NSA spy suspect tells tales of conspiracy, Nixon, Kennedy Lipka ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation

March 22, 1996|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- A former National Security Agency clerk accused of spying for the Soviets was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation yesterday after he charged that "undercover agents" were planting drugs in his prison cell and said his pain medication was producing memory loss and confusion.

During a bail-review hearing, Robert S. Lipka, 50, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of espionage, testified that he once saw an NSA file on Richard M. Nixon that suggested he spied for the Russians.

"The NSA has files on many people," Mr. Lipka said calmly, dressed in a bright orange prison sweat suit. Though he provided no details, he said the purported file showed that "it was suspected" Nixon was a spy.

Mr. Lipka, who distributed top-secret documents at the Fort Meade-based intelligence agency from 1964 to 1967 as an Army enlisted man, also claimed he saw a teletype "flash report" identifying the true assassin of John F. Kennedy. He said the killer was a man named Luis Angel Castillio who fled to the Philippines.

"Someone has to sit back here and say fantasy is occurring here," said Ronald Kidd Sr., Mr. Lipka's lawyer. He painted his client as a hapless man who want to be a spy, and argued for bail. Mr. Lipka was not in danger of fleeing or harming witnesses in his trial, the lawyer said. "This is a person who has a problem telling the truth."

The alleged NSA information on Nixon and the Kennedy assassination was contained in transcripts of conversations with FBI agent who in 1993 posed as a Soviet military official in an effort to draw Mr. Lipka back into his alleged spy work. Mr. Lipka also told the agent he laundered $500,000 for Oliver L. North, the former National Security Council aide involved in the Iran-contra scandal, after they met at the Preakness horse race in Baltimore several years ago, according the transcripts.

But on the stand, Mr. Lipka admitted that they never met. "I have to apologize to Mr. North," Mr. Lipka said. "I was so scared at the time I met the [agent]. It was false bravado."

The government charges that Mr. Lipka passed top secret messages to the Soviets that included information ranging from U.S. troop movements to NATO messages, hiding the documents in his clothes as he strolled past security guards. He kept some documents and passed them to his Soviet handlers through 1974, earning $27,000, according to the charges.

Mr. Lipka denied yesterday that he had any NSA documents or spy paraphernalia, saying that he met with the undercover agent because he was afraid for the safety of his family and because he was paid $10,000.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara J. Cohan said the transcripts reveal Mr. Lipka's knowledge of espionage and quotes him providing details about old "drop sites" where he would leave documents in Washington and Maryland for the Soviet agents in return for payments.

"I don't recall saying that at all," Mr. Lipka said, under questioning by Ms. Cohan.

Ms. Cohan said the government expects to enter into evidence "a lot of classified stuff," some of which will be declassified for the trial.

Both sides in the case agreed to the order for 30-days psychiatric observation signed yesterday by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Weiner, who took the question of bail under advisement.

In a letter to a newspaper in Lancaster this week, Mr. Lipka claimed "undercover agents have had drugs planted in my cell three times." He also has said that medication for back surgery has clouded his memory and judgment.

"I don't think he's incompetent," said Ms. Cohan. "I don't think he's any goofier than most spies."

Ms. Cohan argued against bail for Mr. Lipka, who has been held at a federal prison in Fairton, N.J., since his arrest Feb. 23 at his home in Millersville, Pa. History shows that spies are at risk for flight or suicide, she said. Also, Mr. Lipka is a danger, since he suggested to the FBI undercover agent that cyanide be used to kill any witnesses who testify against him.

Pub Date: 3/22/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.