15 April 1998: Add AP report on secret hearing
12 April 1998
Source: Hardcopy The New York Times, April 12, 1998, pp. A1, A20.
See earlier report: http://jya.com/cia-hack.htm
By TIM WEINER
WASHlNGTON, April 11 -- Douglas F. Groat, the former Central Intelligence Agency employee charged with espionage, was a man who went by the book.
The problem was, he had the only copy. He so antagonized his bosses with his peculiar perfectionism that he lost the jobs he loved best -- first with the Glenville, N.Y., police department, then with the C.I.A.
Mr. Groat was surely a stickler his former wife and his former colleagues agree. Whether he is a traitor is another question. He sits in a cell in a secret location, accused of revealing United States code-breaking abilities to foreign governments, crimes that constitute treason and carry the threat of death, awaiting his day in court in one of the strangest spy cases in memory.
Mr. Groat, who was arrested last week, has pleaded not guilty. The Federal public defenders representing him have declined to comment. But Mr. Groat's supporters say the indictment, the third major espionage charge against a C.I.A. veteran in four years, may have grown out of a terrible misunderstanding, a personnel dispute that escalated into a kind of warfare between a disgruntled spy and his superiors.
The case arose from a two-and-a-half-year fight he picked with the C.I.A. in 1993 -- in essence, the same two-and-a-half-year fight he picked with the five-man police force back in Glenville 20 years before.
Mr. Groat's reputation as an unbending straight arrow grew quickly in that small town, 20 miles northwest of Albany.
His four fellow officers remember that he kept dossiers on them, jotting. notes on a little pocket pad, writing them up if their shoes were soiled or their ties askew. They recall his ticketing a fire truck for using its emergency lights in a drill. They reminisce about his taking a radar gun home at night, hiding behind a tree in his driveway, hoping to catch speeders.
"This guy was twisted," said Sgt. Daniel Moffett, a Glenville officer for 27 years. "He went beyond the pale. He didn't operate like any other officer I'd seen. Jeepers, idiosyncrasies are one thing, but this guy took everything to extremes."
Mr. Groat coveted the chief's job, without a prayer of winning it, his fellow officers said, and he racked up more than one bad arrest.
"I guess you could say the authority went to his head," said Charles Baumgartner, Mr. Groat's former father-in-law. "The things he was doing may have been legal, but they weren't right."
Finally, people could not take it anymore. Mr. Groat was charged with nine viulations, including insubordination, by the Glenville Town Board in April, 1976. Suspended, he demanded reinstatement, a public hearing and a large sum of money.
Dismissed in August 1977, he appealed in the state courts, seeking damages. The wheels of justice ground slowly. He won a $15,000 settlement and what proved a brief reinstatement in December 1978. The reception back on the force was less than open-armed.
Mr. Groat was now a 30-year-old Army veteran with a background in intelligence and special operations and the father of two children. After 12 years of on-again, off-again college courses, he obtained a degree from an off-campus program of the University of the State of New York. He decided to look for another job, one with broader vistas than Glenville's.
He applied to the C.I.A.
The agency hired him in May 1980, after what it says was a thorough background investigation. His fellow officers back in Glenville express wonder at his career path.
"If we had known that he had got a job with them, we would have all sat down and shook our heads," Sgt. Gil Powers said. "I mean, we're like, 'Nobody talked to me.' "
Mr. Groat spent the next 13 years working as "a burglar, a thief breaking into foreign embassies overseas," as a former C.I.A. officer described it. Mr. Groat and his fellow intelligence officers worked at stealing the codes, the cipher systems and the computer chips the embassies used to communicate secretly with their capitals.
This is not quite as hard as it sounds. Most nations cannot afford elegant mansions with elaborate security systems and well-armed sentries for their embassies. They rent offices in commercial buildings without special alarms or 24-hour guards -- easier to rob than the average jewelry store, anuther former C.I.A. officer said.
How exactly did a small-town police officer get hired as a burglar by the world's most famous intelligence service?
"In the 1970's, the agency was saying, 'We've got to get guys with police departments and law-enforcement backgrounds,'" recalled F. Mark Wyatt, a retired senior C.I.A. officer.
Many became security officers. Others, like Mr. Groat, were trained as cat burglars and thieves. Some presented problems, Mr. Wyatt remembered.
"The agency was grabbing guys that had excellent records in police departments but did not know anything about the agency or intelligence," he said. "A few of these chaps turned out to be real rogue elephants. They were so excited about being in the C.I.A. that it turned out to be kind of messy."
Government officials have said almost nothing publicly about Mr. Groat since the arrest. But officials who know the case against him, or know him personally or by reputation, say that his behavior in his last years at the C.I.A. was strikingly similar to his performance as a police officer.
By 1990, they said, Mr. Groat was a man with a grudge: he complained, bitterly, that he deserved a promotion, that his chief was an idiot and that the way the C.I.A. stole codes was all wrong. Then, in late 1992 or early 1993, they said, Mr. Groat was involved in a bungled operation at a foreign embassy.
