FBI Agent Says Pelton’s Rights Were Not Violated in Spy Case
BALTIMORE (AP) _ The FBI agent who arrested Ronald W. Pelton on espionage charges testified Thursday that federal authorities did not violate the suspect’s rights by interrogating him for nearly five hours before formally placing him in custody.
Defense attorney Fred Warren Bennett, cross-examining FBI Special Agent David Faulkner on the third day of Pelton’s trial, sought to convince the jury that the FBI tricked Pelton into making incriminating statements.
Faulkner testified on Tuesday and Wednesday that Pelton had told the FBI some details about his alleged contacts with the Soviet KGB but had balked at cooperating fully without guarantees that his statements would not be used against him.
Pelton, 44, a former communications specialist with the National Security Agency, faces life in prison if convicted of charges that he accepted $35,000 plus $4,000 to $5,000 in expense money from the Soviets in return for secrets about how the NSA collects, deciphers and analyzes Soviet communications.
Jules Dorner, an investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, testified that on March 24 and 29, 1983, less than a month after Pelton is alleged to have collected his first payment from the Soviets, Pelton made two separate cash deposits of $5,000 in a bank account in his name, and made a $1,000 cash deposit in an account held jointly with his wife, Judith.
Pelton declared bankruptcy on March 23, 1979, four months before he resigned from the NSA, and then failed at a several jobs, according to the prosecution.
Ann Barry, Pelton’s girlfriend in 1985, testified that the defendant was a heavy drinker, and that on the last Saturday of September 1985 she accompanied him on a trip to the Pizza Castle restaurant in Falls Church, Va., where prosecutors allege that he received regular telephone calls from Soviet agents. On that occasion, however, she testified, he ran out of gas on the way to the pizzeria, and received no call there.
Miss Barry also testified that Pelton told her he had traveled to Europe in April 1985 but had missed connections with a contact. Faulkner testified on Wednesday that Pelton told FBI agents he failed to meet with Soviet agents on an April 1985 trip to Vienna, Austria, apparently because he had lost 75 pounds and the Russians did not recognize him.
During pretrial hearings, U.S. District Judge Herbert F. Murray denied the defense’s motion to suppress statements Pelton made during interrogation by FBI agents, but Bennett said he would try to persuade the jury to ignore them.
Faulkner testified that he and another FBI agent persuaded Pelton to go with them to a room at the Annapolis Hilton, where they questioned him from 9:25 a.m to 1:30 p.m. last Nov. 24.
Pelton was questioned again later that evening, and placed under arrest at about midnight, about 35 minutes after he signed a declaration waving his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning.
The agents were dressed casually, had coffee and doughnuts on hand for the morning session, and arranged chairs in a way designed to put Pelton at ease, Faulkner said, acknowledging that the interrogation technique was designed to elicit incriminating statements.
Faulkner said that during the morning questioning, he told Pelton ″that while he did have the right to an attorney, that if anyone else was present, our options would be more limited″ and that FBI agents would not be able to discuss classified material Pelton allegedly sold the Soviets in front of anyone who did not have the proper security clearance.
Under intense questioning from Bennett, Faulkner said he did not advise Pelton that he was likely to be prosecuted whether or not he made incriminating statements, and whether or not he called an attorney.
Asked why the agents did not inform Pelton of his right to remain silent, Faulkner said, ″because it wasn’t required.″
FBI agents have used similar techniques in other spy cases, for example questioning Larry Wu-Tai Chin in his own apartment about what secrets he gave China during a 30-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency. Chin was convicted, in large degree on the basis of his statements to FBI agents, and later committed suicide.
Bennett pressed Faulkner on why the agents did not obtain a written confession from Pelton, as called for by bureau rules.
″That recommendation indicates, when you have obtained complete and accurate information which you are inquiring about, then you obtain a written statement from the suspect,″ Faulkner testified. ″We did not reach that point with Mr. Pelton.″
Faulkner testified that after questioning Pelton for about four hours last Nov. 24, FBI agents allowed the suspect to leave the hotel at about 1:30 p.m. and drive to Washington to visit Miss Barry’s apartment.
At the time, Faulkner testified, the FBI was conducting electronic surveillance of her apartment and telephone, and of Pelton’s automobile and office in an Annapolis marina. Additionally, he said, FBI agents followed Pelton and took his passport before he left the hotel.
In court Wednesday, prosecutors played tapes of conversations in Miss Barry’s apartment in which Pelton told her he was in trouble and that people - he did not say who - ″want me to work for them.″
″They may move me and change my identity is what it comes down to,″ Pelton told his girlfriend. ″My alternative is about 20 years in jail.″
Bennett tried to convince the jury on Thursday that those statements meant Pelton believed the FBI was trying to recruit him as a double agent, although Faulkner said he urged Pelton to stay away from the Soviets.