Ex-Navy Man Held in Attempted Sale of Defense Secrets to Soviets

Times Staff Writer

FBI agents, posing as Soviet operatives, Tuesday arrested a former Navy chief petty officer in Norfolk, Va., for allegedly attempting to gather and deliver anti-submarine defense secrets to the Soviets.

The suspect, Craig Lee Kunkle, 39, first came to the attention of the FBI when he called the Soviet Embassy here last month and the conversation was monitored by authorities, sources familiar with the case said.

Kunkle, who had attempted to earn a living as a private investigator and security guard after ending an 11-year Navy career with a “less than honorable discharge,” may have been motivated by money and possibly revenge over his discharge, one source said.

Warfare Capabilities


The information Kunkle allegedly sought to obtain and sell to the Soviets involved Navy anti-submarine warfare capabilities, the FBI said. Throughout his Navy service, with both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, Kunkle’s specialty was operating equipment in P-3 Orion sub-hunting planes.

While Kunkle did not actually turn anything over to Soviet agents, his arrest is another indication of the surveillance net the FBI maintains over locations where a U.S. spy would likely try to contact foreign agents.

And the arrest comes at a time when U.S. intelligence officials are voicing greater concern over what appears to be growing efforts by the Soviet Union to recruit American agents, despite Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s emphasis on glasnost.

“Our counterintelligence problems have increased over the past couple of years,” a Reagan Administration source said.

Most Soviet efforts are targeted at military enlisted personnel and lower-level civilian workers, such as couriers and communications specialists, rather than at senior staff officials, according to intelligence sources. These sources said that more U.S. employees are reporting approaches from Soviet operatives than at any other time in the post-war era.

Held Secret Clearance

Kunkle, who was born in Alameda, Calif., held a secret clearance during his Navy service.

Although Kunkle’s alleged espionage attempt took place in Norfolk, his activities have no relation with the case of convicted spy John A. Walker Jr., the retired Navy communications specialist who organized an espionage ring out of Norfolk using family members and a close friend, government sources said.


Kunkle, who appeared Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Tommy E. Miller in Norfolk, could face life imprisonment if convicted of the espionage charge.

Staff writer Robin Wright also contributed to this story.