- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

Even after becoming the highest-ranking CIA agent ever convicted of espionage, Harold James Nicholson continued running spy games, prosecutors say.

In fact, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday, Nicholson made it a family affair.

Nicholson, 58, and his 24-year-old son, Nathaniel James Nicholson, are accused of hatching an operation from the elder man’s prison cell, where he is serving a 23-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 1997 to selling secrets to the Russian government.

According to prosecutors, the younger Mr. Nicholson was dispatched to Mexico, Peru and Cyprus to collect money the Russians still owed his father. Prosecutors said he ultimately collected about $35,000 and also passed information to the Russians, none of which is known to be classified.

“This is an amazing case,” said David Ian Miller, Special Agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Harold James Nicholson, a convicted spy, was allowed to serve time in a federal prison in Oregon to be near his family. Without regret, he used that proximity to his family to continue contact with the foreign country for which he was previously convicted of spying.”

Both men face decades in prison if convicted on charges of money laundering and acting as agents of a foreign government.

The elder Nicholson pleaded guilty to spying for the Russians from 1994 to 1996. He was arrested in 1996 at Washington Dulles International Airport while trying to board a plane to Zurich. Authorities said he was carrying significant amounts of classified information intended for a Russian agent.

Nicholson had been a CIA agent for 16 years and worked against the Soviet Union and later Russia while assigned to posts throughout the world. He was also an instructor at the CIA training center. Before his arrest, he was a chief in the counterterrorism center at CIA headquarters.

He made about $300,000 selling classified information to Russian agents during secret meetings around the globe. Authorities said Nicholson, a divorced father of three, used the money to pay credit card bills and other expenses.

The younger Mr. Nicholson, who was 12 when his father went to prison, is the youngest of three siblings. The three children lived with their grandparents in Oregon, where their father is from and is now serving his prison sentence, according to court records.

As part of the elder Nicholson’s plea deal, he agreed to have no further contact with agents of foreign governments. The CIA reviews his letters, records his phone calls and must approve every person who visits him.

As early as 2000, according to court documents, Nicholson had tried to recruit another inmate to pass information to the Russians, whom Nicholson said had a retirement pension waiting for him.

According to court records, Nicholson ultimately enlisted his son, who had been discharged from the Army in 2004 after suffering a back injury, to become his conduit for contact with the Russians.

Beginning in 2006 and ending with a December 2008 meeting at a TGIFriday’s restaurant in Cyprus, Mr. Nicholson became his father’s go-between. Authorities say he collected money and provided the Russians with information from his father, much of which seemed to focus on how he was discovered as a spy.

Authorities say Mr. Nicholson also provided personal information about his father that may have been intended to help him get a Russian visa when he is released from prison.

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