A fired CIA employee was charged Friday with giving national defense secrets to foreign governments and was held without bail.
Frederick Douglas Groat, who was arrested Wednesday night without incident by the FBI, entered a not guilty plea through his attorney at federal courthouse in Washington to all five counts against him. Two of the counts carry a maximum penalty of death.
Prosecutor Eric Dubelier persuaded U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson to continue holding the burly and bearded Groat without bail by calling him "a risk of flight and a danger to the community."
"Based on his former employment with the CIA, he is trained in travel and false identity and deception," Dubelier said. "He has no ties to the community, and he possesses sensitive classified information" that could be communicated to foreign nations if he were allowed to go free.
Johnson said that a federal grand jury had returned a sealed indictment March 27, which included four counts of communicating secret defense information to a foreign government and one count of interference with commerce.
Two of the counts of conveying secrets carry the death penalty. It was not immediately known which countries were involved. Federal officials requesting anonymity said there was more than one.
Groat himself did not speak during the 10-minute initial appearance. Muscular and heavy-set with black hair and a mustache, he appeared in court wearing dark blue jail trousers and shirt. He held his hands clasped in front of him as he stood beside his attorney, public defender A.J. Kramer.
The judge set a detention hearing for next Thursday. And Dubelier said the government would use the Classified Information Procedures Act to prevent secrets from being disclosed at trial.
Groat was the third current or former CIA employee to be arrested for espionage in the last four years.
He was fired from the CIA under circumstances that officials would not immediately disclose. They said he held a lower rank than two of the biggest spies ever caught inside the CIA: Aldrich Ames, who headed counterintelligence against Moscow while secretly working for the Russians, and Harold Nicholson, who was a CIA station chief abroad while selling secrets to Moscow. Ames and Nicholson pleaded guilty in plea bargains with the government.
An official familiar with the investigation said the probe into this former CIA employee "does not rise to the level of the Aldrich Ames case" in terms of the suspected damage to U.S. security.
Ames was arrested in 1994 and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole. Ames gave the Soviets the names of at least a dozen high-level moles inside the Soviet government who were providing information to the CIA. Many of them were arrested and executed based on Ames' information.
Nicholson gave the Russians the names of new CIA recruits whom he helped train. fficials said that limited where they could serve later in their careers.
The CIA employee in this case worked at the agency's headquarters in Northern Virginia and it was not clear if he had ever served overseas.
The FBI was not seeking any accomplices in the case, but officials would not say whether any foreign diplomats were being expelled from this country.
The names of the countries involved with the CIA employee could not immediately be learned.
The House and Senate intelligence committees were kept informed of the investigation into the spying charges as it proceeded, congressional officials said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Written by Michael Sniffen
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.