U.S. Navy contingency plans for a Middle East war. Details on the top-secret communications network used by all of the Armed Forces. The weaknesses of a Navy vessel that serves as the communications center for the entire Atlantic fleet. Those were only some of the secrets allegedly passed to Soviet agents by John Walker's Navy spy ring, federal prosecutors claimed last week. Summed up Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger: "For 20 years this flow of classified material went to the Soviets. It is a serious loss."
The scope of the ring's activities became clearer in court actions on both coasts. In San Francisco, a federal grand jury produced a new and more specific indictment against Jerry Whitworth, 46, a retired Navy chief radioman, who allegedly supplied the most valuable information. In Norfolk, Va., Arthur Walker, 50, was found guilty of conspiring with his brother John to sell secrets to the Soviets. John Walker, 48, also a former Navy chief radioman and the alleged ringleader, is scheduled to go on trial for espionage in Baltimore on Oct. 28. John's son, Michael, 22, a former Navy seaman, will be tried after his father. All four were arrested after John Walker's former wife Barbara told the FBI last November that she suspected her husband had been spying for the Soviets for more than 15 years.
The charges originally filed against Whitworth on June 17 were grave enough. The one-count indictment accused him of conspiring to commit espionage, claiming that he had given John Walker, a longtime Navy friend, "cryptographic key lists and key cards" that were later sold to Soviet agents. Such keys would allow the Soviets to eavesdrop on coded Navy communications, and even, in the opinion of one communications expert, to change Navy messages for their own deceptive purposes. Holding the highest security clearances, Whitworth had been in charge of cryptographic centers on the carrier Enterprise and at the sprawling Alameda Naval Air Station.
The new indictment against Whitworth contains twelve counts, one of which charges that he illegally copied a document known as Annex K while stationed on the Enterprise. Prosecutors said the document outlines the Navy's plan for communications in the Indian Ocean in the event of major hostilities in the Middle East. Other experts said this information would permit the Soviets to figure out what U.S. military units would be involved. The indictment also accuses Whitworth of giving John Walker details of the Autodin system, which is used by all of the U.S. Armed Forces to transmit computerized information via satellites. In addition, he allegedly passed along documents explaining an adjunct to Autodin called the Remote Information Exchange System, which enables the Navy to send data to its vessels at sea. The new charges include five counts of failing to report at least $332,000 in income from John Walker for the sale of the secrets, possibly starting in 1970. The total, said U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello, "suggests that [the information] was extremely important to the Soviets."