This series of articles Subversion, Espionage, and Spying against the United States continues with the 1998-1999.  The goal is to offer some general information and references on cases already concluded. The verdict has been given and the case closed. This is not to glamorize anyone’s actions; far from it the emphasis is on the damage caused and the rationale for the act(s). 

Spy RingCredit: Cory Stophlet, 2015

Note to Readers: As repeated before, you will not find stories on 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. There are no movie-of-the-week stories printed here of U.S. spy assets operating in other nations on behalf of the U.S. intelligence collection effort. 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 (FOIA).

U.S. Nuclear Information Provided to China

In December of 1999, Dr. Wen Ho Lee is a Taiwanese American scientist was indicted him of stealing secrets about the U. S. nuclear arsenal for the People's Republic of China. Lee worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory where he created nuclear explosions simulations for research purposes, such as data collection, projections, statistical data for further scientific research to include improving the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.[1]

Lee was charged with improper handling of restricted data, one of the original 59 indictment counts, to which he pleaded guilty as part of a plea settlement. This story has an odd twist:  Ironically, in June 2006, Lee received “$1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations as part of a settlement of a civil suit he had filed against them for leaking his name to the press before any formal charges had been filed against him…denying him bail and putting him in solitary confinement.”

Australian Analyst Fools Himself

1999:  Another case of a foreign national with access to U.S. classified information who chose to abuse the job position for personal financial gain is Jean-Philippe Wispelaere. While employed by the Australian Defense Intelligence Organization (ADIO) as an analyst, he used his access to U.S. classified information to download on his personal computer, hundreds of classified files as high as Top Secret. With the data on his personal computer he walked out the door. On January 12th he resigned from his job with the ADIO. On January 18th, Wispelaere walked into the Singapore embassy in Bangkok and offered to sell them the documents. Singapore, as an ally of the U.S. contacted their U.S. counterparts about the offer.

CashCredit: Pixabay Images


The FBI posing as Singapore agents paid Jean-Philippe $70,000 for 713 classified US documents maps and photos. An additional 200 items were sent to a Virginia post office box for $50,000. Finally, with a third offer of documents for sale planned for exchanged in Texas, the FBI arrested Wispelaere on May 15th at Dulles International Airport. His reason for committing espionage was a need for money due to financial hardship as a result of “females.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison on June 9th of 2001.

In May of 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled Internet-savvy Australian Charged in Espionage Case. The Washington Post published an article in June of 2001 titled 15-year Term in Espionage Case: Australian Stole U.S. Documents.

U.S. Army Signals Analyst Turns Spy for Soviet Union

In 1998 David Sheldon Boone, a former army signals analyst for the National Security agency was arrested on October 10 in charge was selling top-secret documents to the agents of the Soviet union during that period 1988 to 1991.  One of the items he sold to the Soviet Union was a 600 page Manual that provided detailed U.S. reconnaissance program information and a list of all the targets all the nuclear targets that were said established in Russia.  Those activities were discovered by the FBI and threw a sting operation he was lowered to a suburban Virginia hotel where he expected to sell more information but instead was arrested he actually had retired from the army in 1991 before he was arrested.  According to the FBI counterintelligence agent’s affidavit, Boone was under left quotation severe financial and personal difficulties right quotation when he began his spying activities.  Allegedly he had received payments totaling more than $60,000 from the KGB.  As a result of his arrest he was indicted on three counts: one for conspiracy to commit espionage and the other two relating to his alleged passing of two top-secret documents to a Soviet hammer in December ’98 he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and in February of 99 he was sentenced to 24 years and four months in prison along with forfeiture of $52,000. [2]

The Washington Post published two articles on this case in 1998 and a third article in 1999 titled Ex-NSA Worker Gets 24 Years for Spying.

Another Former C.I.A. Officer Goes Bad (Surprised?)

In 1998 Douglas F. Groat, a former CIA officer, was arrested and charged with passing sensitive intelligence information to two foreign governments along with this he attempted to extort $0.5 million from the CIA in return for not disclosing more secrets.  Before his arrest in 1998 if it already been determined that he was a security risk and he had previously attempted to extort money from the CIA in 1996 when he was finally fired. Yet it wasn’t until 1998, when the case was finalized and the full picture of Groat’s actions was made public. Even after Douglas Groat was fired in 1996 he continued to try and sell cryptographic information in 1997.  What was his motivation? Revenge. He claimed he did it because he felt slighted by the CIA. Court records state that Groat never actually received any money. He pleaded guilty in a deal that reduced his potential sentence to a mere five-year sentence with the three years of probation period.[3]

The Washington Times news service published a story on this case in 1998 titled Former CIA Officer Charged with Spying Pleads Not Guilty in Extortion Case.  The Washington Post published two articles in 1998 both in reference to the next CIA operative/agent’s receiving a five-year sentence for extortion.

For a detailed story of Groat's career read the LONG article at the SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE[3]

Another U.S. Nuclear Scientist Spies for China

December of 1997, Dr. Peter H Lee, a nuclear physicist who worked at the Los Alamos Research Facility for more than 30 years, turned himself into authorities and pleaded guilty to two felony counts one for passing national defense information and the other for providing false statements to the government.  Dr. Lee made several trips to China while he still worked for the U.S. Government. He would take sensitive information on the U.S. government’s nuclear program from his job and turned those over to his Chinese counter-parts. Why he did it? He was manipulated through a sense of nationalism and being convinced by Chinese officials that Lee was “important” to “his” natural country. He believed it was his obligation to his homeland.  In March of 1998, Dr. Lee was sentenced to one year in a community corrections facility three years’ probation and ordered to do 3000 hours of community service and paid $20,000 in fines. The light sentence would show that evidence and the court believed Lee was manipulated to some extent towards his actions.

Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times covered this story in 1997. 

Stop SpyingCredit: Pixabay Image

Next:  History of Subversion, Espionage, and Spying Against the United States: Year 1997