Candid cameras catch agent snapping

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Washington - The final piece of evidence against Harold James Nicholson came into focus for CIA spy catchers on November 12: Concealed cameras in his CIA office caught him kneeling under his desk photographing secret documents.

Four days later, FBI agents, who had been trailing and eavesdropping on him for months, arrested Nicholson at Washington's Dulles International Airport. He was charged on Monday with spying for Russia since June 1994.

CIA director John Deutch said the Nicholson case is not likely to be the last involving alleged spying by U.S. agents. "There will be other cases that involve the CIA. There will be other cases that involve other national security agencies."

Nicholson, 46, of Burke, Virginia, is the highest-ranking CIA officer to face espionage charges. The FBI suspects he sold the names of all new CIA trainee agents in the past two years, a breach of security that could jeopardize lives.

Among the evidence against Nicholson cited by the FBI was a computer disk containing a file with information on private individuals who often provide the CIA with information they gain on their travels.

Deutch would not explain precisely what alerted the CIA to Nicholson. He said several threads of evidence appeared at virtually the same time, including questionable answers on a routine lie-detector test in October 1995. The FBI said it detected a pattern of twice-yearly trips by Nicholson from 1994 to 1996 to Asia - where he allegedly met with his Russian "handlers".

Early this month an FBI search of Nicholson's office at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, found about 40 documents relating to Russia in a black folder on his desk. Some were classified "top secret," and some were at the higher "sensitive compartmented information" classification.

On 12 November, Nicholson asked for and received a CIA-issued document camera. He took it to his office, closed the door and placed the camera under his desk, according to the FBI affidavit.

He then took some secret documents from the folder, knelt on the floor and spent about 30 minutes photographing them. He did more that same evening and again on 13 November, the FBI said.