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Cold War Warriors

Moles - The Enemy Within

Commander John Murphy, USN, RET

Merriam Webster – MOLE

"Function: noun

  1. any of numerous burrowing insectivores with tiny eyes, concealed ears, and soft fur.
  2. one who works in the dark?
  3. a spy (as a double agent) who establishes a cover before beginning espionage; broadly : one within an organization who passes on information."

The history of the Cold War is filled with tales of spies who lived and worked in the shadows. I believe that some of the greatest damage to America was not done by foreign spies, but rather – "moles" who were every day Americans who worked at the desk next to you. In government agencies or in U.S. military commands and communications centers - worldwide. They handled sensitive operational and intelligence information and, for one reason or another, became traitors.

In my small part of the Cold War - there were three American moles that had the greatest impact. They were Sergeant Jack Dunlap (U.S. Army and NSA), Aldrich Ames (CIA), and Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker (U.S. Navy).

Other Americans became infamous as "turncoats" or defectors. Traitors such as Bernon Mitchell and William Martin who defected from their desks in NSA’s Advanced Soviet Codes Office in 1960. They worked right next door to me in 1958. They later sailed past my Black Sea warning site in Istanbul on a Soviet cargo ship in 1960. A big story at the time, but the Soviets found them of marginal value once in the Soviet Union - other than for propaganda. But moles such as Dunlap, Ames and Walker were a different story. They had a huge impact, and usually we did not know what they were up to until well after the fact. When the real damage to the nation was a "done deal".

Here is a brief recap of three American moles from the Cold War who had a direct or indirect on my own career. Shown in parentheses are the time period in which they operated and the operational area concerned.

Sergeant Jack Dunlap (1958 to 1963) – A non- intelligence, Army enlisted man who performed mundane, maintenance and logistical work for the Army warning site at Sinop, Turkey in 1958 . He then became a general’s driver at NSA Fort Meade (1960-63) where he eventually worked his way into low level processing of sensitive NSA message traffic. He first began to work for the KGB in Turkey and then turned his NSA assignment into a lucrative source of income for his extravagant lifestyle. In 1963 the Army was about to transfer him away from Fort Meade and he applied for a low level NSA civilian job. Probably at the urging of his KGB handlers in Moscow and Washington. He failed an NSA polygraph test in early 1963 which triggered an immediate investigation ending in his suicide on 27 July 1963. He would later be linked to the compromise and execution of two high level, Soviet moles - Peter Popov and Oleg Penkovsky. Also the defection of three NSA employees - Bernon Mitchell and William Martin in 1960 and Victor Hamilton in 1963. Hamilton defected the day after Dunlap’s suicide.

Penkovsky’s death was a particular blow to U.S. intelligence because he was the mole who first alerted the U.S. to the fact that the Soviets were putting strategic, nuclear missiles into Cuba. Ironically, the CIA became aware that Penkovsky had been compromised on the very day that President Kennedy was telling the nation that we had detected Soviet missiles in Cuba. Penkovsky is reported to have suffered a horrible death at the hands of the KGB. He was first tortured and then burned alive while being fed, feet first into an oven while strapped to a board with piano wire. All this because Sergeant Jack Dunlap had an insatiable desire for high living.

Aldrich Ames (1983- 1994) - Aldrich Ames was a major mole for the KGB from the early 1980s, through Perestroika in the late 80s to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s. He was arrested for espionage in 1994. I was a contract Russian linguist at CIA Headquarters in the early 90s and can recall when the Director announced Ames’s arrest over the CIA, secure TV network. Ames was a child of the CIA.

Ames had field assignments in Ankara, Mexico City, Rome and New York where he worked with Soviet cases. He later was assigned to the Soviet East European Division of CIA Headquarters in the early 1980s. He developed a record of being a problem drinker in the early 70s. By 1983 he was divorced and considering espionage. By 1985 he was working important Soviet Embassy cases in Washington. He is also was receiving large sums of money from the KGB and had identified at least ten top Soviet moles that were working for CIA.

By 1990 he was working in the agency’s extremely sensitive Counterintelligence Center Analysis Group. The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, but the Cold War went on in the world of covert intelligence. By 1993 CIA was becoming alarmed with the number of agents being lost to the KGB. Compromised then executions. They were convinced they were dealing with an in-house mole. Ames passed two polygraph exams in the early 90s, but extravagant living (e.g. cash payment for home, an expensive automobile, clothing and high credit card bills on a modest government salary) served as flags leading to his arrest in 1994. At trial in Federal Court he admitted compromising all Soviet moles he was aware of leading to the compromise of one hundred U.S. operations and the execution of at least ten top notch U.S. sources. He is now, serving a life sentence.

John Anthony Walker – (1964-1968) Compromised major U.S. Navy cryptographic systems which led to seizure of USS Pueblo and sinking of USS Scorpion). The KGB considered the John Walker case their greatest success in the Cold War. Walker was a Navy Warrant Officer and communications specialist in the sensitive and prestigious U.S. Navy nuclear submarine service. His treachery began in 1965 when he tried to help his naval officer, brother Arthur obtain some much needed cash by selling secrets to the KGB. By 1966 John Walker had decided this was so easy that he could use some cash himself for a boat and fancy cars and a bar & restaurant of his very own. He began selling the high priority key codes for submarine crypto machines and the KGB knew they had a hot one.

In 1967 he received orders to the strategically important Submarine Force Atlantic Headquarters in Norfolk, VA. He boldly walked in the front door of the Soviet Embassy in Washington and introduced himself. The rest is history. He entered the spy world of dead drops and top dollar payment for classified messages and codes delivered. The KGB set up a special unit in Moscow to process the volumes of information they were receiving. A plan was developed for North Korea to seize a U.S. spy ship – the USS Pueblo for a violation of their territorial waters. The real reason for the operation was to grab a KW 47 crypto machine so they could process the traffic being received from Walker. By April 1968 the KGB was processing the U.S. Navy’s most sensitive communications – in near real time.

By May 1968 this information was reportedly used to trap and sink a U.S. nuclear submarine – the USS Scorpion during an Atlantic transit with 99 men aboard. This, a was considered a "pay back" for what the Soviets believed was the intentional sinking of one of their ballistic missile submarines near Hawaii in March 1968. It would be another twenty years before Walker’s wife Barbara alerted the Navy that he had been spying for the Soviets. Walker had refused to pay alimony in a divorce settlement. Walker was arrested in May 1985 and is now serving a life sentence.

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