No, it’s not James Bond. A fictional hero to a lot of readers. The worst, the most dangerous spy of all time, died in prison, presumably of natural causes, in August 2014. To my mind he should have faced a firing squad some thirty years earlier. He is John Walker Jr. a former US Navy submarine sailor and communications specialist. He died while serving a life sentence after his treason was uncovered and he was arrested in 1984. If his wife hadn’t squealed on him he might still be walking around free today and collecting a small fortune from the Russians who handled him.
Walker strolled into the Soviet embassy in Washington DC in early 1968. He was hard up for cash. So he offered to sell the “crown jewels” to the Soviets for payments of $4000 per month. And what he turned over to the Russians was indeed the crown jewels. As a communications specialist based at Atlantic Fleet headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, Walker had access to the ultra-Top Secret US Navy communications codes. And thus the Soviet military now had all of those codes in their possession beginning in 1968 and for the next fifteen years.
When Walker lost his access (because of retirement from the Navy) his betrayal did not stop. The greedy spy recruited his son, his brother and a best friend, all Navy sailors with access, to continue to feed him that highly sensitive information. All of them landed in prison.
The result was that during those Cold War years beginning in 1968, the Soviet military knew the location of every American submarine at sea.
My novel, CHINA SEA, alludes to the case of John Walker Jr. Here is an excerpt from the novel where our main character, Roy Mancini, is having a discussion with his Russian double-agent, Sasha Popov. CHINA SEA will be published in July 2015.
The Russian, Sasha Popov, is speaking:
“When the Center was briefing me for my mission, targeting your navy with the agents at Subic Bay, I heard a rumor. Maybe you call it gossip, right?”
“Yeah, rumors. Gossip. What was it about?”
“Well, I was taking a break from a briefing session when I ran into an old friend, one of our senior case officers who had recently returned to Moscow from Washington. He was on holiday. And he was curious about my mission because it involved spying on the United States Navy. He said a colleague of his in America was running a high-level secret agent there. Then he tells me this is far too sensitive for him to discuss and he changed the subject. He clams up, right. Of course, that made me curious. I badger him a little bit, take him out for a drink or two . . . or three. A lot of drinks actually.
“Finally he opens up and tells me that one of our case officers has been running an American, a Navy chief warrant officer, for the past five years. He is a communications specialist at the Atlantic submarine headquarters in Norfolk. The American is passing our embassy the U.S. Navy’s crown jewels, as he put it. This guy is selling your Navy’s most secret codes to us. The thing is, he tells me, having those encrypted codes without the machines was only half good enough. So the Kremlin ordered the North Koreans to capture your intelligence ship, remember the USS Pueblo, in 1968. That is the same year your American sailor started selling us the codes.
“The North Koreans arrested the Pueblo and hauled it into Wonsan. As soon as the ship arrived, the Koreans removed the encryption machines and delivered them to Moscow. The puzzle is now complete. He tells me that we have everything we need to read your Navy’s top secret communications. You better hope we never launch World War Three. Amazing, huh?”