CIA rocked by latest spy trial

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In the second major Russian spy scandal here in less than three years, a CIA employee was accused yesterday of selling secrets to Moscow since June 1994 in return for more than $100,000, - charges which could bring life imprisonment.

Harold J Nicholson, a veteran with extensive service in the Far East and Eastern Europe since he joined the intelligence agency in 1980, is accused of conspiracy to commit espionage.

In evidence submitted to a federal court arraignment hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, the FBI said it had watched the 46-year old Mr Nicholson photographing top-secret CIA documents about Russia as recently as last Tuesday. He was arrested four days later, on Saturday evening, as he was about to board a foreign flight at Washington's Dulles International Airport.

"Mr Nicholson betrayed his country for money," the federal prosecutor Helen Fahey said yesterday, "He was motivated not by ideology, but by greed. He was arrested as he was leaving to meet his Russian controllers." Despite the severity of the penalty Nicholson faces, his case does not appear as serious as that of Aldrich Ames, the former head of the Soviet branch of US counter-intelligence.

Ames spied for the Soviet Union, then Russia, for nine years before his arrest in February 1994, having betrayed agents and secret information on a scale to match Kim Philby