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Spy Figure Admits He Took Job to Get Secrets, FBI Says

Times Staff Writer

Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Arthur J. Walker admitted to the FBI that he took a job with a defense contractor five years ago at his brother’s urging to collect classified information for the Soviet Union in exchange for money, a federal agent testified Wednesday at a court hearing.

U.S. Magistrate Gilbert R. Swink, who presided over the hearing, ordered Walker held without bail on espionage charges, despite arguments by Walker’s attorneys that there was no probable cause for him to be detained.

“We have no proof or anything that says information was delivered to a foreign country or that it was injurious to the United States or that the Soviet Union took advantage of it,” J. Brian Donnelly, one of Walker’s two court-appointed attorneys, maintained.

Walker, 50, a one-time Navy anti-submarine warfare specialist, was taken into custody at his Virginia Beach home on May 29, a little more than a week after the arrest of his brother, John A. Walker Jr., 47, an retired Navy chief warrant officer who allegedly masterminded a spy ring.

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Also facing espionage charges in the case are John Walker’s son, Michael, 22, a Navy yeoman on the aircraft carrier Nimitz, and John Walker’s longtime friend, Jerry Whitworth, a 45-year-old retired Navy radioman from Davis, Calif.

Would Shoot Spies

In Washington, where officials have said that the espionage ring caused serious damage, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger told reporters Wednesday that convicted spies “should be shot, although I suppose hanging is the preferred method.” At present, life imprisonment is the maximum penalty for espionage in time of peace.

At the Norfolk hearing, testimony by FBI agent Beverly Andress added new details about the alleged spy ring’s operation. She said that Arthur Walker had admitted under questioning on May 24 that his brother first suggested that he help spy for the Soviets in January, 1980, urging him to get a job that would give him access to classified material.

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“He had a discussion with John Walker about classified information, and John said he had friends who would pay for classified information,” Andress said. Arthur Walker said his brother referred to those friends as “the Russians,” she added.

Hired by Defense Firm

The next month, Arthur Walker answered a classified advertisement and was hired as a civil engineer by VSE Corp., a defense contractor based in Chesapeake, Va., and was given clearance to handle secret documents. His job at VSE involved work on amphibious vessels.

Arthur Walker admitted to the FBI that on April 28, 1982, he provided his brother with part of a classified defense file from VSE containing reports of ship malfunctions and engineering casualties from 1976 to 1980, Andress said.

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Arthur Walker said that he permitted his brother to photograph part of the file and then photographed other parts of it himself later the same day at home, dropping off the camera and undeveloped film afterward at his brother’s private detective agency, the federal agent said. He was paid $12,000 for the information, she said.

Andress said that Arthur Walker could not recall which part of the file he had photographed and which his brother had photographed. But he said that “between the two of them, it’s possible they photographed the whole thing,” she said.

In papers filed last week with the court, FBI agents said that Arthur Walker had admitted turning over classified material to his brother on several occasions, beginning in September, 1980, and that the material included “documents, files, photographs, booklets and defense plans” relating to U.S. naval forces.

Release on Bond Urged

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But no other espionage incidents were mentioned in testimony by FBI agents at the hearing Wednesday. Arthur Walker’s attorneys contended that the government had produced insufficient evidence to hold their client and urged his release on bond. They argued that he is unlikely to flee, noting that he is married, has two children at home and has been a model citizen active in community affairs.

Defense attorney Samuel W. Meekins Jr. said that in the 17 years Walker had lived in the Tidewater area he had been president of a local civic organization, a Little League baseball coach and founder of a neighborhood block security program.

He has been praised as an “all-American,” and community residents have said of him that “you couldn’t ask for a finer neighbor,” Meekins said.

Would Pledge Home

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Meekins said that Walker is willing, if his wife agrees, to put his home in a property bond to raise bail. He contended that his client poses no threat to the national security and that it is highly unlikely the Soviets would attempt to contact him.

“Common sense would tell us they wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole now,” he said.

But Magistrate Swink, noting that Walker’s equity in the house is an estimated $63,000, said that that amount “at this point doesn’t interest this court. It would have to be twice that to be a realistic bond.”

And Swink rejected Meekins’ arguments that keeping Walker in jail would hamper preparation of his defense.

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“It’s no use to the defense (Walker’s) sitting in an isolation ward at the jail,” Meekins said. “We need his assistance.”

Swink replied: “If you need him, he’ll be right down there at the jail.”

Walker is expected to be formally charged Tuesday. His attorneys told reporters that they will enter a plea of not guilty at the arraignment.


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