Walker Spy Ring

   The most significant victory of Soviet intelligence in the Cold War may have been the recruitment of four Americans with knowledge of military and intelligence codes. John Walker, a U.S. Navy warrant officer who had served on nuclear submarines and was deeply in debt, walked into the Soviet embassy in Washington in 1967 and volunteered to work for the KGB. “I’m a naval officer,” he reportedly said. “I’d like to make some money and I’ll give you some genuine stuff in return.” The KGB deputy rezident, Oleg Kalugin recognized the value of Walker’s “genuine stuff” and developed tradecraft to run him first in the United States and later in Vienna. Over the next 18 years, Walker, his brother, son, and a close colleague, Jerry Whitworth, provided Moscow with the ability to crack several American codes. The Soviets paid Walker more than $2 million for his role, and gave Whitworth over $100,000 to remain at his post as a navy code clerk.
   After retiring from the navy, Walker served as spy master of his little ring of traitors. The KGB met with him in Vienna and used specially designed dead drops in suburban Maryland to pay him and receive raw material from his agents. Walker hid the payments artfully, running a small private detective agency in the Norfolk, Virginia, area that was perfect for laundering money. Walker’s detective work gave him access to law enforcement and naval personnel, which may have allowed him to recruit other sources.
   In May 1985 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Walker and his three confederates after his wife reported his activities to the FBI. All were sentenced to life in prison. Walker later told an American television interviewer that K-Mart, a chain retail store, had better security than the U.S. Navy. One Soviet defector later told a congressional committee that had war occurred while Walker was providing coded material, the Soviet military would have won because of its ability to read U.S. communications. The Soviets gained another, perhaps even greater, advantage from the Walker ring. The information showed them their submarines’ vulnerability in the open ocean, causing them to make changes in their naval weapons and strategy.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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