WASHINGTON — A retired Navy communications specialist who was arrested on spying charges Monday apparently had been funneling secrets to the Soviet Union for more than 15 years in an espionage operation that "probably" involved others besides a sailor son already under investigation, sources said Tuesday.
The duration of the operation, allegedly run by retired Chief Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker Jr., and indications that Walker may have headed a spy ring compound "the FBI's threat assessment"--a measure of the damage done by secrets being passed to Soviets, one official said.
Walker, 47, whose top-secret "crypto" clearance gave him access to some of the Navy's most sensitive codes until he retired in 1976, is being held without bond in Baltimore, where a federal grand jury is expected to begin examining his activities this week.
Son Aboard Nimitz
His son, Michael Lance Walker, 22, is being detained for questioning aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Nimitz, now on a routine port call in Haifa, Israel, a Navy spokesman said. The 129 classified documents that his father allegedly was trying to pass to a Soviet agent Sunday when he was arrested by the FBI included some that appeared to have come from the Nimitz, according to court papers filed in the case.
But the FBI's belief that Walker had confederates and was spying for more than 15 years are also based on information provided by persons familiar with his actions, including his former wife, one official said. Her identity could not be learned immediately.
"We expect more people might be implicated--other than the son," one source said. "We're looking hard at (his) family, business associates and (other) contacts. If it's a ring, we believe that Walker's at the top."
Held Without Bond
Walker was ordered held without bond after Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Schatzow told a federal magistrate in Baltimore that he may have been supplying the Soviet Union with information for 15 to 18 years.
FBI agents Tuesday completed their search of the Rockville, Md., motel room where Walker was staying when arrested. They also examined a manila envelope he dropped when he pulled a revolver on agents who made the arrest and a van he had been seen driving. An FBI spokesman declined to discuss what the searches had produced.
According to search warrants, agents were looking for devices used to conceal and transmit classified information, records of payments received from or made to espionage agents and foreign intelligence officers, the identities of spies and foreign travel documents.
Spy Materials Sought
They also were seeking materials used by espionage agents to communicate with each other and with foreign governments, including code pads, secret writing materials, recording devices and tapes, radio and electronic transmittal equipment and chemicals used to develop coded or secret messages, the warrants show.
Michael Lance Walker is a seaman who has been aboard the Nimitz since Jan. 31, 1984, according to Navy records. He has three sisters, all older, and entered the Navy on Dec. 13, 1982. Navy spokesmen said he is being questioned by the Naval Investigative Service, which is cooperating with the FBI in the case.