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Friday 21 June, 2024
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Ronald Pelton, convicted of selling secrets to Soviets Dead, Cause o Death

BY Anas Shah Sep 17, 2022. 06:02 pm UPDATED: Sep 17, 2022. 06:02 pm

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Ronald W. Pelton passed away on September 6 in a nursing facility in Frederick, Maryland. He was a National Security Agency analyst who was found guilty in 1986 of selling secrets to the Soviets in one of the most serious intelligence failures of the Cold War. He was 80.

The cause of death was cancer, his daughter Paula Strand said.

When Mr. Pelton joined the NSA in 1965, he had served in the Air Force and had Russian language instruction. He worked for the intelligence service for more than 14 years, gaining experience in Soviet communications and receiving top-secret clearance.

Mr. Pelton filed for bankruptcy in 1979 as his personal financial situation deteriorated. He quit shortly after because he was worried about the agency’s perception of him as a target for foreign intelligence services looking to hire staff with unstable finances.

When he approached Soviet embassy authorities in Washington in January 1980 with his promise to share his knowledge of NSA operations in exchange for payments that would eventually reach $35,000, Mr. Pelton had only a few hundred dollars in his bank account.

When questioned by the FBI afterwards, Mr. Pelton claimed that his outreach to the Soviets was an urge that he had just been thinking about for a few days or so. He developed a beard so that he could enter the embassy covertly. He shaved his beard and dressed into staff-style clothing before leaving the facility. He then took an embassy shuttle bus back to the city’s centre to pick up his automobile.

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“They got more out of me than I wanted to give up,” Mr. Pelton was said to have told FBI agents when he was discovered.

The most important information revealed by Mr. Pelton concerned the Ivy Bells operation, which involved wiretapping Soviet communication cables in the Sea of Okhotsk. The technique was referred to as one of “the most advanced, sophisticated tiny waterproof eavesdropping devices in existence” by Woodward in his book “Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987.”
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