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Veteran CIA official charged with spying

Secrets allegedly sold to Russians

CIA spy grfk

November 18, 1996
Web posted at: 1:30 p.m. EST

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Career CIA employee Harold J. Nicholson was charged Monday with espionage for passing classified secrets to the Russians for several years.

Nicholson, 46, was accused of selling secrets to Moscow for at least two years.

Nicholson, who lives in Burke, Virginia, was described by law enforcement officials as divorced and a father of children who do not live with him.

U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey, reads a statement of the charges against Nicholson:

Nicholson allegedly released information about convicted double agent Aldrich Ames
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He photographed CIA documents
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Possible penalties
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Arrested at airport


Nicholson was suspected of receiving at least $100,000 in payments from Russia and was arrested without incident Saturday afternoon at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia as he was about to leave on a trip, the sources said.

One source said the trip was not CIA business; two sources said he was not fleeing the country.

FBI Director Louis Freeh and CIA Director John Deutch called an afternoon news conference at FBI headquarters to provide details of the case.

Nicholson had served overseas in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, according to law enforcement sources. But more recently, they said, he was training new agents at "The Farm," as the CIA refers to its Virginia training site.

$100,000 payment

It was not yet clear what information Nicholson was accused of sharing, or how authorities had come to suspect him.

But a source said the FBI and CIA found $100,000 in "suspiciously timed cash deposits" believed to have been payments for spying.

Comparison to Ames spy case

The case is the second time a career CIA employee has been accused of spying for Russia. In 1994, counterintelligence officer Aldrich Ames was sentenced to life in prison without parole after he admitted selling secrets to the Soviets for eight years.

The agency has said Ames' treachery led to the deaths of 10 Western agents and compromised dozens of operations. U.S. officials say the new case does not appear to be as serious as the Ames' case and that this arrest is the result of lessons learned from that case.

Alleged spy since at least 1994

It was unclear when the alleged spying began.

U.S. officials suspect Nicholson was working for Moscow before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, one official said. But the case was not unearthed until mid-1994 after Nicholson failed a lie detector test, a source said.

The question of whether the Soviet KGB or the Russian intelligence agencies that succeeded it after the collapse of the Soviet Union has penetrated the CIA beyond Ames has been heavily debated in spy circles.

Ames has said he did not know of any other moles within the CIA.


Officials did not say if money was suspected to be Nicholson's sole motive for spying, although in other recent cases involving Americans, the reason was financial gain.

The Soviets paid Ames more than $2.5 million for his information.

Correspondent Carl Rochelle, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.  


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