process for these civilians to remove classified documents and materials from the workplace without authorization.
  3. Money was the key motivation for the sale of the classified information; while the initial theft, in both the Navy officer’s case and the disgruntled civilian engineer was a complete disregard for physical and information security practices. Bringing classified documents to their personal residence without adequate storage facilities made these documents available to anyone.

Even the casual reader should recognize some of the parallels with cases or the characters of Manning and Snowden cases. With the exception of direct money compensation, both young men were disgruntled, with self-serving motivations, believing they were better judges as to what was in the U.S.’s and its citizenry’s best interest versus the oaths they swore to uphold.  

Next: History of Subversion, Espionage, and Spying Against the United States: Year 1994