Spy Ring Gave Up ‘Valuable’ Data on Submarines, Navy Says : Fleet Changing Tactics in Wake of Walker Charges
The Soviet Union gained “very valuable information” about U.S. Navy submarine operations from the alleged Walker family spy ring and the Navy has changed some tactics and communications to counteract it, Adm. James Watkins said today.
The service also is cutting down the number of people with access to classified material and is overhauling security procedures, Navy Secretary John Lehman told the same news conference.
The most serious area of loss involves communications codes and the workings of some communications equipment, Watkins said.
That has forced the Navy to “accelerate some new equipment” that it was developing and there are procedures in place to avoid using any equipment that may have been disclosed to the Soviets, Watkins said.
Little Technical Information
But he said very little technical information relating to the specifics of major weapons was compromised.
The Soviets “gained information that would let them better understand what they observed,” Watkins said, calling that very valuable information.
But he said that “much of the information is perishable” and dates from the 1960s, when the alleged leader of the spy ring, John A. Walker Jr., served aboard two subs and in shore installations dealing with submarine communications.
Fleet ‘100% Survivable’
However, Watkins stressed that the missile-firing submarine fleet is “still 100% survivable” and said there is no indication that the Soviets have broken the code of how to detect the American boats.
That was one of the key questions raised by the case because the force of Poseidon and Trident subs forms the heart of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
Watkins said the Navy is assuming “the worst case. We always assume our potential adversaries have the information and we work accordingly.”
Another serious area of loss involves air warfare because information suspected of being passed to the Soviets would let them gain specific data on the capabilities of Navy planes and weapons such as rockets, Watkins said.
‘Filled Important Voids’
That information “filled important voids in their bank of knowledge,” he said.
The Soviets may also have learned specifics about U.S. plans and tactics that would be used against the Soviet navy during a war and new U.S. tactics are being developed as a result, Watkins said.
While the U.S. missile-firing sub fleet is safe, the Soviets may have picked up information about U.S. plans and capabilities to find and destroy Soviet missile-firing subs, Watkins said.
The anti-submarine warfare information that may have been passed would show the Soviets “they have to work harder to overcome the U.S. technological advantage” in undersea warfare, Watkins said.
Lehman said the service is taking steps to tighten security procedures and cut down on the number of people with security clearances.
He said 900,000 of the Navy’s 1 million uniformed personnel have clearances and released a copy of an order directing an immediate 10% reduction and an eventual 50% reduction “as soon as feasible.”