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U.S. Attorney Holds News Conference on Retired Army Colonel Arrested on Espionage Charges

Aired June 14, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go on down to Tampa, Florida now where the U.S. -- United States attorneys office is giving us further information about the arrest of a man charged with espionage.


DONNA BUCELLA, U.S. ATTORNEY: According to the indictment that was returned by a federal ground jury sitting in Tampa and unsealed today, George Trofimoff obtained the classified information while serving as a civilian chief of the United States Army element of the Joint Interrogation Center in Nuremberg, Germany from 1969-1994.

During most of that time, Trofimoff also served in the United States Army Reserve, retiring as a colonel. He retired from his American civilian employment after 35 years in 1995. He is the highest ranking United States military officer ever charged with espionage.

The indictment alleges that Trofimoff had access to all classified information, including documents received by or produced by the Nuremberg JIC, which is part of the 66th Military Intelligence Group. As described in the indictment, those documents included: intelligence objectives which listed current intelligence information required by the United States; intelligence priorities for strategic planning which identified and ranked current intelligence needs of the United States military; Soviet and Warsaw Pact order-of-battle documents which detail the United States' current state of knowledge of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact military organizations and capabilities; collections support briefs on specific topics such at current chemical and biological warfare threat posed by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact allies and others; intelligence information reports which were reports of information responsive to identified intelligence collection requirements obtained from various sources, including interviews of refugees and defectors.

The indictment describes the missions and organizations of the Soviet Union's principal intelligence service, the KGB, and alleges that the KGB viewed the United States as the principal adversary or main enemy of the Soviet Union and as the KGB's primary intelligence target.

The indictment also alleges that KGB exploited the Russian Orthodox Church. The indictment alleges that among the KGB's missions was counterintelligence, which was aimed at identifying and counteracting the threat posed to the security of the Soviet Union by hostile intelligence services, such as those of the United States.

The mission required the KGB to obtain intelligence information about the state of adversaries' knowledge, about the military preparedness of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.

The indictment further alleges that a method by which the KGB obtained intelligence information about its adversaries was to recruit persons having authorized access to such intelligence information to provide it to the KGB, thereby giving the KGB the opportunity to identify, penetrate, and neutralize potential threats to the Soviet Union and to conduct denial and deception.

The indictment also alleges, in furtherance of the mission, the KGB exploited the Russian Orthodox Church and its officials, including clergy. The indictment also alleges that the defendant, George Trofimoff, was raised in Germany with Igor Vladimovich Susamael (ph), A.K.A. Sushumael (ph), also Erany (ph), who, like Trofimoff, was also the son of a Russian. Trofimoff considered Susamael to be his brother.

Susamael was a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church who served as the archbishop of Vienna in Austria, and temporary archbishop of Baden and Bavaria, and later as the metropolitan of Vienna in Austria. He resided in the vicinity of Munich, Germany until his death in 1999.

The indictment further alleges that in or about 1969, after the defendant, George Trofimoff became, the chief of the United States Army element at Nuremberg JIC, Susamael recruited him into the service of the KGB.

The indictment further alleges that it's part of the conspiracy that the KGB would and did recruit individuals who had access to classified information relating to the national defense of the United States to obtain such information and transmit it to agents, representatives, officers and employees of the KGB. Those persons who were recruited to conduct such espionage were called "agents-in- place."

The indictment also alleges that the KGB paid money, including regular cash payments, bonuses and special payments to their agents- in-place, including the defendant, George Trofimoff, in exchange for classified information relating to the national defense of the United States.

The indictment alleges that the KGB would meet in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Austria with their agents-in- place for the purpose of obtaining classified information relating to the national defense of the United States, and in exchange would give these people monetary payments and instructions for further espionage activities on behalf of the KGB.

The indictment alleges that the KGB caused their agents-in-place to purchase, obtain and use equipment such as photographic equipment and film to further the espionage activities and cause agents-in-place to secretly carry classified documents relating to the national defense of the United States away from locations were there they were supposed to be kept.

