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For the English diplomat, author, diarist and politician, see Harold Nicolson.

Harold James Nicholson (born 1950) is a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and spy for Russia.

Undated photograph of Mr. Nicholson released by CIA to AP.

Contents

Biography

Nicholson joined the CIA in 1980, after having served a captain in a US Army intelligence unit. Nicholson's CIA career had been described as remarkable, advancing from a career trainee to chief of station in ten years. Nicholson served as a deputy chief of station for the U.S. Embassy to Philippines and a chief of station to the U.S. Embassy to Romania. Following his chief of station assignment, he earned the paygrade of GS-15 and was assigned as an instructor at Camp Peary, also known as "The Farm", a training facility for new CIA agents in Williamsburg, Virginia. 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. Nicholson later stated he felt he did not devote much time to his children as he ought to. Nicholson's personal problems were not unique and were somewhat similar to those of Aldrich Ames.[1]

Espionage

During his assignment as a deputy chief of station in Manila, Philippines he began meeting with Russian intelligence officers. Those meetings were authorized as part of his CIA duties, but it is now believed Nicholson used them as cover when he was "flipped" by the KGB. These meetings are believed to be the beginning of Nicholson's work for the Russians.

Nicholson came to the attention of American counterintelligence agents when he failed a routine polygraph examination which included the question, "Since your last polygraph, have you had a relationship with a foreign intelligence unit that you are trying to hide from the CIA?" Nicholson was then placed under surveillance by the FBI. Nicholson was watched during his travels to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, where he was seen in unauthorized meetings with Russian intelligence officers.

Following his return to the United States, Nicholson deposited sizable amounts into his bank accounts as well as those of his three children, as well as retiring a car loan in cash. The CIA assigned Nicholson to a management position in the counterterrorism branch at CIA Headquarters, while attempting to keep a close eye on him. The CIA limited his access to information on Russian matters and Chechnya, in particular, which had been the subject of much of his prior work. The FBI also retrieved mail sent from Nicholson to the KGB from local public post boxes, where he signed postcards under the alias "Nevil R. Strachey." One such postcard had code words requesting a meeting with the SVRR in Switzerland 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 afterwards. On November 16, 1996, the FBI arrested Nicholson at Dulles International Airport.

Harold Nicholson was convicted of selling U.S. intelligence to Russia for $180,000 and was sentenced to 23 ½ years imprisonment in 1997. He did not get a death sentence because of his cooperation with authorities. CIA officials believe that he sold the identities of all the U.S. spies in Russia, as well as the identities of his students at Langley. Although his case received far less publicity than that of Aldrich Ames, and apparently caused less damage to U.S. national security, Nicholson was the highest ranking CIA official ever convicted for spying for a foreign country. In court, Nicholson stated he actually was inspired to commit espionage by looking at the case of Aldrich Ames, rather than learning from it. Ames was notorious for his professional sloppiness and an ineffective FBI and CIA had been too slow to catch him. Nicholson felt his tradecraft was better than Ames and that he could avoid getting arrested. His motivation for selling secrets to Russia was his personal enrichment as well as to lavish money and gifts on his children.

In 2009 his youngest son Nathaniel Nicholson was arrested after traveling to Russia to negotiate a pension for his father and to see if any espionage funds were held in escrow. Nathaniel is believed to have been paid approximately $35,000 for meeting with the Russians. Harold Nicholson was pulled out of prison to plead in court on charges of conspiracy along with his son. Authorities suspected that Nicholson was working with his son to arrange the "pension" and had planned to retire in Russia after his release from prison. Nicholson was the first American spy to face criminal charges a second time in relation to a single case.[2]

References

  1. ^ http://www.cicentre.com/Documents/DOC_Nicholson_affidavit.htm
  2. ^ "Ex-CIA Spy Renewed Russian Contact via Son". Associated Press in New York Times. January 29, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/01/29/washington/AP-Imprisoned-Spy.html?_r=1&hp. Retrieved 2009-01-30. "An imprisoned ex-CIA spy and his son have been charged with renewing contact with the father's former Russian handlers to get more money -- and perhaps a pension -- for his espionage."  
  1. ^ http://www.cicentre.com/Documents/DOC_Nicholson_affidavit.htm
  2. ^ "Ex-CIA Spy Renewed Russian Contact via Son". Associated Press in New York Times. January 29, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/us/30spy.html?_r=1. Retrieved 2009-01-30. "An imprisoned ex-CIA spy and his son have been charged with renewing contact with the father's former Russian handlers to get more money -- and perhaps a pension -- for his espionage."

See also

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