January 30, 2009, - 12:22 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Remember back in 2005, when it came to light that three convicted 1993 WTC bombers were recruiting jihadists and planning terrorist schemes from their cells in the Supermax federal prison facility? From what was supposed to be the toughest, most monitored prison we have, these guys sent over 90 letters and made several phone calls recruiting terrorists without the feds bothering to look at their mail, due to a lack in Arabic speaking staff to monitor the letters and calls.
Now, we find out that a former top CIA agent who spied for Russia–and was convicted and sent to prison for it–has been sending more secrets to Russia from his federal prison cell. Since this guy speaks only English, you have to wonder what the excuse is for not catching this earlier. It sounds like a great movie, but if this were a movie script, we wouldn’t believe it would be possible.
A former Central Intelligence Agency official imprisoned for spying for Russia continued to pass information and collect money from his old handlers while behind bars, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Harold James Nicholson, 58 years old, used his 24-year-old son, Nathaniel, to restart contacts with Russian spies in Mexico, Peru and Cyprus, according to an indictment against father and son filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore. Both father and son were arraigned Thursday on charges of money laundering and acting as agents of a foreign government.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation agent’s affidavit filed in court provides a spy-novel narrative from 2006 to 2008. U.S. officials claim Harold Nicholson tutored his son in spy tradecraft and Nathaniel Nicholson tried to hide his activities as he reached out to Russian contacts on trips abroad, buying his plane tickets with cash.
Prosecutors allege the elder Mr. Nicholson, who was serving a 23-year sentence, was seeking to recover money, and perhaps a “pension,” that his Russian contacts owed him for past work, in order to help his financially struggling family. Even behind bars, Mr. Nicholson still held value to the Russians, who wanted to figure out how he was caught and how much U.S. investigators knew of Russian spying in the U.S., prosecutors say.
Harold Nicholson was a former CIA station chief in Malaysia and later worked as an instructor for trainees at the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters. He was convicted of espionage conspiracy under a plea agreement in 1997. Prosecutors say he gave Russian spies the identity of the CIA’s Moscow station chief as well as information on new CIA trainees. Federal agents stopped him as he attempted to fly to Switzerland to hand over classified documents to agents for the SVR, the successor agency to the Soviet Union’s KGB. He is the most senior CIA official ever convicted of spying for a foreign government. . . .
FBI agents monitored the father and son, using email and telephone wiretaps and tracking devices on the son’s car to keep tabs on the 24-year-old’s alleged spy activities, according to documents filed by prosecutors.
Along the way, the father offered proud words of encouragement to his son. A birthday card the father sent the son last year, according to prosecutors, read: “You have been brave enough to step into this new unseen world that is sometimes dangerous but always fascinating. God leads us on our greatest adventures. Keep looking through your new eyes. I understand you and me.”
Federal agents stopped Nathaniel Nicholson as he returned from meeting contacts in Lima, Peru, in December 2007. Without telling him, the agents photocopied a notebook he carried that agents say contained coded notes about his alleged meetings with Russian spies. The notebook also contained instructions for a meeting he later had at a TGI Friday’s restaurant in Nicosia, Cyprus, with a Russian contact, according to the FBI affidavit.
I can just see the ads: “TGI Friday’s . . . Official Meeting Place of International Spies. No Wonder They Call it the Secret Sauce.”
FBI agents monitoring an email account attributed to Nathaniel Nicholson said that in October 2008, he sent a coded email as instructed by his Russian contact, confirming an upcoming meeting in Cyprus.
The email, according to the FBI affidavit, read: “Hola Nancy! It is great to receive your message! I love you too. I hope to see you soon! The best regards from my brother Eugene! – Love Dick”
Prosecutors claim the son collected nearly $36,000 in trips overseas intended to help family members pay off debts. The father expressed hopes of relocating to Russia when he left prison, prosecutors say.
In one letter, the father sent physical data such as his height and weight to his son, and prosecutors think the information was to be used by the Russians to provide him travel documents upon his release.
Glad they caught this guy. But since some more secrets were apparently passed from Nicholson in his jail cell, via his son, to the Russians, they didn’t exactly foil him in time.
One other thing: This guy gave out the identities of our top spies in Russia, and who knows what else. Yet, he was only sentenced to 23 years in prison. Contrast that with Jonathon Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying for our ally, Israel.
* Read the Nicholson Indictment.
* Read the fascinating Affidavit of FBI Special Agent Jared J. Garth.