Randy M. Jeffries, a former FBI clerk who was unemployed only two months ago, was accused in court Saturday of plotting to supply the Soviets with a stream of secret papers, all stolen from his new job at a firm that transcribes closed meetings of the House of Representatives.
In a brief court appearance the morning after his arrest, Jeffries, 26, was ordered jailed until a Monday bail hearing in U.S. District Court. He was charged with gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government, a crime punishable by life in prison.
He is the 12th person--11 of them Americans--to be held on espionage-related charges so far this year.
Jeffries' case could prove embarrassing to legislators, some of whom have unsparingly attacked the White House in the wake of recent spying arrests for supposedly slovenly safekeeping of national secrets.
The FBI pointedly noted in an affidavit filed in District of Columbia Superior Court that Jeffries' alleged source of secret documents was an ordinary waste bin where classified House papers were torn up by hand and tossed away.
Jeffries was arrested late Friday in a Holiday Inn a few blocks north of the White House after meeting with an FBI agent posing as a Soviet official. In that meeting, the affidavit stated, he admitted meeting twice before with actual Soviets, handing over roughly 60 "sample" documents.
At one point, Jeffries was alleged to have given the Soviet officials portions of documents, including one top-secret paper, and to have asked for $5,000 to supply the missing parts.
The affidavit stated that Jeffries bragged that he had access to a bagful of secret and top-secret papers "which were ripped up but which could be put back together." He said that he could make monthly deliveries of documents if asked, the FBI affidavit stated.
The FBI said the documents all came from Acme Reporting Co., a downtown Washington firm hired to do stenography for House sessions, including closed meetings at which top-secret defense matters are discussed. Acme kept copies of secret documents in a safe, but disposed of secret material by ripping them up and tossing them in the trash, the FBI said.
Law enforcement officials on Saturday refused to say what documents the Soviets had been given or how much the disclosures may have damaged the national security. Several House panels, including the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Foreign Affairs Committee, meet regularly in secret sessions to discuss military or intelligence matters.
Acme officials told the Associated Press on Saturday that they were cooperating fully with the FBI's inquiry.
FBI Director William H. Webster said in a prepared statement Friday that Jeffries had "attempted" to deliver defense secrets to the Soviet Union's military mission on Dec. 14, six days before he was arrested. The statement did not make clear whether he succeeded.
'Approval From Moscow'
In any case, he was not taken into custody until 9:11 p.m. Friday, after meeting with an undercover FBI agent who assured him that he "had received approval from Moscow to continue dealing with Jeffries."
The arrest apparently was not made until Jeffries went to an undisclosed location at the agent's request and returned with three complete stolen documents.
As with most of the 11 others arrested on spying-related charges this year, Jeffries was said by law enforcement officials to have been motivated not by ideology but by money. But he is not typical in other respects of this year's parade of accused foreign agents.
Jeffries worked in a "support" job with the FBI from 1978 to 1980, FBI spokesman Lane Bonner said. But, unlike most of the others, he had no background in intelligence work and apparently had few employable skills.
There was no immediate explanation of why Jeffries left his FBI post. Bonner said that Jeffries held an agency security clearance during his two years at the FBI, like all other employees there.
At the time of his arrest, Jeffries had been working two months as a $500-a-month messenger for Acme. Previously, he had been unemployed and on welfare for a month, and had worked three months as a Xerox machine operator for a local law firm.
A court report said that Jeffries had been arrested in March, 1983, on charges of possessing heroin, and had been placed on 18 months' probation. A handwritten notation said that he had admitted used heroin and cocaine.
Jeffries lived with his wife, Naomi, and three children.