Harold James Nicholson

Harold James Nicholson

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For the English diplomat, author, diarist and politician, see Harold Nicolson
Harold Nicolson
Sir Harold George Nicolson KCVO CMG was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician. He was the husband of writer Vita Sackville-West, their unusual relationship being described in their son's book, Portrait of a Marriage.-Early life:Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia, the younger son of...

.


Harold James Nicholson (born 1950) is a former Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 officer and a twice-convicted spy for Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

's Foreign Intelligence Service
Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia)
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service is Russia's primary external intelligence agency. The SVR is the successor of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB since December 1991...

 (SVR). His recruitment to the SVR appears to have occurred in the wake of a much publicized arrest of senior CIA officer and Moscow mole
Mole (espionage)
A mole is a spy who works for an enemy nation, but whose loyalty ostensibly lies with his own nation's government. In some usage, a mole differs from a defector in that a mole is a spy before gaining access to classified information, while a defector becomes a spy only after gaining access...

 Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Hazen Ames is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who, in 1994, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

 in February 1994, which, in the words of CIA veteran and author Tennent Bagley, had "exposed extraordinary slackness of CIA security procedures."

Biography


Nicholson joined the CIA in October 1980, after having served as captain in a US Army intelligence unit.

In his career with the CIA, Nicholson was assigned duties throughout the world; he worked for the CIA as an operations officer specializing in intelligence operations against foreign intelligence services, including the intelligence services of the USSR and later, the Russian Federation. From 1982 till 1985, he worked for the CIA in Manila
Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

, where he had direct contacts with targeted Soviet officials; from 1985 till 1987 he worked for the CIA in Bangkok
Bangkok
Bangkok is the capital and largest urban area city in Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep , meaning "city of angels." The full name of Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom...

, from 1987 till 1989 in Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

. From 1990 till 1992, he was the CIA Chief of Station
Station Chief
Station Chief is a term for certain officials who are appointed as chief of a 'station', i.e. a stationary post, of various natures.-Colonial:...

 in Bucharest
Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

.

From 1992 until 1994, Nicholson was the Deputy Chief of Station/Operations Officer in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the second largest city in Malaysia by population. The city proper, making up an area of , has a population of 1.4 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.2 million...

, Malaysia, where he met with and targeted for recruitment Russian intelligence officers.

From 1994 until July, 1996, Nicholson worked as an instructor at the classified CIA Special Training Center in the Eastern District of Virginia (also known as "The Farm"), teaching CIA trainees intelligence tradecraft. In July, 1996, he was assigned as a Branch Chief in the Counterterrorism Center, Directorate of Operations
National Clandestine Service
The National Clandestine Service is one of the four main components of the Central Intelligence Agency...

, at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. That position carried a pay grade GS-15, his salary being approximately $73,000.

Despite Nicholson's career success, his personal life had suffered, as his constant assignments weighed heavily on his wife and three children, eventually leading to a divorce.

Espionage against the US and convictions


The FBI affidavit
Affidavit
An affidavit is a written sworn statement of fact voluntarily made by an affiant or deponent under an oath or affirmation administered by a person authorized to do so by law. Such statement is witnessed as to the authenticity of the affiant's signature by a taker of oaths, such as a notary public...

 suggests that, while in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during 1992-1994, as Deputy Chief of Station/Operations Officer, Nicholson might have been recruited by the Russian intelligence service (SVR) while meeting with an officer of the Russian intelligence service in Kuala Lumpur on four occasions during his final months there; three of those meetings took place in the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Those meetings were authorized by the CIA and reported by Nicholson. On June 30, 1994, one day after his last reported meeting with the SVR officer, financial records showed that $12,000 was wired into Nicholson's savings account at Selco Credit Union, Eugene, Oregon; the FBI was unable to trace the source of this money to any legitimate source of income.

Nicholson later admitted to providing the RF intelligence service with national defense information, including photographic negatives, between June 1994 and his arrest on November 16, 1996.

The FBI affidavit implies that the investigation of Nicholson's espionage for Russia was triggered by the fact that he had failed to pass 3 polygraph examinations administered by CIA polygraphers as part of his routine security update in October and December 1995, specifically failing such questions as "Are you hiding involvement with a Foreign Intelligence Service?", "Have you had unauthorized contact with a Foreign Intelligence Service?", "Since 1990, have you had contact with a Foreign Intelligence Service that you are trying to hide from the CIA?" and "Are you trying to hide any contact with a Foreign Intelligence Service since 1990?"; the CIA examiner noted that Nicholson appeared to be trying to manipulate the test by taking deep breaths on the control questions, which stopped after a verbal warning.

