Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 218

The U.S. protested officially to Moscow yesterday over its "unacceptable" role in the espionage activities of Harold Nicholson, the 16-year CIA veteran arrested over the weekend for passing secret information to Russia. According to a State Department spokesman, U.S. deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott called in Yuly Vorontsov, the Russian ambassador to Washington, to convey the Administration’s displeasure, while the U.S. Embassy in Moscow delivered a parallel protest. The spokesman said that Washington views the Nicholson incident as "inconsistent with the pattern of bilateral relations of recent years" and he made clear that the U.S. is considering appropriate measures in response. In Moscow, neither Russia’s Foreign Ministry nor its Foreign Intelligence Service would comment on the affair (Reuter, Itar-Tass, November 19)

Intelligence personnel in the U.S. were said to have been particularly stunned by several aspects of the Nicholson case. The first was that Nicholson chose brazenly to launch his espionage activities less than eight weeks after the conviction of Aldrich Ames, the most notorious spy in CIA history. Indeed, the timing of Nicholson’s apparent recruitment — believed now to have occurred during a 1994 trip Malaysia — suggests that Moscow may have used to its advantage the uproar created in the CIA over the Ames case. CIA personnel have also been left to ponder the fact that Nicholson, unlike the burned-out Ames, had been a rising star who seemed likely to reach the highest ranks of the agency’s hierarchy. Equally surprising was the fact that a trusted instructor at the CIA’s spy training center in Virginia would sell to Moscow the identities of some of the agency’s officers and foreign agents, including one man that he had trained to spy for the U.S. in Moscow.

As a former station chief, Nicholson is the highest-ranking CIA employee ever to be charged with espionage. Intelligence agency representatives are saying, however, that while Nicholson’s spying activities are serious, they appear to be far less damaging than were those perpetrated by Ames. More than a dozen agents working for the CIA are believed to have been executed as a result of information supplied by Ames. (The New York Times, November 19)

Yeltsin Meets with Prime Minister.