Sumner Shapiro, Long-Serving Director of Naval Intelligence

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sumner Shapiro, 80, a Navy rear admiral who served as director of naval intelligence from 1978 to 1982 and expressed early warnings about Jonathan Pollard, a Navy intelligence analyst later revealed to have spied for Israel, died Nov. 14 at his home in McLean. He had cancer.

Adm. Shapiro, a Russian specialist, was among the longest-serving directors of naval intelligence. His most enduring influence was rethinking how the Navy approached its Soviet counterparts.

He concluded that the Soviet navy would, in a wartime scenario, protect the country's seaboard approaches and its ballistic missile submarines. This view was strikingly different from the Soviets' World War II strategy of hunting enemy vessels.

David A. Rosenberg, a researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses and an authority on naval intelligence history, said Adm. Shapiro's oversight role greatly shaped the U.S. Navy's maritime strategy in the 1980s.

If maritime strategy represented a highlight of his career, Adm. Shapiro often expressed regret about his early handling of Pollard, a Navy civilian who pleaded guilty in 1985 to espionage charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

When Pollard, as a new analyst, went to him with a scheme to gain "back-channel" intelligence information from South Africa, Adm. Shapiro dismissed Pollard as a "kook" and reduced his clearance. Later Pollard's clearance was reinstated.

Adm. Shapiro, who was Jewish, said he was bothered that many Jewish organizations supported Pollard during the diplomatic controversy that followed his imprisonment.

"We work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are, and to have somebody screw it up . . . and then to have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me," Adm. Shapiro told The Washington Post in 1998.

"I wish the hell I'd fired him," he added.

Adm. Shapiro was born Jan. 13, 1926, in Nashua, N.H., where his parents were pharmacists. He served in the Korean War after graduating in 1949 from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

In the mid-1950s, he was an intelligence briefer to Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke and later had intelligence assignments in Moscow and London.

He received a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University in the mid-1960s and graduated from the Naval War College and the U.S. Army's Institute for Advanced Soviet and Eastern European Studies in Germany.

His decorations included the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Navy Commendation Medal.

In retirement, he was vice president for advanced planning of BDM International Inc., a military research company in McLean. In 1989, he formed a national security consulting company, which in recent years did work for national science laboratories.

He was board chairman of the Naval Intelligence Foundation, which raises scholarship money for children of naval intelligence specialists.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Eleanor Hymen "Jimmie" Shapiro of McLean; three children, Dr. Steven Shapiro of York, Pa., and Martha Shapiro and Susan Shapiro, both of McLean; a brother; and four grandchildren.

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