John Anthony Walker Jr., the admitted leader of a Soviet espionage ring, told a federal court jury here today that accused spy Jerry Alfred Whitworth passed him highly classified Navy coding information on numerous occasions and received thousands of dollars in return.
Walker, in his second day of testimony against his former Navy colleague -- a man he described as his "best friend" -- said the Soviets consistently found that the information Whitworth passed was of "good or excellent" quality. At one point, Walker said, the information was so good that the pair received a "raise," increasing Whitworth's payment to $4,000 monthly.
Whitworth, 46, who retired from the Navy as a senior chief radioman in 1983, is charged with conspiring with Walker for 11 years to funnel to the Soviets information that would permit them to pierce the secrecy of supposedly secure Navy communications. Whitworth allegedly received a total of $332,000 from the Soviets.
Walker, who pleaded guilty to espionage Oct. 28 and faces life in prison, agreed to testify against Whitworth in return for relatively lenient treatment for his son, Navy Seaman Michael Lance Walker, who has also pleaded guilty to espionage charges.
Walker also testified for the first time yesterday about the involvement of other members of his family in what he called his "Godfather operation."
Walker said he recruited his brother, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Arthur James Walker, to join the ring in early 1981 because Arthur Walker was experiencing financial problems.
"Being the good-hearted guy I am . . . I decided to get him on the gravy train as well," John Walker said. In fact, he said, the material that Arthur Walker supplied was "so utterly worthless" that the Soviets forbade him to risk carrying it.
Arthur Walker was convicted of espionage Aug. 9 and is serving a life sentence.
John Walker said that in 1982 he urged his daughter, Laura Walker Snyder, to rejoin the Army, where she had been a communications specialist, and to spy for the Soviets to "make some money and get out of the pits." Walker said she agreed to the proposal but that she said she "had some things to get together first."
Snyder has said publicly that her father tried to recruit her for the ring and urged her to have an abortion in order to be free to spy, but that she refused. Snyder and her mother, Walker's former wife, provided information to the FBI that led to his arrest.
Looking considerably older than when he was arrested nearly a year ago, Walker said he recruited Whitworth in 1974 to become his partner. He said the men agreed to split the profits evenly and to divide the responsibilities, with Whitworth supplying the classified material and Walker funneling it to the Soviets.
Walker said his recruitment of Whitworth was done without Soviet knowledge. The Soviets, Walker said, "were alarmed that I had recruited anyone without their permission" and told him "that they did all the recruiting."
At the time, Whitworth had left the Navy, but he decided to reenlist in order to gain access to classified information, Walker said.
Although Whitworth "insisted that his name not be used with my contact," Walker said, he informed the Soviets of his decision to take in a partner at his next "drop" of classified information. "The Soviets don't deal without knowing exactly who they're dealing with," he said.
Walker said he told Whitworth to concentrate on obtaining cryptographic information and to "just go for the highest classification" of other Navy messages and documents.
The men agreed that Whitworth, on his way to the Diego Garcia Naval Communications Station in the Indian Ocean, would refer to gathering the classified documents as "scuba diving," Walker said. Prosecutors have presented as evidence letters allegedly written to Walker by Whitworth saying that Whitworth had "made my first dive" and was "doing fine, still diving."
Walker said he instructed Whitworth how to photograph the codes and documents with a miniature Minox camera and that Whitworth would hide the tiny film cartridges in a box of cotton swabs or simply stuff them in an envelope for later delivery to Walker.
Walker said the Soviets would develop the film before paying for the deliveries, a delay that could take up to a year. "It was not a C.O.D. operation," he said.
On one occasion, Walker said, the Soviets -- behind in their payments -- gave him $200,000 in one delivery. He said the payment, which he split with Whitworth, was "as big as two lunch boxes."
Walker recounted numerous meetings at which, he said, Whitworth delivered classified information that Walker would pass on to the Soviets, often just days later, either at face-to-face "exchanges" overseas or at "dead drops" in the Washington area.
At one meeting in Casablanca, Walker said, his Soviet contact advised him to read "The French Connection," about the drug trade in New York, to learn about surveillance techniques. The Soviets scheduled the U.S. drops for Saturday nights because "the FBI doesn't work on weekends," Walker said.
"You were arrested on a Sunday," noted Assistant U.S. Attorney William S. Farmer, a remark that drew laughter from a courtroom audience that included several FBI agents.
Walker described payments he said he made to Whitworth by referring to meticulous "payment schedules" he kept during the espionage operation that were seized in a search of his house.
Walker said that there was "no reason" he kept the hundreds of receipts, detailed calendars, travel records and other material also seized by the FBI. The material has proved to be crucial to the government in building its cases against the four men charged in the spy ring. " I just didn't throw it away," Walker said.