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Walker Says Soviets Equipped Whitworth With a $10,000 Van

Times Staff Writer

Soviet agents initially were alarmed that John A. Walker recruited his friend Jerry A. Whitworth into his spy ring, but later found that the Navy documents stolen by Whitworth were of such value that they paid $10,000 for a van in which he could photograph the material, Walker testified Tuesday.

Walker also told how Whitworth, then a senior petty officer in the Navy, enjoyed the life style afforded by the proceeds of the spy operation, recalling how Whitworth invited dozens of friends to a lavish party at the Hotel del Coronado in 1979 outside San Diego to celebrate his marriage. Whitworth even paid for Walker’s flight and hotel, Walker said.

As Walker testified for his second day in Whitworth’s espionage trial, he made it clear that by the middle and late 1970s, the spy operation had settled into a predictable routine and that he and Whitworth became convinced that they would never be discovered.

Walker said he was so confident he would not be caught that by 1981, he recruited his brother, Arthur, who worked for a Chesapeake, Va., defense contractor, into the ring. He also nearly persuaded his daughter, Laura, to reenlist in the Army and get on the espionage “gravy train,” Walker said.

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Both were in deep financial trouble at the time, Walker said. Laura, who was unemployed and had a young child, agreed to join but ended up becoming a born-again Christian and, with her mother, alerted the FBI in late 1984 to the covert activity.

John Walker, 48, pleaded guilty in October to heading what military and law enforcement authorities have called the most damaging espionage operation against the United States in 30 years. He said he began to work as a spy in 1968.

Arthur Walker was convicted of espionage last August and is serving a life sentence.

Whitworth, 46, is on trial on espionage and income tax evasion charges for allegedly receiving $332,000 for passing on Navy secrets from his various duty stations--two aircraft carriers, a supply ship and two bases--through Walker to Soviet agents.

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Neither Walker nor Whitworth showed much emotion during Tuesday’s testimony. Whitworth, however, at one point shook his head in disbelief when Walker said that Whitworth was his only recruit by 1981. Walker then corrected himself, noting that his brother had joined the operation by then.

Walker, who like Whitworth is a retired Navy communications specialist, is the only witness who has directly tied Whitworth to espionage.

Walker said the Soviets were concerned that the ring might be discovered and they continually cautioned him not to spend money lavishly, which might draw attention to himself.

‘Best Friend’

Walker said he gave a similar warning to Whitworth, telling his former “best friend” to use safe-deposit boxes for his cash and cashier’s checks for large purchases. He also instructed Whitworth on the use of a miniature camera, Walker said.

Finally, he instructed Whitworth to “just go for the highest classification,” meaning secret and top-secret documents, Walker said.

When he told his Soviet contacts in 1975 that Whitworth had agreed to begin supplying material, Walker said, “they were alarmed that I had recruited someone without their knowledge.”

The Soviets said that “only they did the recruiting,” Walker said. However, their attitude changed when it soon became clear that Whitworth was providing useful material, he said.

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“His production of cryptographic (coding material) was good . . . if not excellent,” Walker said, and the Soviets doubled payments to Whitworth to $4,000 per month within three years of his first delivery.

Enough Material

In time, the Soviets offered $10,000 bonuses if Whitworth could supply enough material for them to unravel Navy codes--called by military and law enforcement experts the nation’s most valued military possession--for a complete month, Walker said.

One such bonus came in the form of $10,000 for a van, which Whitworth used while in charge of naval communications at the Alameda Naval Air Station in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, Walker testified.

A previous witness testified that Whitworth spent lunch breaks in the van and that he told his co-workers that he was napping. Walker testified that Whitworth actually used the van to photograph Navy coding material.

As he matter-of-factly described the routine of his business, Walker portrayed himself as the courier. He said he would pick up military secrets from Whitworth at Whitworth’s ports of call, from Hong Kong to San Diego and Alameda, and pay him for previous deliveries.

Miniature Camera

Whitworth generally photographed the classified material using a miniature Minox camera and often concealed the one-inch-long film canisters in Q-Tips boxes, Walker said. There was nothing particularly “sneaky” about their techniques, he said.

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Walker repeatedly referred to the deliveries as “normal” or, in one case, as “a standard spy exchange.”

Once he obtained a delivery, Walker took night drives into the countryside outside Washington, D.C., where he dropped off the material at prearranged locations, he said. The Soviets, in turn, dropped off cash, usually in $50 bills, and left instructions for the next drop, he said.

The exchanges took place on Saturday and Sunday nights because the Soviets believed that the FBI did not work on weekends, Walker said.

Personal Calendars

Walker spent much of the day referring to his personal calendars for various years, which have been introduced into evidence. Along with listings for dental appointments and his mother’s birthday, there were notations that read “f/f 1,” his standard reference to face-to-face meetings with his Soviet contacts.

Walker took yearly trips abroad, generally to Vienna, for meetings with the Soviet agents, he said. The meetings were invariably in the winter, Walker said, and he and the Soviet agents would only discuss their spy operation on the street, in the cold.


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