Death Penalty for Spies Urged by Weinberger
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said today that he fully supports the death penalty for convicted spies and that the four men now accused of passing Navy secrets to the Soviets “should be shot” if convicted.
In an interview with reporters, Weinberger also disclosed that the Pentagon is now studying proposed revisions to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and federal law to add the death penalty for peace-time espionage.
He noted such revisions could not be applied retroactively to the four men accused over the last three weeks of being spies.
‘Just a Very First Step’
Weinberger, in discussing the spy ring allegedly led by John A. Walker Jr., a retired Navy chief warrant officer, said his decision of Tuesday to order an immediate 10% reduction in the number of people holding and applying for security clearances “is just a very first step.” Asked whether he endorsed a plan by Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. to eventually cut the number of people holding clearances by half, Weinberger replied, “We may very well do that.”
Asked then whether he endorsed the sentiments of Lehman that the death penalty should be imposed in such cases, the secretary replied:
“I like to think that, perhaps, I induced that thought because, when asked what I thought should be done if the people were guilty, I said I thought they should be shot, though I suppose hanging is the preferred method.”
John Walker; his son, Michael; his brother, Arthur, and a close friend, Jerry A. Whitworth, face a maximum sentence of life in prison under current federal law if convicted. With the exception of Michael, all are retired from the Navy.