Spy Hunter: Inside the FBI Investigation of the Walker Espionage Case / Traitors among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World

By Sullivan, Robert G. | Naval War College Review, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Spy Hunter: Inside the FBI Investigation of the Walker Espionage Case / Traitors among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World


Sullivan, Robert G., Naval War College Review


Hunter, Robert W., with Lynn Dean Hunter, eds. Spy Hunter: Inside the FBI Investigation of the Walker Espionage Case. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1999. 250pp. $27.95

Herrington, Stuart A. Traitors among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World. Novato, Calif.: Presidio, 1999. 409pp. $27.95

The enormity of the actual and potential losses to the United States due to the undiscovered treason by John A. Walker, Jr., Clyde Conrad, James Hall, and their colleagues is deftly told in these two exciting and disturbing books. Detecting treason in the United States is a daunting and unending task. The urgent message of both books is that of the need for constant vigilance by all with access to U.S. secrets. Nowhere is that message more critical than in our military, where, the authors state, it had been tragically ignored for too long.

Robert Hunter, a now-retired FBI foreign counterintelligence agent who at the time was assigned to the Norfolk, Virginia, field office, was the lead investigator for the Walker spy case. He is a talented storyteller. He begins his fascinating narrative in late 1984, when John Walker's former wife telephoned the Boston office to reveal that her divorced husband had been selling secrets to the Soviets for nearly nineteen years. The FBI followed up on that call with an investigation into Walker's naval career, from his days as a radioman in 1955 through his promotion to chief warrant officer and his subsequent retirement from the Navy in 1976. Hunter takes the reader on the arduous and urgent hunt, which led across the nation and overseas. The result was the identification of an espionage ring that probably included John A. Walker, Jr.; his son, Seaman Michael Walker, his brother, retired lieutenant commander Arthur James Walker; and his "best friend," Jerry Whitworth, a retired senior chief petty officer.

Early in the investigation, a preliminary assessment of the damage done by Walker was made by the National Security Agency. It concluded that "if these people gave the Soviets the information they had access to, the damage will be not only grave, it will be catastrophic."

The FBI's exhaustive telephone and "eyeball" surveillance of John Walker resulted in its discovery of highly classified documents taken by Walker's son Michael from his ship for delivery to his father's Soviet contact at an isolated drop site in the Maryland countryside. Once the FBI had evidence of his treachery, Walker's career as a spy was finally about to come to an end. Walker's arrest was the result of an exhaustive search of his home, where a "mother lode" of espionage paraphernalia, given to him by his handlers over many years, was found, as well as copies of classified Navy documents that had already been delivered to his contacts. Examination of the seized documents finally led to the arrests also of Whitworth, Arthur and Michael Walker-all the members of the Walker ring. During the lengthy preparations for their trials, John Walker and his son entered guilty pleas. John and his brother were each sentenced to life imprisonment, Jerry Whitworth was sentenced to a total of 365 years, and Michael Walker was given a sentence of twenty-five years.

The enormous damage to the security of the United States by these four men was highlighted in John Walker's sentencing affidavit, composed by Rear Admiral William Studeman, then Director of Naval Intelligence, who bluntly stated: "The KGB considered the Walker-Whitworth operation to be the most important operation in the KGB's history. This certainly ranks this Soviet intelligence operation as one of the greatest espionage successes in intelligence history. We have little confidence that we understand the full extent and scope of the Walker conspiracy and the damage they have done."

Stuart Herrington, for thirty years an Army intelligence officer, treats the reader to a truly remarkable look at the "silent war" waged by Army counterintelligence against the Soviets and their surrogates and allies in Western Europe. …

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