James Harper Exposed

by on July 14, 2008 · 19 comments

If you ask my colleague Jim Harper about his past, he’ll tell you a suspiciously plausible story about going to law school, working on the Hill, and so forth. This of course, is complete nonsense, as I’m learning from James Bamford’s Body of Secrets. It turns out that Jim has been intimately involved in espionage activities since the 1960s. From pp. 244-5:

A man with darting eyes was walking quickly up the sidewalk on Sixteenth Street in northwest Washington. A dozen blocks behind him stood the North Portico of the White House. Just before reaching the University Club, he made a quick turn through a black wrought-iron fence that protected a gray turn-of-the-century gothic stone mansion. On the side of the door was a gold plaque bearing the letters “CCCP”—the Russian abbreviation of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”

A few minutes later, Yakof Lukashevich, a slender Soviet embassy security officer with stiff, unruly hair, greeted the man. “I want to sell you top secrets,” the man impatiently told the Russian. “Valuable military information. I’ve brought along a sample.” With that, he reached into the front pocket of his jacket and handed Lukashevich a top secret NSA keylist for the U.S. military’s worldwide KL-47 cipher machine. With it, and the right equipment, the Russians would be able o break one of America’s most secret cipher systems. “My name is James,” the man said. “James Harper.” It was the beginning of a long and profitable relationship. Within weeks Harper would be selling the Soviets keylists for the KW-7, a cipher system more modern and secret than the KL-47. Over the KW-7 passed some of the nation’s most valuable information.

So when Jim writes about effective and ineffective ways to conduct surveillance, we should pay attention, because he writes from first-hand experience.

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