Career CIA employee is arrested in espionage probe Man accused of passing information to Russia

November 18, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Federal authorities have arrested a career employee of the CIA on charges that he passed highly classified information to Russia for several years, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

Officials said the CIA employee was arrested Saturday in Virginia after what they called one of the most important and tightly controlled espionage investigations during the Clinton administration.

The officials said the nature of the information that had been passed on was not yet clear, but they suspected the employee had access to an array of security information about the former Eastern bloc.

The employee, whose identity was not disclosed, is scheduled to appear today before a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va.

The officials said he had been an instructor who trained other CIA officials and had been stationed overseas. In recent months he had been reassigned to the agency's counterterrorism unit to limit his access to classified materials.

The espionage began at least as early as 1994, officials said, but they said he might have been recruited earlier by Russia, possibly before the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1991, although the precise period was uncertain.

The case appears to be the second time a career CIA employee has been accused of spying for Russia.

The other case involved Aldrich H. Ames, a counterintelligence officer who sold the Soviet Union the identities of more than a dozen Soviet and Eastern bloc officials who were passing secrets to the United States.

Ames pleaded guilty to espionage and is serving a life sentence.

It was not clear how long the official arrested last weekend had been suspected or how authorities had learned of his activities. Officials said the case had caused high anxiety in the senior ranks of the CIA.

Officials were reluctant to compare the arrest to the Ames case but said they regarded espionage by a career official with access to closely guarded secrets as extremely damaging and potentially embarrassing.

The case underscored the way the relaxation of Cold War tensions had not ended the competition between old adversaries.

Last week, a spy case against a former Russian intelligence officer was dropped after intelligence officials, who apparently feared retaliation, intervened with federal authorities.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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