The indictment also alleges that the KGB used agents and apparently innocent persons to spot, access and co-opt targets for recruitment of agents-in-place and to introduce them to persons, representatives, officers and employees of the KGB.

The indictments alleges that the KGB would and did protect its agents-in-place through disinformation and other means, and assigned them code names which were periodically changed. The indictment alleges that the KGB assigned to Trofimoff the code names of "Anti," "Markets," "Consul," and assigned to Igor Susamael the name, "Icar" (ph).

The indictment alleges 32 overt acts in which Trofimoff personally participated to further the conspiracy's objectives. Among those overt acts are that George Trofimoff secretly took classified documents from the Nuremberg JIC, photographed them and later exposed the film to Igor Sushumael, or KGB intelligence officers. The overt acts identify several locations in Austria where Trofimoff met with KGB officers, identifies several of the KGB officers with whom he met, and describes the methods by which Trofimoff was paid by Sushumael and KGB officers.

The overt acts also describe how Trofimoff and Sushumael lied to German authorities when they were arrest in Germany on suspicion of espionage in December, 1994. Trofimoff and Sushumael were released when the authorities in Germany could not show that they acted within the applicable five-year statute of limitations period. There is no statute of limitations for espionage under the laws of the United States.

I would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation here in Tampa, the Washington field office, the internal security section of the criminal division in the Department of Justice...

WATERS: That's Donna Bucella, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, giving a rather lengthy biographical sketch of a man, the highest ranking military officer ever charged with espionage arrested in Tampa. He's alleged to have been spying for the Soviet Union, passing on information to the Soviets about what the United States knew about Soviet military capabilities, and also shared that information with Warsaw Pact allies over a 25-year-long Cold War conspiracy, according to the U.S. attorney.

Bob Franken, CNN national correspondent in Washington, closely following this story.

We learned quite a lot there.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We did, as a matter of fact. And every time I hear one of these stories, I'm -- it sounds like a paperback novel almost. This one certainly is just loaded with intrigue. The key wording in the indictment seems to be that Trofimoff, quote, "gave the KGB the opportunity to identify, penetrate and neutralize potential threats to the Soviet Union," describing, of course, his turning over material to the Soviet Union, which, of course, no longer exists, which would then have them get some idea of what the United States knew about their military capabilities.

And he turned over, apparently, a large amount of information. The indictment charges 32, using the legal parlance, "overt acts," exchanges of information in Austria and West Germany with KGB agents. We're told the indictment identifies those KGB agents. It also tells the story about how Trofimoff was recruited by the KGB, by somebody he had become quite close to.

The Orthodox Church is involved in all this. It's a very tangled web, of course, as all of these things are. It sounds like it has the makings of a case of major import, perhaps comparable to the Aldrich Ames case a few years ago. He was a CIA operative who, for years, gave vital information to the Soviet Union also.

There was a reference to the fact that he is the highest ranking U.S. officer, military officer, to ever have been arrested. You might recall back in 1985 a lower ranking man in the Navy, Robert Walker, was accused in a very bizarre kind of family ring with spying for the Soviet Union, turning over submarine information.

Lou, this is turning out to be a case of significant magnitude.

WATERS: One might wonder, if this was a 25-year conspiracy -- here it is the year 2000; this man retired back in the mid-'90s -- what took so long.

FRANKEN: Well, it looks like this was just something that accumulated over time. One of the intriguing things about the end of the Cold War is that information is still coming in about that period in our history. And, of course, at one time, the KGB and the United States were bitter enemies, as we heard, as a matter of fact, in that indictment. Now there's quite a bit of cooperation going on. Oftentimes, there is a chance to look at each other's archives. So much of this information is beginning to come out. Many authors are starting to go through this now, historians, and so this is the time when, after a long period of time, much of this information is going to become available and then investigations can be conducted. All of this takes time, Lou.

WATERS: All right, CNN national correspondent Bob Franken closely following the story. We'll tie the many facets of the story together and you'll be hearing more about it in the hours, days and weeks ahead.



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