Navy Knew of Burglary Convictions, Paper Says : Walker Cleared Despite Criminal Record
The Navy knew when it granted a security clearance to John A. Walker Jr., a former Navy communications specialist who is accused of leading a Soviet spy ring, that he had a criminal record, it was reported Sunday.
Walker, then 17, and another 17-year-old were convicted of four burglaries in 1955 and were placed on probation, the Scranton Times reported.
Juvenile court records show that a Navy intelligence officer, Milo A. Bauerly, checked Walker’s file on April 6, 1964, the newspaper said.
That was around the time Walker was cleared by the Navy to handle military secrets and about two years before the FBI now says he began passing those secrets to the Soviet Union.
Walker’s older brother, Arthur J., 50; his son, Michael Lance, 22, a Navy seaman; and Jerry A. Whitworth, 45, a former Navy officer, also have been charged with spying. They were arrested after John Walker, 47, was arrested in Maryland on May 20.
Navy Promises Response
The Navy, when asked why it did not bar Walker from being given high-security clearance on nuclear submarines after it learned of his juvenile record, promised to reply this week. But Navy officials said it would take days to produce a reply, the newspaper said.
Whether security clearance is given to armed forces enlistees with juvenile crime records depends on the level of clearance being sought, the seriousness of the offenses and how long ago the crimes were committed, said William A. Caldwell, a spokesman for the Defense Department.
The burglaries for which Walker and the other teen-ager were convicted occurred in May, 1955, about five months before Walker enlisted in the Navy, the court documents show.
Walker’s younger brother, James Walker of Scranton, said in a recent interview with the Washington Post that John Walker decided to enter the Navy in return for having criminal charges against him dropped.
“He was glad to get off the hook,” James Walker recalled.
Burglarized Gas Stations
The court records showed that Walker fled to Williamsport after burglarizing two service stations, a used-car lot and a clothing store, the night of May 27, 1955, and early May 28. He was arrested several days later and the other youth, whose name remains sealed, was arrested when Walker was returned to Scranton.
Both admitted their guilt.
“This is a chance for you fellows to go straight,” Lackawanna County Juvenile Court Judge Otto P. Robinson told the youths when he sentenced them to probation. “Don’t make another mistake. You’ve got to be honest.”
“I can’t see anything in favor of any one of you,” the judge said. “You are just two crooks. The only thing in favor of you is that this is the first time you have been in court.”
At the time Walker got into trouble, he lived in Scranton with his father, Johnny Walker, his mother, Margaret, and his brother, James, then 15. Arthur Walker, then 20, was already in the Navy.
Also Lived in California
In the early 1970s, the Walkers lived in Union City, Calif., while John Walker was assigned to a Navy ship nearby.
“They used to fight when he came home,” said Lorraine Parmer, who moved next door to the Walkers in 1973. “And his kids were bad. They used to give my kids a hard time. I called the cops a couple of times.”
Neighbors related noisy arguments, fighting, racial remarks to neighborhood children and other problems, the San Francisco Examiner reported Sunday.
The Rev. David Joe Brown, a Pentecostal minister who lived across from the Walkers, said that the Walker children “were running wild, as children will do without proper supervision.”
Parmer, who is black, said that Michael Walker habitually harassed her two young children, taking their tricycles and making racially derogatory remarks.