Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Vasili Mitrokhin and Robert Lipka

Vasili  Mitrokhin drops a dime on Robert Lipka 

The Sword and the Shield, by Christopher Andrew (Basic Books, 1999 )

p. 205

Thanks mainly to walk-ins, Line PR in Washington performed rather better than New York during the mid-and late 1960s.

In September 1965 Robert Lipka, a twenty-year-old army clerk in NSA, caused great excitement in the Washington residency by presenting himself at the Soviet embassy on Sixteenth Street, a few blocks from the White House, and announcing that he was responsible for shredding highly classified documents. Lipka (code-named DAN) was probably the youngest Soviet agent recruited in the United States with access to high-grade intelligence since…..1944. Lipka’s file notes that he quickly mastered the intelligence tradecraft taught him by Line PR. Over the next two years he made contact with the residency about fifty times via dead letter boxes, brush contacts and meetings with a case officer. 11

[Footnotes 11. vol. 6, ch. 11, part3; vol. 6 , app.1, parts 12, 41.]

The youthful head of Line PR, Oleg Danilovich Kalugin, spent “counteless hours’ in his cramped office in the Washington residency sifting through the mass of material provided by Lipka and choosing the most important documents for cabling to Moscow. 12
[Footnote 12. Kalugin, Spymaster, p. 83. Kalugin does not give Lipka’s name or codename and refers to him only as “a ‘walk-in’ who came to us in the mid-1960s, explaining that he was involved in shredding and destroying NSA documents.” A later analysis by the Centre singled out 200 documents from NSA, the CIA, State Department and other federal agencies as of particular value. Mitrokhin’s notes, alas, give no details of their contents….Lipka’s file includes his and his father’s address during the 1970s, as well as details of his wife’s work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, together with her telephone number at the hospital. ]
Lipka’s motives were purely mercenary. During the two years after he walked into the Washington embassy, he received a total of about 27,000, but regularly complained that he was not paid enough and threatened to break contact unless his remuneration was increased. Lipka eventually did break contact in August 1967, when he left NSA at the end of his military service to study at Millersville College in Pennsylvania and probably concluded that his loss of intelligence access made it no longer worth his while maintaining contact with the Washington residency. To discourage the KGB from trying to renew contact, Lipka sent a final message claiming that he had been a double agent controlled by US intelligence. In view of the importance of the classified documents he had provided, however, the KGB had no doubt that he was lying. Attempts by both the residency and illegals to renew contact with Lipka continued intermittently, without success, for at least another eleven years. 

p. 18 –

On one occasion, Mitrokhin himself was almost called to give evidence in court. The case concerned Robert Lipka, an army clerk assigned in the mid-1960s to the National Security Agency (NSA, the US SIGINT service), whom Mitrokhin had identified as a KGB agent. 49 

(49. vol.6, ch. 11, parts 26, 28, 41.)

In May 1993 FBI agent Dimittri Droujinsky contacted Lipka, posing as “Sergei Nikitin,” a GRU officer based in Washington. Lipka complained that he was still owed money for his espionage over a quarter of a century earlier and was given a total of $10,000 by “Nikitin” over the next few months. 

He appeared confident he could no longer be prosecuted. “The statute of limitations,” he told “Nikitin,”  “has run out.”

“Nikitin” corrected him. “In America the statute of limitations for espionage never runs out.” 
Lipka replied that, whatever the legal position, he “would never admit to anything.”

After a lengthy FBI investigation, Lipka was arrested in February 1996 at his home in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and charged with handling classified documents to the Soviet Union. 50.

Since Lipka denied all charges against him, Mitrokhin expected to give evidence at his trial in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, in May 1997. But, in what the Philadelphia Inquirer described as “a surprising turnaround” in the courtroom, Lipka “exploded into tears as he confessed that he had handed over classified information to KGB agents.”

Lipka had been persuaded by his lawyer, Robert F. Kidd, to accept a prosecution offer of a plea bargain which would limit his sentence to eighteen years’ imprisonment with time off for good behavior, rather than continue to plead not guilty and face the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail.

Though Mitrokhin’s name was never mentioned in court, it was the evidence he had obtained from KGB files which seems to have prompted Lipka’s change of heart. “We saw how significant the evidence was,” his lawyer told reporters. “But the government also realized they couldn’t go through a full trial and not have the mystery witness exposed.” The “mystery witness” was Mitrokhin.

After Lipka’s confession, U.S. Assistant Attorney Barbara J. Cohan admitted, “We had a very sensitive witness who, if he had had to testify, would have had to testify behind a screen and under an assumed name, and now we don’t have to surface him at all.”

“I feel like Rip Van Spy,” said Lipka when he was sentenced in September 1997. “I thought I had put this to bed many years ago and I never dreamed it would turn out like this.”

As well as being sentenced to eighteen years’ imprisonment and fined 10,000 dollars, Lipka was ordered to repay the further 10,000 dollars from the FBI funds given him by “Nikitin.” 52

[Footnotes 49. Vol. 6, ch. 11, parts 26, 28, 41.
50. Scott Shane and Sandy Banisky, “Lipka Was Wary of FBI’s Spy Trap,” Baltimore Sun (February 25, 1996); William C. Carley, “How the FBI Broke Spy Case that Baffled Agency for 30 Years,” Wall Street Journal (November 21, 1996).
51. Julia C. Martinex, “Accused Spy Admits Guilt,” Philadelphia Inquirer (May 24, 1997).
52. Joseph A. Slobodzian, “18-Year Sentence for Ex-Soviet Spy,” Philadelphia Inquirer (September 25, 1997).]

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