Michael Lance Walker, it seemed to those who knew him, always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a former communications specialist with the U.S. Navy. In a confession read in court today, the slight, pale 22-year-old seaman detailed just how treacherous that path could be.
Walker joined the Navy on Dec. 13, 1982. In July 1983, he told his father he saw his first piece of classified material.
"A month or so later, my dad told me I could make money if I would take classified material from my work place and give it to him. He told me he would pay for the material but we never discussed how much he would pay. I didn't ask him. I was shocked and afraid at what my dad was suggesting. I knew what he was suggesting was illegal."
But three months later, Michael Walker succumbed to that suggestion. With three other persons present in his office at the Oceana Naval Air Station, Walker took a secret document from a trash bag, tucked it under his jacket and headed for his father's house.
"He looked at it and said it was good. He seemed pleased. He said he'd get back to me about it later," Michael Walker said in his confession. He would take five more secret documents to his father before he was transferred to the USS Nimitz in January 1984. "My dad accepted them from me and told me they were good stuff and things were looking good. He didn't pay me then but said something to the effect that I would get some money for the documents later."
After his first few months on the Nimitz, Michael Walker got a job in Operations Adminstration. In his confession, he said he soon began taking advantage of a situation where so much classified material was handled:
"When I gave my father the first stack of documents from the Nimitz, I told him I had been gathering them for a while . . . . My father was pleased and said it looked like we were on a roll. He told me to go ahead, keep it up and kept saying 'keep it flowing' . . . .
"I recall one time after I gave my father some documents he said they (meaning Russians to me) probably already knew about this stuff or will find out in a few days. I think he said that to try to make me feel better or ease my conscience about giving the documents to him."
Michael Walker said he never received any money for the Nimitz documents, which contained information about Soviet submarine movements and U.S. Navy ship locations. The only money Walker mentioned receiving was $1,000 in $20 bills for his earlier spying at Oceana.
The flow of material from Michael Walker was staunched when the Nimitz headed for the Mediterranean on March 8. Michael then began stealing classified documents, hiding them in a box behind an air conditioning unit near his bunk bed and waiting for word from his father.
In April, his father sent him a tape recording saying it would be convenient to meet in June when the Nimitz was in port in Naples, Italy. Michael assumed he could give him the documents then.
That assumption died when Navy investigators searched Walker's bunk on May 21, a day after his father was arrested on espionage charges. On May 26, Michael Walker signed a typewritten confession.
He identified himself as the supplier of documents known as 'S' in correspondence written by his father. He identified another supplier 'D' as his father's friend, Jerry Alfred Whitworth of California.
And the only son of John Walker made clear he had chosen his father over his country. "At the time I was taking the classified documents and giving them to my father, there was no doubt in my mind that he was selling those documents to a Communist country which I believed to be the Soviet Union."