Arthur Walker died last week.
Serving a life sentence for his part in the Walker Spy Ring that did unbelievable damage to the Navy from the 1960s to the 1980s, Walker was scheduled for a parole hearing in less than a month. Of the other 3 men convicted of spying, his brother John Walker is scheduled to be released next May. He was the admitted ‘mastermind’ behind the spy ring. John’s son Michael was released in 2000 after serving 15 years. (John made a deal resulting in a lessened sentence for Michael.) The fourth member of the ring, Jerry Whitworth, was sentenced to 365 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole when he is 109.
Caspar Weinberger, US Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, said that Walker gave the Soviets “access to weapons and sensor data and naval tactics, terrorist threats, and surface, submarine, and airborne training, readiness and tactics.” For over 20 years, Walker allowed the Soviets unparalleled access to the thinking and planning of their biggest foe, and he put the lives of thousands of sailors at risk. All for money.
The common theme running through the Walker brother’s history is a failure in business. Whether unprepared or incapable of running a successful business, both of the Walkers had a history of failed businesses behind them. Spying for the Soviets was easier and much more lucrative for the family than actually working for a living.
Arthur Walker never admitted to being a spy, and his brother has claimed that his role in the spy ring was very small, but he did admit to copying ‘insignificant ship plans’ and passing them to the Soviets through John. Arthur was paid for passing along the information, and whether it was minor or not, he was convicted and sent to prison for 3 life sentences plus 40 years.
The Walker Spy Ring is old news these days. I remember them because I was in the Navy at the time. I had been in the Navy for 2 years when the Walkers and Jerry Whitworth were arrested. I worked in a sensitive facility at NAS North Island in San Diego and was stunned when the information started coming out about what the Walkers had done. As many young people in the service at the time, I worked with classified material. My security clearance was suspended and I was investigated, again. Not just me, of course; everyone who worked in my facility was re-investigated.
I followed the case in the news and discussed it with my shipmates around our coffee. No matter how bad we imagined it could be, when the revelations started coming out about what the Walkers had passed to the Soviets, it was much, much worse. For years afterward, Navy command second guessed themselves about what the Soviets knew and what could be extrapolated from that knowledge. The damage was real and extensive, and it took years for the Navy to recover from the damage these people had done.
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