“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” —Retired FBI agent Robert Hunter, lead investigator on the case
(ABC-13, Virginia Beach) The man who masterminded what’s been called the biggest espionage leak in U.S. Navy history has died.
John Anthony Walker, Jr. died Thursday at the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, North Carolina, where he was serving a life sentence, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was 77.
“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” retired FBI agent Robert Hunter of Virginia Beach, who broke the case in 1985, told 13News Now when he heard the news.
Walker, who worked as a private detective in Norfolk, retired in 1976 as a chief warrant officer after 20 years in the Navy.
The Walker spy ring included his older brother, Arthur, and his son Michael. A Navy friend, Senior Chief Petty Officer Jerry Whitworth, was also involved. . . .
. . . . During his Navy career, Walker had security clearance and access to classified information on the encryption of naval communications.
The Vietnam veteran was a communications specialist on aircraft carriers and nuclear missile submarines, taught radio procedures at a Navy school, and served on the staff of several major Navy commands, according to the Navy. . . . (read more)
Spy ring mastermind John Walker dies in N.C. prison (Virginia-Pilot)
. . . . For 18 years, Walker sold U.S. secrets to the Soviets, both as a cryptologist in the Navy and after he retired. He eventually enlisted espionage help from his brother Arthur; his son, Michael; and a Navy friend, Jerry Whitworth. Arthur Walker died last month.
The security breach was considered one of the biggest in the nation’s history.
Robert Hunter, the FBI agent who arrested John Walker, described the ring’s leader as one of the most treacherous men he’d ever met.
“I think the man was pure evil,” said Hunter, who is retired and living in Virginia Beach.
Walker’s espionage career began in 1967 while he was working at what is now the Norfolk Naval Station. He stole and sold to the Soviet Union “key cards,” which allowed its intelligence officers to unlock more than 1 million top-secret and classified messages.
High-ranking Soviet officials later would say that Walker’s information allowed them to have an invisible seat at the Pentagon: They could monitor the Atlantic fleet, for instance, and follow U.S. troop movements around the world.
Many speculated that the Soviets shared the information with their allies, including the North Vietnamese during the late 1960s and early ’70s, and that Americans were killed in the Vietnam War because of Walker’s deception.
The information Walker gathered was considered invaluable to America’s most-feared Cold War enemy.
“If there had been a war,” a Soviet defector once said, “we would have won it.” . . . (read more)
John Walker Jr., spy family ringleader, dies in prison at 77 (Los Angeles Times)
John Walker Jr., a former American sailor convicted during the Cold War of leading a family spy ring for the Soviet Union, has died in a prison hospital in North Carolina, officials said Friday.
He died Thursday at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke told the Los Angeles Times via email. Prison officials did not release a cause of death, and the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s office had no immediate information on the cause of death. He was 77.
Walker was considered the ringleader of a spy ring that authorities at the time said was among the most damaging in U.S. history. . . .(read more)
Notorious Navy spy John Walker dies in NC federal prison (News Channel 3, Hampton Roads, VA)
Books about the Walker Spy Ring: