Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 75

A retired U.S. naval officer, arrested by Russian authorities on April 4 (see the Monitor, April 6), has been officially charged with espionage. A spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said yesterday that the American, who has been identified by the U.S. Embassy (but not the Russian authorities) as Edmond Pope, faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted. A Russian lawyer has reportedly been appointed to represent Pope, who has no diplomatic immunity in the case and who has been held for the past week in Lefortovo prison. A Russian citizen and alleged accomplice of Pope, whose identify has not been divulged, has also been arrested. According to the FSB spokesman, he has been charged with divulging state secrets and faces up to ten years behind bars.

Unlike a number of earlier espionage rows between Russia and various Western countries, commentary on this case has been low-key. Indeed, few details are known. Following the arrest of the American, Russian authorities had said only that he had been found in possession of technical drawings, recordings of conversations and receipts to Russian contacts. FSB officials also said that the American had “deliberately established contacts over a long period with Russian scientists” in order to obtain state secrets. Russian television agencies have said that he was arrested after paying for plans for a submarine-launched missile.

According to U.S. news reports, Pope is a native of Grants Pass, Oregon. He reportedly spent much of his career in the navy working for naval intelligence. After his retirement from the Navy, Pope worked from 1994-1997 with Pennsylvania State University’s Applied Research Laboratory, which does research for the military. Pope is said to have been an “assistant for foreign technology” at the lab. According to a statement from Penn State, Pope developed contacts between Russian and U.S. research institutes and worked on converting technology for commercial uses. He eventually left the Penn State laboratory in order to create CERF Technologies International, which, according to the same Penn State statement, has “commercial contacts with organizations in Russia.” The Penn State lab reportedly also has maintained contacts with Pope. FSB officials, meanwhile, have said that Pope’s alleged Russian contact is himself involved in high-tech defense work (AP, UPI, April 7; AP, Reuters, Russian agencies, April 13).

The Russian Federal Security Service, which was briefly headed by President-elect Vladimir Putin, has in recent years stepped up its investigations into defense research efforts involving Russian and foreign defense experts. There have been several arrests and a number of investigations in this area. It is unclear at this point whether Pope’s case fits into that category.