Unpleasant questions arose about what went wrong, and why it went wrong, and who was to blame. He would not cooperate with the internal investigation.
In May 1993, he was placed on leave, suspended with pay, cut off from classified information. The C.I.A. began watching him as a potential risk to national security; he was enraged to be suspected of disloyalty, Government officials said.
Thrown off his secret team, Mr. Groat left his old life behind. Over the next months. he walked out on the high-school sweetheart he had married, left his home in Manassas, Va., and began three years of wandering through the West, living much of the time in a Winnebago van.
All the while, he stayed in contact with the C.I.A. through telephone calls and fax messages, demanding reinstatement, hearings, immunity and, the indictment says, a very large sum of money.
Mr. Groat is charged with trying to extort more than $500,000 from the C.I.A. from May 1996 to last February. It remains to be proved that this was anything more than an arguably outrageuus negotiating position in a personnel dispute. For when the agency dismissed Mr. Groat in October 1996 -- his refusal to take a lie-detector test in the matter of the bungled burglary was the last straw -- it also began drawing up a deal aimed at keeping him well-paid, and silent, for the rest of his life.
The C.I.A. offered him a settlement worth at least $400,000, plus a pension based on his $70,000 salary at the time he was dismissed, if he would cooperate with the investigation of the botched burglary and hold to the code of silence, Government officials said. He would have been hired as "an outside contractor" at $50,000 a year until his 20 years of Government service were up in 2003.
The agency, for obvious reasons, does not want unhappy people walking out the door with a heavy heart, a head full of secrets and a loose tongue.
"It is not unheard of to reach some accommodation to keep people quiet when they go," said a former C.I.A. official familiar with the case.
But Mr. Groat, it appears, stayed angry.
"The typical motivations for espionage are money and ideology," one Government official said. "But this is a case about a personal grievance, a feeling of being slighted. This is a guy who felt he had a grievance and felt he had a way of lashing out."
Formal negotiations between the C.I.A.'s lawyers and Mr. Groat went on until at least March 24,1997 -- the day he is charged with first committing treason. On that day, Mr. Groat rejected the offer and "advised C.I.A. that he intended to initiate contact with foreign governments," a Government official said.
The case against him thus far is the barest of bones: a four-page indictment, bereft of facts. The indictment says he gave away deep secrets to two of the foreign governments whose offices he had once burglarized. But Mr. Groat had direct contacts with far more than two foreign nations over the last two years, said three Government officials familiar with the case. No evidence yet suggests that any of those contacts went beyond unusually straightforward efforts to find work as a security consultant by trading on his C.I.A. expertise.
The Government has yet to present proof that Mr. Groat was a spy. Whether or not he is convicted, the tales told about him by his fellow officers in Glenville have one small thing in common with the prison confessions of his former C.I.A. colleagues, the convicted spies Aldrich H. Ames and Harold J. Nicholson.
Each man believed that he, and only he, knew what was best for himself, his fellow officers and his country.
"He was a black-and-white person; he left himself no room for discretion," Sergeant Powers said of Mr. Groat. "He thought he was better than evervone else."
[Photo] Douglas F. Groat in a Green Beret uniforrn in the early 1970's.
Thanks to DN April 14, 1998 US Wants Secrecy in Ex-CIA Spy Case Filed at 6:31 p.m. EDT By The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) -- Government prosecutors argued Tuesday for secrecy protections in their case against an ex-CIA employee indicted on espionage charges. Lawyers for U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis argued before District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson that the court should take steps to protect certain evidence from disclosure because of its sensitivity. The suspect, Douglas Fred Groat, is charged with two counts of espionage, accused of providing two undisclosed foreign countries with highly sensitive information about U.S. code-breaking operations directed against those countries. Groat had been an overseas operative for the CIA and later worked in the agency's technology directorate, which develops equipment and plans for bugging operations, electronic eavesdropping and similar forms of espionage. Arguments took place in a closed hearing. The government filed a motion for a protective order that would restrict disclosure of evidence in the pending trial. The government is particularly concerned about concealing the identity of the two countries that allegedly received intelligence information from Groat and about details of the U.S. eavesdropping operations mounted against them. Prosecutors are also seeking to keep Groat behind bars for the duration of the trial out of fear he will flee the country or make further damaging disclosures to foreign countries. A detention hearing was scheduled for Thursday. According to the indictment, Groat not only disclosed damaging intelligence information to foreign countries but also tried to extort more than $500,000 from the CIA under the threat he would tell certain governments of highly classified CIA operations. Intelligence officials, and Groat's own relatives, have described the 50-year-old suspect as a disgruntled employee who was under suspension for botching an overseas operation involving a break-in at a foreign embassy. The agency refused to restore him to his prior status or to give him the assignments he asked. Groat's attorney, A.J. Kramer, did not return calls seeking comment.