FBI Hunts for Possible 5th Member of Spy Ring

Times Staff Writers

Records seized by the FBI indicate that there may have been a fifth participant in the spy ring allegedly headed by John A. Walker Jr., The Times learned Wednesday.

Government investigators are trying to pin down the identity of the potential suspect, who is thought to be a retired military person, according to sources familiar with the case. But, so far, the FBI has not been able to determine whether the person, identified in Walker's personal papers only as "A," played a central role in the alleged conspiracy to sell U.S. military secrets to Moscow.

Other Suspects

Others suspected of being members of the ring--Walker's son, Michael, a Navy seaman; his brother, Arthur, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, and his close friend, Jerry A. Whitworth, a retired Navy radio man with a top-secret security clearance--previously have been identified in Walker's papers as "S," "K" and "D."

Meanwhile, it was learned that Internal Revenue Service investigators are pursuing evidence that Walker may have stashed thousands of dollars in Soviet payments in secret bank accounts in Europe and the Caribbean.

Walker's references to "A," in a diary that agents recovered during a two-day search of his Norfolk, Va., home, are more cryptic than the descriptions that authorities say represent the three other suspects.

'Go See A'

The references in the diary include such phrases as "Meet with 'A' " and "Go see 'A.' " One source conceded: "We don't know whether 'A' is central or peripheral." But he did acknowledge that "A" is the last "alphabet" designation used by Walker in the papers agents have obtained.

Investigators are known to be trying several ways to identify "A," including seeking to elicit cooperation from Walker, who has been held without bond since FBI agents arrested him on May 20.

One other alphabet reference found in Walker's papers turned out to be a "washout," one source noted. That was "F," which investigators found that Walker had used in referring to his half brother, Gary Walker, 24, assigned to a helicopter squadron specializing in anti-submarine warfare. The FBI determined that Gary Walker had no knowledge of John Walker's alleged spying activities and had provided him with no information.

The foreign bank inquiry is being pressed on the theory that Walker, if he had spent nearly two decades as a spy, as the government alleges, would have received far more money than the isolated payment of $35,000 he is presently charged with keeping. By contrast, Whitworth, the California-based member of the alleged ring, was paid at least $328,000 by the Soviets through Walker over an eight-year period, according to court papers.

"We believe Walker got a lot more than Whitworth," one investigative source said. He added that the IRS, in cooperation with FBI agents, "has uncovered some leads. But there is nothing conclusive at this time."

Trial Date Set

In related developments Wednesday, a federal judge set Oct. 28 for the trial of John Walker and his son, and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger announced formation of a 14-member commission to recommend better ways to control access to military secrets.

The Walker trial, to take place in Baltimore before U.S. District Judge Alexander Harvey II, is expected to be preceded by weeks of hearings at which prosecutors and defense attorneys will try to resolve ways of dealing with classified materials needed for the trial. Conviction on espionage charges is punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment.

Weinberger said that the new Pentagon commission will have four months to identify weaknesses in security policies and procedures "and develop corrective actions which will accomplish the necessary improvements." The panel will be headed by retired Army Gen. Richard Stillwell.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World