Ex-spy is no Edward Snowden: Stasi superagent reveals 'greed for money' was reason for selling US secrets to Soviet Union during Cold War

James Hall had been forgotten after serving 25 years in prison – until the very different case of the NSA whistleblower brought the intelligence community back into the headlines

Berlin

He was nicknamed the “Stasi superagent”, but after spending a quarter of a century in jail for selling top secret US intelligence data to the former Soviet Union and Communist East Germany, the ex-spy James Hall says he is ashamed of what he did.

Hall, a former US army warrant officer and signals intelligence analyst, sold hundreds of key NSA eavesdropping and code secrets to his spymasters while stationed in West Berlin and at a US military base in Georgia during the Cold War. He was rewarded with large sums in cash.

Acting on a tip-off from an undercover CIA agent working in the East German government, the FBI caught Hall in 1988 by setting up a meeting with a police agent posing as a Soviet contact. A US court jailed him for 40 years after convicting him of treason and espionage.

Today Germany’s Der Spiegel published what it said was the first interview with the former Soviet spy since his release two years ago after serving 25 years of his sentence. Interest in his case appears to have been piqued in light of the current worldwide focus upon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The magazine tracked down the wary and now white-haired ex-agent to an unidentified roadside truckstop restaurant and said he was clearly frightened of revealing his address or workplace.

Hall told Der Spiegel that the magazine’s interview request had given him the jitters. “I couldn’t sleep, I was so nervous,” he said, adding “I don’t know why I am here. If my customers find out who I once was, I will lose my job.” He said that, while most of his colleagues at work had accepted that he had been an enemy agent, two of them still refused to speak to “the traitor”.

One of the secrets he betrayed was the “Project Trojan”, a world-wide electronic network which has the ability to pinpoint armoured vehicles, missiles and planes by tracking their signals emissions. He was described after his capture as “the perpetrator of one of the most costly and damaging breaches of security of the long Cold War”.

Hall told Der Spiegel that “greed for money” rather than belief in the Communist cause was the motive for his espionage activities. Payments of up to $30,000 (£18,200) per secret enabled him to live in a large house, well beyond his army means, and drive an expensive Volvo. He was obliged to concoct a story of a “rich aunt” to ally the suspicions of his friends.

Hall admitted that, in retrospect, he was ashamed of his actions: “There is nothing, that I can now do or say which will make good what I did back then,” he told Der Spiegel. The magazine said he felt guilty about the shame that he had heaped on members of his family, who after his arrest were plagued by journalists.

But when he was released from the US disciplinary barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 2011, there were no journalists outside to hear his story. Hall had been forgotten – until the very different case of Edward Snowden brought the intelligence community back into the headlines.


 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before