Nicholson was then placed under surveillance
Surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

 by the FBI. Nicholson was watched during his travels to Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Malaysia and Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, where he was seen in unauthorized meetings with Russian intelligence officers. The CIA assigned Nicholson to a management position in the counterterrorism branch at CIA Headquarters, while keeping a close eye on him. The CIA limited his access to information on Russian matters and Chechnya
Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

, in particular, which were the primary subjects of interest to his Russian handlers.

The FBI also retrieved mail sent from Nicholson to his handlers from local public post box
Post box
A post box is a physical box into which members of the public can deposit outgoing mail intended for collection by the agents of a country's postal service...

es, where he signed postcard
Postcard
A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope....

s under the alias "Nevil R. Strachey." One such postcard had code words requesting a meeting with the SVR in Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 in November 1996. That same month he was scheduled to travel to Europe on official CIA business to meet with European intelligence officers. Nicholson told the CIA he planned to take a personal vacation to Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 afterwards. On November 16, 1996, the FBI arrested Nicholson at Dulles International Airport outside Washington; he had a ticket to Zurich and a bundle of exposed film and a computer disk bearing classified information from CIA files.

Harold Nicholson was convicted of selling U.S. intelligence to Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 for $300,000 and was sentenced to 23 years 7 months of imprisonment
Imprisonment
Imprisonment is a legal term.The book Termes de la Ley contains the following definition:This passage was approved by Atkin and Duke LJJ in Meering v Grahame White Aviation Co....

 on June 5, 1997. He did not get a life without parole or death sentence
Death Sentence
Death Sentence is a short story by the American science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the November 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov.-Plot summary:...

 as prosecutors said he had cooperated fully with them after his arrest. Prosecutors believed that he had sold the identities of all the U.S. intelligence officers stationed in Russia, as well as the identities of his trainees at the CIA school. He told the court that he had intended for the money he received from the Russians to benefit his children.

Although his case received far less publicity than that of Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Hazen Ames is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who, in 1994, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

, and apparently caused less damage to U.S. national security
National security
National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept developed mostly in the United States of America after World War II...

, Nicholson was said to be the highest ranking CIA official ever convicted of spying for a foreign power. In court, Nicholson stated he actually was inspired to commit espionage by looking at the case of Aldrich Ames, rather than learning from it.

At the end of 2008, his youngest son Nathaniel Nicholson was arrested; prosecutors said Jim Nicholson had used his son to collect more than $47,000 from Russian officials in Mexico, Peru and Cyprus for past spy work; between October 2006 and December 2008 Nathaniel had met with representatives of the Russian Federation six times, including twice at a consulate in San Francisco. Harold Nicholson was pulled out of prison to plead in court on charges of conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

 along with his son.

On January 18, 2011, Harold Nicholson was sentenced to eight more years in prison, having pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy to commit money laundering; five other charges had been dropped as part of the plea deal. Nathaniel Nicholson had been sentenced in December 2010 to five years on probation after making a deal with prosecutors to help build the case against his father.

As of May 25, 2011, Nicholson was listed as an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terre Haute, Indiana.

See also

  • James Hall III
    James Hall III
    James W. Hall, III is a former United States Army warrant officer and signals intelligence analyst in Germany who sold eavesdropping and code secrets to East Germany and the Soviet Union from 1983 to 1988...

     - An Army warrant officer
    Warrant Officer
    A warrant officer is an officer in a military organization who is designated an officer by a warrant, as distinguished from a commissioned officer who is designated an officer by a commission, or from non-commissioned officer who is designated an officer by virtue of seniority.The rank was first...

     and intelligence analyst in Germany who sold eavesdropping and code secrets to East Germany and the Soviet Union from 1983 to 1988.
  • Aldrich Ames
    Aldrich Ames
    Aldrich Hazen Ames is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who, in 1994, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

     - A CIA mole charged with providing highly classified information since 1985 to the Soviet Union and then Russia.
  • Robert Hanssen
    Robert Hanssen
    Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

     - Arrested for spying for the Soviet Union and Russia for more than 15 years of his 27 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Earl Edwin Pitts
    Earl Edwin Pitts
    Earl Edwin Pitts is a former FBI special agent who, in 1996, was arrested at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Pitts was charged with several offenses, including spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

     - An FBI agent charged with providing Top Secret documents to the Soviet Union and then Russia from 1987 until 1992.
  • George Trofimoff
    George Trofimoff
    George Trofimoff was the highest ranking US military officer ever charged with, and convicted of, espionage by the United States. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 27, 2001.- Background :...

     - a then retired Army Reserve colonel, charged in June 2000 of spying for the KGB
    KGB
    The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

     and the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service
    Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia)
    The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service is Russia's primary external intelligence agency. The SVR is the successor of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB since December 1991...

     (or SVR
    Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia)
    The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service is Russia's primary external intelligence agency. The SVR is the successor of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB since December 1991...

    ) for over 25 years.

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