A CIA snitch arrested years ago for espionage is about to finally be released from prison and he’s expected by many to flee to Russia.
(Video Credit: LockDown Documentaries)
Harold ‘Jim’ Nicholson was a career spy with the Central Intelligence Agency. He had plied his craft for 16 years and was a single father.
The colleague who eventually nailed Nicholson was John Maguire, a former Baltimore cop. He was recalled from overseas to take the job which he accepted following a secret meeting at Langley.
“There, in an FBI safe house in an unprecedented interagency spy-catching collaboration, he learned the details of the ask: Someone within the CIA was sneaking secrets to the Russians. Nicholson was the likely culprit. Maguire was to get Nicholson to hire him as his righthand man, spy on him from within his own department, then nail him with evidence so they could lock Nicholson up for treason,” The Independent reported.
In 1996, Maguire was positioned next to the suspected spy, working alongside him.
“There were times when I just wanted to stab him in the neck at his desk and just say, ‘F*** it, he’s dead. It’s over. Here,’” Maguire told The Independent in an interview.
The now-retired spy didn’t give in to his urge. In just months, a spy would catch a spy at Langley.
“After more than two decades behind bars, Nicholson will be released from prison on 26 November. He was sentenced in 1997 to 23 years and 7 months for conspiracy to commit espionage – one of the highest-ranking CIA officers ever convicted of the offense. But the turncoat spy wasn’t done; from prison, he duped his youngest child – a son in his mid-20s who worshipped his dad and long believed he’d been railroaded – into continuing his traitorous relationship with the Russians,” The Independent noted.
Holy crap what an idiot and a POS. He stayed connected with Russia while in prison and got his son involved too.
— erin (@erinschlick) June 5, 2022
Father and son were both caught and convicted. The son struck a plea deal and avoided prison. His father was given an additional eight years and was transferred from an Oregon facility to Colorado’s Supermax.
“Jim Nicholson was what they call a double hitter: There was his first crime, which he got caught for, went to prison, and then from prison organized his second one,” author Bryan Denson, who wrote “The Spy’s Son,” told The Independent.
Nicholson will walk free right after Thanksgiving. He will be 73 years old. Maguire is certain that the convicted traitor will “run.”
“He’s not going to stay here,” Maguire contended. “He’ll be gone in a couple of weeks.”
Denson also said that Nicholson’s next steps remain “a big question to me.”
“Does he just get himself plucked by the Russians and go back to Moscow where the money’s waiting for him?” he pondered. “Or does he stay here and do right by his family?”
Nicholson worked in military intelligence. He left the Army in 1979 and wound up with the CIA.
As he was stationed in various posts abroad, his marriage faltered and his ambition grew.
The Independent noted his flipping to the other side:
Two years later, Nicholson walked into the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where he was stationed, the CIA under the impression he was trying to recruit their intelligence chief. Instead, the veteran operative offered his own services to the SVR (the Russian foreign intelligence department that preceded the KGB) for payment – just weeks after infamous CIA turncoat Ames was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Denson wrote in his book, “figured that with Ames out of the way, the SVR might be in the market for another highly paid mole inside the CIA.”
Nicholson would play double agent for over a decade before his downfall.
In 1996, the CIA realized they had a mole in their midst and had to ferret him out. That’s when Maguire entered the picture.
“You’ve got to catch that f****r in a year; we can’t afford to wait five years,’” Maguire claims a superior told him. “You’ve got to catch him doing something.”
Maguire was patient and methodical. Catching a spy is not anything like you see in the movies. You can’t afford to make a mistake.
“Nicholson’s MO included targeting younger officers and collecting background information on them to share with the Russians, so that they would be vulnerable to being convinced to share information themselves later down the track on overseas missions,” The Independent wrote.
“He was a clever guy and a mercenary son of a b*tch because he didn’t care what happened to those kids, those young officers … they’re working for a guy who’s set up a target package on them so they can be approached later in their careers,” Maquire recounted. “I’ve never seen that before.”
Maguire’s opportunity came during lunch in Georgetown with Nicholson in October 1996:
He had a six-pack of beer on the floor of the car, and I’m drinking beer in his car on the way back to the building; we’re driving around in rural Virginia, and I say, “Are you lost?” And he goes, “No, no, no, and there’s a place out here, this is one of the days when they release unique runs of stamps.”
Maguire notified the FBI that his boss was getting ready “to do something operational.”
“They just bet the farm on that night, and they had a tremendous amount of manpower deployed and prepared,” Maguire stated during the interview.
“And sure enough, he went out late at night, left his house, left his kids at home alone and went out … and they actually caught him in the act mailing something, and then that was the stamp that he bought – and he licked it, so there was DNA on it. And he threw it in the mailbox, and before the sun came up that thing was processed and in the evidence system, and then the real postcard went back in the mailbox and went on its way to the overseas address, and he established a direct link to the KGB,” he commented.
Nicholson was arrested and sentenced in June 1997 to almost 24 years in prison.
OTD June 5, 1997 disgraced CIA officer Harold “Jim” Nicholson convicted of selling U.S. intelligence to Russia for $300,000. Sentenced to 23 years 7 months in prison. pic.twitter.com/VAq2KIaivd
— SPIES&VESPERS (@SpiesVespers) June 5, 2022