You Can Make a Difference

Spies have been caught, and other spies got away, because of decisions made by people just like you. Here are stories of people like you who made a difference. When they saw or heard something that raised a suspicion, some chose to act. They made a call that helped protect our national security. Others made serious errors by saying nothing, even when they had a clear duty to do so. Our country suffered as a result.

Catching a Spy

Reported Compromise of State Department Communication

Steven Lalas, an American of Greek descent, was a State Department communications officer stationed with the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece. He was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to 14 years in prison for passing sensitive military information to Greek officials. He began spying for the Greek government in 1977 while with the U.S. Army.

A report by a State Department official triggered the investigation leading to Lalas’ arrest. He reported the apparent compromise of a State Department communication. In a conversation with an official of the Greek Embassy in Washington, the Greek official had revealed information that could only have come from a secret communication between the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Investigation pointed to Lalas, and this was confirmed by a video tape of him stealing documents intended for destruction.

Unexplained Income

Dr. Ronald Hoffman managed a secret Air Force contract for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). From 1986 to 1990, he sold restricted space technology to four Japanese companies -- Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toshiba, and IHI Inc. -- and was paid over $500,000. Hoffman was caught, prosecuted and convicted because an alert secretary saw something that didn't seem right, and reported it. She accidentally saw a fax from Mitsubishi to Hoffman advising of the deposit of $90,000 to his account and requesting his confirmation that the funds were received. The secretary's husband was also suspicious of Hoffman's lifestyle -- two Corvettes, an Audi, a gorgeous sailboat and fine home that didn't seem compatible with his SAIC income.

Here's the secretary's message to others: "No matter what your level in the company, whether you are an engineer or just a clerk or even a person in the mailroom, don't be afraid to stick your neck out and say something. Be accountable."

Excessive Use of Photocopier

A co-worker reported in 1986 that Michael H. Allen was spending excessive time at the photocopier in their office. This report led to investigation by the Naval Investigative Service. A hidden camera was installed near the photocopier in Allen’s office. The resulting videotape showed Allen copying documents and hiding them in his pocket.

Allen was a retired Navy Senior Chief Radioman working at the Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines. He confessed to passing classified information to Philippine Intelligence in an effort to promote his local business interests. He was found guilty of ten counts of espionage.

Removing Classified Information from the Office

Jonathan Jay Pollard was a Naval Intelligence analyst arrested for espionage on behalf of Israel. He used his access to classified libraries and computer systems to collect a huge amount of information, especially on Soviet weapons systems and the military capabilities of Arab countries. Over a period of 18 months until he was arrested in November 1986, he passed over 1,000 highly classified documents, many of them quite thick. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The investigation leading to Pollard’s arrest was triggered by a co-worker who reported seeing Pollard take a package of Top Secret material out of the building about 4:15 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Although the package was appropriately wrapped and Pollard had a courier pass to carry such material to a neighboring building, which was not unusual, it did seem suspicious at that time on a Friday, especially since Pollard got into a car with his wife. Investigation rapidly confirmed that Pollard was regularly removing large quantities of highly classified documents.

Dereliction of Duty

Violations in Handling Classified Material

Navy spy Jerry Whitworth's work colleagues observed him monitoring and copying a sensitive communications line without authorization, saw classified papers in his personal locker, and knew Whitworth took classified materials home with him but believed he was doing it only to keep his work current.

None of these Navy personnel reported these activities before Whitworth's arrest as part of the infamous John Walker spy ring. Their failure allowed the Walker ring to continue, with massive damage to U.S. national security.

Failure to Report

James R. Wilmoth was a U.S. Navy airman assigned to the carrier USS Midway in Japan. He was recruited by a Soviet KGB officer he met in a Japanese bar. As a food service worker he had no access to classified information. In order to be able to earn money as a Soviet spy, he recruited a friend, Russell Paul Brown, who took classified documents from the burn bag in the electronic warfare center of the Midway.

Although Wilmoth bragged about selling secrets to the Soviets, he wasn't taken seriously so no one reported him. When his Japanese girl friend sent postcards to Wilmoth's shipmates from vacation in Moscow, no one reported that either.

Excessive Use of Photocopier, Unexplained Affluence

Army Warrant Officer James W. Hall, III was sentenced to 40 years in prison for spying for both the former East Germany and Soviet Union from 1982 to 1988. After his arrest, Hall said there were many indicators visible to those around him that he was involved in questionable activity.

Hall sometimes spent up to two hours of his workday reproducing classified documents to provide to the Soviets and East Germans. Concerned that he was not putting in his regular duty time, he consistently worked late to complete his regular assignments. Using his illegal income, Hall paid cash for a brand new Volvo and a new truck. He also made a large down payment on a home and took flying lessons. He is said to have given his military colleagues at least six conflicting stories to explain his lavish life style, but Hall's co-workers never reported any of his unusual activities. After returning from Germany to the U.S., he traveled to Vienna, Austria, to meet with his Soviet handler.

Hall compromised U.S. and NATO plans for the defense of Western Europe.

Related Topics: Reporting Improper, Unreliable or Suspicious Behavior.





The Chroma Group, Ltd.