The FBI announced yesterday it had arrested a 67-year-old East German woman and charged her with working as a Soviet spy and trying to smuggle confidential information out of the country hidden in a specially-designed cigarette pack.
Alice Michelson, who said she taught Marxism in East Berlin, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 9:45 p.m. Monday as she boarded a Czechoslovak airlines flight bound for Prague and East Berlin.
The FBI said that Michelson is accused of receiving the confidential cables from a U.S. Army intelligence officer pretending to work for the KGB, the Soviet secret police.
The Soviets chose Michelson as their courier "because they felt at her age no one would suspect her of such nefarious activities," said Joe Valiquette of the FBI's New York field office.
She was charged with knowingly receiving classified information on behalf of the Soviet Union. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Michelson was held without bond after her arraignment yesterday before U.S. Magistrate John Caden in Brooklyn.
An affidavit filed at the arraignment and FBI agents gave this account of the investigation:
A Soviet national identified as "Misha" approached a U.S. Army sergeant stationed in West Germany three years ago and asked him to work for the KGB.
After reporting the contact to the Army Intelligence Command, the sergeant pretended to go along with the approach, and, on KGB instructions, secured a job with Army Intelligence.
The sergeant later met twice with Soviet agents at the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. He promised he could deliver confidential information, and in return received $6,500 and promises of $500 monthly.
At the last meeting, on Sept. 14, Misha and another Soviet agent gave the sergeant a pocket-size tape recorder, told him to dictate the contents of confidential cables onto the tapes, then remove the tape spools and hide them in eight modified cigarette packs. He was also given secret writing paper and told he would receive messages through microdots hidden in greeting cards.
On Saturday, the sergeant delivered the information to Michelson in a cocktail lounge at the Baltimore Washington International Airport, the FBI said. Michelson then returned to New York, staying at a Queens apartment that the papers descibed as a Soviet "safe house," and at an apartment in Manhattan that the FBI said it believes is being used by Soviet agents.
Michelson's preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 11 in federal court in Brooklyn.