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Miller Never Admitted Spy Role, Jury Told

August 29, 1985|From Associated Press

An FBI official told jurors Wednesday how Richard W. Miller spilled out the story of his affair with a Soviet woman, but said the fired agent did not admit giving her classified information.

P. Bryce Christensen, assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, said that when Miller made his statement, he asked one thing be kept secret--that Miller had been having sex with the woman.

"During our conversation, he indicated he had had sexual relations with Svetlana Ogorodnikov during a trip to San Francisco and he asked that that not be included in the statement," Christensen said, relating how he prepared a written version of Miller's story. "I complied with that request."

Miller Sits Calmly

Miller, 48, the only FBI agent ever accused of espionage, sat calmly taking notes as his former boss testified in U.S. District Court.

Miller, who is charged with conspiring to pass classified FBI information to the Soviets through Ogorodnikov, could receive a life sentence if convicted. Ogorodnikov and her husband, Nikolai, pleaded guilty during their trials and have been sentenced to prison.

During cross examination by Miller's attorneys, Christensen confirmed that Miller came to him asking that he be allowed to go with Ogorodnikov to Vienna and become a double agent working for the FBI.

Purposely Misled?

"He said he had carried this operation as far as he could carry it on his own," Christensen said.

"And he said that to carry it further, he needed approval of the FBI, didn't he?" asked defense attorney Joel Levine. Christensen said yes.

Christensen acknowledged Miller gave no indication that he was aware the FBI had been following him for several weeks.

Levine sought to show Christensen purposely misled Miller, pretending this was the first he knew of the former agent's activities even though the FBI was then deeply involved in the investigation they called "Whipworm," referring to a parasite that attacks from within.

Recruiting Effort

Christensen testified earlier that Miller came to his office Sept. 27, 1984, and, without prodding, gave him a detailed account of his affair with the woman and her efforts to recruit him as a spy.

Miller, who maintains he was trying to infiltrate a Soviet spy network, portrayed his actions as harmless, Christensen said.

"He indicated he felt this would be an opportunity to redeem what he termed an otherwise poor career in the FBI," Christensen testified.

U.S. Atty. Robert Bonner introduced the six-page statement typed that day by Christensen and signed by Miller. Bonner read the entire statement, in which Miller told of many meetings with Ogorodnikov, outlined her efforts to strike a deal to get information for the Soviet Union and insisted he had refused to cooperate.

Government's Case

The statement, which has been made public before, forms the basis for the government's case. Miller's remarks that day were followed by four subsequent days of interrogation by FBI agents, and his admissions during those interviews were to be introduced into evidence later.

During direct questioning, Bonner elicited the basic details of Christensen's encounter with Miller.

Christensen testified that he and Miller are Mormons. Miller once sought his counseling on a problem of conscience, when he admitted he was having a sexual affair, apparently unrelated to Ogorodnikov, and was distraught about it, the agent said.

Problems with Wife

"I said that was something he'd have to resolve with his own ecclesiastical authority," Christensen said, "and I would be able to offer no help on that."

He said Miller also confided he was having problems with his wife, Paula, and was feeling "rather brow-beaten by her."

"He indicated his wife would yell at him or scream at him and he felt very intimidated by that method of conversation," Christensen said. "He said he had a difficult time communicating with her, that he was not able to get a word in edgewise."

On Sept. 28, Christensen said, Miller gave him a typed addendum to his statement in which he specifically stated he believed he was the subject of a Soviet recruitment effort.

Christensen was asked if he questioned Miller that day about passing documents to Ogorodnikov and he said, "I did not."

"Did he tell you whether he had or not?" Bonner asked.

"Yes," said Christensen. "He said he had told Svetlana to tell the Soviets he would not give them any information on any FBI investigations or procedures."

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