Ronald William Pelton, a former National Security Agency analyst who was sentenced to life in prison for selling Soviet military secrets, has died in the United States, reports The Guardian. He was 80 years old.
Pelton served in the US Air Force, where he studied Russian, among other things, and then worked as an analyst for the NSA for 14 years. After retiring in 1979, Pelton felt financial difficulties and in January 1980 called the Soviet Embassy in Washington, offering his services. Despite the fact that by that time Pelton had already left the NSA and had no valuable documents in his possession, he was useful because he remembered a lot and could also interpret data obtained from other sources.
Among other things, Pelton disclosed the details of Operation Ivy Bells, during which the United States, the CIA and the NSA listened to the underwater communication lines of the Soviet Navy, which were laid along the bottom of the Sea of Okhotsk. For almost a decade, American services, using a special device, recorded and removed information from a cable laid at a depth of 120 meters. As it turned out, the Soviet command was absolutely confident in the reliability of the cable, so most of the messages were transmitted in unencrypted form. After Pelton revealed the operation, the USSR dismantled the cable. Pelton received about $37,000 for his information.
It was revealed after KGB officer Vitaly Yurchenko fled to the United States in 1985, having interrogated Pelton at one time. He said that five years earlier he had met with a certain red-haired ex-ABN analyst. Thanks to this, the FBI came to Pelton. He was tried, found guilty of espionage, and in 1986 was sentenced to three simultaneous life terms plus another 10 years. In sentencing, the judge said that Pelton committed "one of the most serious crimes in the US criminal code." In total, he spent about three decades in prison before he was able to go free in 2015.