Lied to Spy Suspect, Ex-FBI Man Says : Miller Testifies He Never Had Access to Sensitive Documents
The first FBI agent ever charged with espionage, Richard W. Miller, testified Thursday that he never had access to “extremely sensitive, damaging documents” but led a Soviet woman to think he did.
Miller, testifying in the trial of his co-defendants, said he wanted Svetlana Ogorodnikova to think he knew important secrets so that she would try to recruit him to the Soviet cause.
Miller has said he was trying to infiltrate the Soviet intelligence network when he became involved in a sexual affair with Ogorodnikova.
“I told her that I read CIA and other reports relating to the Soviet Union,” Miller said.
However, he added, “I didn’t think I had access to what would be extremely sensitive, damaging documents.”
He said in conversations with his lover, he exaggerated the importance of his work in foreign counterintelligence, because “I didn’t want to tell her what I actually did for the FBI.”
Ogorodnikova’s attorney, Brad Brian, asked why Miller misled her.
“The reason I told her that, partly, was to try to make her believe I had a certain amount of value for my personal knowledge of the Soviet Union,” Miller said.
“Then you’re saying you lied to her?” the attorney asked.
“I lied to her whenever I felt it was necessary,” Miller said.
Brian, in his second day of cross-examination of Miller, sought to show that the former agent is trying to shift the blame for his own misdeeds to Ogorodnikova.
Miller denied this.
The attorney asked why Miller, as an experienced agent, did not use a body recorder to take down his conversations with Ogorodnikova if he suspected her of spying.
“I couldn’t use a body recorder,” Miller said. “If I had, I would have been undone.”
Brian then suggested that Miller did not want a verbatim record of his conversations with the woman.
Miller denied this, saying that “conducting a maverick investigation, I was not in a position to do such a thing.”
He said he had little experience with body recorders during his 20 years with the FBI and did not know how to use one without being detected.
Miller, 48, is charged with conspiring with Ogorodnikova, 35, and her husband, Nikolai Ogorodnikov, 52, to pass classified documents to the Soviet Union.
Miller’s trial is scheduled to begin after the Ogorodnikovs’ ends. The ex-FBI agent is testifying under a grant of immunity that prevents the government from using what he says in his co-defendants’ trial against him at his own trial.
The defense attorney asked Miller once more about a conversation he related earlier in which Ogorodnikova said she was a major in the KGB and suggested that her government would pay “a lot of money” for information.
Miller confirmed that he failed to report this to anyone in the FBI.
“I purposely didn’t report that,” he said. “I thought it was an insane proposition . . . more hot air.”