Only days after the resolution of a major U.S.-Russian espionage row, American authorities yesterday charged a former CIA station chief with spying for Moscow. Harold J. Nicholson, aged 46 and a 16-year CIA veteran, had allegedly passed "very damaging information" to the Russians, for which he was reportedly paid more than $120,000. Nicholson was hired by the CIA in 1980 and had held high security clearance throughout much of his career. As an overseas agent against the Soviet Union and other countries, Nicholson reportedly had his first contact with targeted Soviet officials while serving in Manila from 1982-1985. Nicholson was subsequently CIA station chief in Bucharest, and from 1994 until July of this year instructed new CIA agents in tradecraft at the agency’s secret Virginia training site. U.S. authorities, who are still assessing the scope of Nicholson’s alleged crimes, indicated that his espionage activities had begun at least by early 1994, and may have started years before that. According to the FBI, Nicholson had been granted access to information whose disclosure could do irreparable harm to the U.S. If convicted Nicholson faces life in prison without parole. (AP, The New York Times, November 18)
Federal authorities said that there was no evidence of any connection between the Nicholson case and that of Aldrich Ames, the U.S. counterintelligence officer who was arrested in early 1994 and is now serving a life sentence for passing secrets to the Soviet Union. But Attorney General Janet Reno, CIA Director John Deutch, and FBI Director Louis Freeh all attributed Nicholson’s arrest to a policy of improved cooperation between the FBI and CIA that was implemented in the wake of the Ames case. (AP, November 18) Ironically, it was poor coordination between those same two agencies that was cited as one reason for the recent spy row between Washington and Moscow over the arrest — and subsequent release — by U.S. authorities of a former Soviet intelligence officer. (See Monitor, November 18)
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