CIA agent accused of selling secrets

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The Independent Online
IN WHAT prosecutors described as a "serious espionage case", a former agent of the CIA was charged in Washington yesterday with selling secrets to foreign governments. Two of the charges were grave enough to carry the death penalty.

The accused man, Douglas Groat, was remanded in custody until a hearing next week. Mr Groat was charged with espionage and attempting to extort $500,000 (pounds 300,000) from the CIA in return for promising not to trade the secrets. The arrest threatens fresh embarrassment for the CIA, which in recent years has suffered two high-profile spying calamities. Aldrich Ames was caught spying for the Russians in 1994 while another former CIA agent, Harold Nicholson, pleaded guilty to selling secrets to Moscow just last year.

"During Groat's employment with the CIA he participated in classified covert operations aimed at the penetration of cryptographic systems of foreign governments," the US attorney Wilma Lewis said after Mr Groat was charged. "The alleged unauthorised disclosure of these activities could have a significant impact on the national security of the United States," she went on. "In short, this is a serious espionage case".

Mr Groat is accused of selling information to two foreign governments, but there was no information yesterday identifying them. Ms Lewis said the material was "national defence information relating to CIA targeting and compromise" of those governments' cryptographic systems.

The judge agreed to the holding of Mr Groat without bond after prosecutors argued that he as a potential threat to the community and that there was a risk that he would attempt to flee the United States.