Ex-FBI Man Details Trip With Spy Suspect
Former FBI Agent Richard W. Miller described to a federal jury Friday a drunken trip with accused Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova to San Francisco last August that left Miller convinced he had been sexually blackmailed and that his career was over.
Miller, 48, who had become sexually involved with Ogorodnikova in May, 1984, testified that after a trip to the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco, she told him that they had been photographed together by Soviet intelligence agents.
“I assumed we had been photographed in the hotel room where we were staying,” Miller said. “I thought that’s all I needed--to be photographed in an intimate situation. I really thought my career as an FBI agent was over.
“I ranted and raved,” Miller added. “I had been totally and completely compromised. It was all over.”
Agreed to Trip
Miller, at one point quoting Shakespeare as he testified for the fourth day in the espionage trial of Ogorodnikova and her husband, Nikolai, said he had agreed to make the trip with her to San Francisco Aug. 24-26 simply as a friend, not as a confederate in any spying mission.
Miller’s testimony conflicted with statements he made Thursday that he was trying to make Ogorodnikova believe that he was vulnerable to recruitment by the Soviet KGB. He said Friday that even though he went to San Francisco with her, he was “surprised” when he found out she had discussed him with Soviet officials.
“We were friends. She wasn’t going to tell her government about me, and I wasn’t going to tell my government about her,” Miller said. “That was my understanding.”
Miller, questioned sharply by Assistant U.S. Atty. Bruce G. Merritt, spent more than an hour on the witness stand explaining statements he made to the FBI before his arrest Oct. 2 that he had permitted Ogorodnikova to take his FBI credentials with her into the Soviet Consulate.
The former counterintelligence agent, conceding that such a breach of security would be grounds for instant dismissal from the FBI, first said the FBI agents who questioned him prior to his arrest on spy charges had not reported the facts accurately. Then he said he told them that he had given her his credentials because he believed that was what the FBI agents wanted him to say.
When Merritt reminded Miller that he had first denied giving Ogorodnikova his credentials, then changed his story after flunking an FBI polygraph test, the former counterintelligence agent responded by paraphrasing Hamlet:
“I did deny it at first. That’s right. I did. And therein lies the rub.”
Asked what actually happened in San Francisco, Miller first maintained that he believed he had his credentials in his pocket when Ogorodnikova left him at a restaurant while she visited the Soviet Consulate. Later, he said his mind was “cloudy” about events that day.
“At that time I had done something I had never done before in my life,” he said. “I did drink quite a bit on that whole trip, because she brought cognac and margaritas. I had no perspective and total loss of where I was.”
After Ogorodnikova’s visit to the Soviet Consulate, Miller said they spent a night at a Holiday Inn in Livermore on the trip back to Los Angeles. She told him there that they had been photographed together and that she had been told not to see him again, Miller said.
Miller attributed his rage at Ogorodnikova partly to the alcohol he had consumed, adding that she was even more intoxicated.
“I don’t think I was on all eight cylinders,” he said. “By the time we got back to L.A., she was three sheets to the wind and plus. She was so drunk she couldn’t walk.”
Laughter in Court
As Miller testified, Ogorodnikova laughed and shook her head at times. So did several jurors.
Defense lawyers for the Ogorodnikovs, who plan a tough cross-examination of Miller themselves, raised few objections to Merritt’s grueling questioning. Miller’s attorneys, Joel Levine and Stanley Greenberg, watched helplessly, unable to object at all because of Miller’s status in this case as an immunized government witness.
Miller, who faces his own trial later this summer as the first FBI agent ever charged with espionage, also described an early morning meeting Aug. 8 with Nikolai Ogorodnikov. He said Ogorodnikova had suggested the meeting, pretending her husband was a man named Nikolai Wolfson, who was an “important figure” in money matters.
The ex-agent said Ogorodnikov spoke only a few words during the 10-minute meeting that focused on Miller’s earlier demand of $50,000 in gold in exchange for meeting with Soviet intelligence agents. Miller said he did most of the talking.
“I don’t know exactly what was said,” Miller admitted. “His English, when he did speak, was so difficult to understand that communication was difficult.”
Miller’s testimony partly supported defense claims that Ogorodnikov was at most a minor figure in the alleged spy conspiracy, but Merritt moved to counteract the impact of Miller’s comments by stressing the amount of money the two men discussed.
“Did you think Nikolai Ogorodnikov ran a charity for needy FBI agents?” he asked.
Miller is charged with passing secret FBI documents to the Ogorodnikovs for sex and a promised total of $65,000 in gold and cash. His testimony, required by a court order which bans the government from using his statements against him in his own trial, is to continue Monday.