Americans May Have Leaked NATO Documents For Decades
FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ Soviet bloc agents may have had access to NATO defense secrets at a U.S. Army base for decades before a former U.S. sergeant was charged with spying there, a West German newspaper said Sunday.
West Germany last week announced the arrest of former U.S. Army Sgt. Clyde Lee Conrad, who since the late 1970s allegedly sold classified information from the Army base in Bad Kreuznach.
Officials said Conrad, 41, revealed secrets about nuclear missile bases, pipeline systems and troop strength to Hungarian agents, who passed them on to the Kremlin and other Soviet bloc countries.
But the spy ring may have been receiving NATO information long before Conrad became active, according to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, which quoted information from unidentified U.S. investigators.
Conrad was in charge of safekeeping classified NATO documents, which were held in a safe at the Bad Kreuznach base. The newspaper said U.S. security officers believe Conrad’s predecessor at the base documentation center also worked for the Hungarian secret service.
The report said Hungary, a Soviet bloc ally, for years ″systematically″ targeted Americans in West Germany. It said Conrad’s predecessor was a U.S. military officer of Hungarian descent who sold NATO information to Hungarian agents. It did not give his name, did not specify how long he worked at the base and did not say where he is now.
″There is the fear that for decades top NATO secrets have gone to the Soviet bloc from Americans in West Germany,″ the newspaper said.
Norm Medland, the duty officer at the public information office of the U.S. Army European Headquarters in Heidelberg, told The Associated Press Sunday that an investigation was continuing. He would not elaborate.
Medland also refused comment on the report in the Hamburg-based Welt am Sonntag, a conservative, nationally circulated Sunday newspaper.
Investigators said Conrad reported to a Hungarian ″spymaster″ living in Vienna and that two Hungarian-born Swedish brothers - Sandor Kercsik, 48, and Imre Kercsik, 34 - admitted working for the Hungarian intelligence service. Prosecutors say the brothers acted as couriers in the spy ring allegedly headed by Conrad. The brothers were arraigned last week in Sweden.
Welt am Sonntag said the spymaster has been found but that he is safe from prosecution under Austrian law. It did not elaborate.
The newspaper said investigators believe Conrad was paid $1.1 million by Soviet bloc countries for the information.
The Conrad family ″had so much of everything,″ neighbor Johanna Horst told the unofficial U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Mrs. Horst said Conrad’s wife, Antje, ″had lots of gold jewelry and he just gave her a new car with her initials in gold.″
Stars and Stripes said Saturday that Conrad, who left the Army in 1985, received a monthly pension of $900.
West German invesigators said they believe Conrad kept the money in Swiss bank accounts, according to the CBS television network. Swiss prosecutors Friday launched an investigation.
The former sergeant remains in prison and faces espionage charges that carry a maximum 10-year sentence.
Among other charges, he allegedly paid another U.S. soldier ″a five-figure sum″ for obtaining secret information, according to chief West German prosecutor Kurt Rebmann.
No charges have been filed against the soldier, who has left the Army but is still in West Germany, the Die Welt newspaper of Bonn said Saturday.
The former soldier apparently provided information leading to Conrad’s arrest on Tuesday, Die Welt said.
U.S. Army officials said Conrad, of Sebring, Ohio, obtained a top secret security clearance in 1978 and kept it when he left the service.