Robert Stephen Lipka (1946 – July 5, 2013) was a former army clerk at the National Security Agency (NSA) who, in 1997, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was arrested more than 30 years after his betrayal, as there is no statute of limitations for espionage.
Robert Lipka was assigned to the National Security Agency as an intelligence analyst in 1964, when he was a 19-year-old U.S. Army soldier. He worked in the central communications room from 1964–1967, where he was responsible for removing and disseminating highly classified documents throughout the agency. Despite his junior rank, Lipka held a high security clearance, and had access to a diverse array of highly classified documents.
In September 1965, Lipka presented himself to the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street, as a walk-in or volunteer spy. He announced that he was responsible for shredding highly classified documents, and over the next two years he made contact with the residency around fifty times, using a variety of skilled tradecraft.
According to his handler at the time, former KGB General Oleg Danilovich Kalugin, "the young soldier (Lipka) ... was involved in shredding and destroying NSA documents and could supply us with a wealth of material." He goes on to say that Lipka gave him "whatever he got his hands on, often having little idea what he was turning over." Lipka compromised daily and weekly top-secret reports to the White House, information on US troop movements throughout the world, and communications amongNATO allies.
During the two years Lipka supplied the KGB top-secret information, he received payment of about $27,000 dollars. Kalugin claims that Lipka used the money he received, around $500 to $1,000 per package he delivered, to finance his college education. However, Lipka regularly complained that he deserved more money, and threatened to break contact if this demand was not met. In August 1967, Lipka made good on his threat, and left the NSA at the end of his military service in order to attend Millersville University of Pennsylvania.
In order to discourage any attempts by the KGB to recontact him, Lipka sent a final message claiming that he had been adouble agent for US intelligence all along. According to Vasili Mitrokhin, the KGB knew this was a lie because of the high importance of the classified documents Lipka provided. Both the residency and illegals (non diplomatic cover handlers) tried to renew contact with Lipka intermittently for at least another 11 years, though without success.
Investigation and arrest
Similar to the John Anthony Walker case, Lipka's ex-wife made accusations of his treason to the FBI. In 1993, armed with these accusations, revelations from Kalugin's memoir, and information from a separate investigation implicating Lipka, the FBI decided to use a false flag operation to catch him.FBI agent Dmitri Droujinsky contacted Lipka, posing as a GRU officer based in Washington named "Sergei Nikitin." Lipka told Nikitin that he was still owed money, and over the course of four meetings, "Nikitin" gave Lipka $10,000.
After a lengthy investigation, Lipka admitted to having been a spy while at the NSA, and in February 1996 he was arrested at his home in Millersville, PA, and charged with handing classified documents to the Soviet Union. As there is no statute of limitations in espionage cases, it did not matter that Lipka had ceased spying for the Soviet Union three decades before his arrest.
Lipka was not tried. Although he initially pleaded "not guilty" to the charge of conspiracy to commit espionage, in May 1997 he broke down and confessed. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer Lipka "exploded into tears as he confessed that he had handed over classified information to KGB agents.”
Lipka pleaded guilty and was sentenced by United States District Judge Charles Weiner to 18 years imprisonment, and fined $10,000. In addition, he was ordered to repay the $10,000 he had received from "Sergei Nikitin" in the FBI's sting operation. His guilty plea meant that Mitrokhin would not have to testify publicly at a trial.
Prison and death
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Lipka was released on December 8, 2006
On July 5, 2013, Robert Lipka died at Meadville, PA. His remains were cremated
Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen, Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage
Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield.
Fen Montaigne and Oleg Kalugin, The First Directorate: My 32 years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West.
Former FBI Special Agent John W. Whiteside III has penned a book about the Robert Lipka spy case, “Fool’s Mate: A True Story of Espionage at the National Security Agency.”
Lipka, the Millersville man who spied for the Russians during the Vietnam War, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 1997 to 18 years in federal prison.
Lipka admitted in a plea agreement that he stole top-secret documents of U.S. troop movements for the Soviets while working as an Army intelligence analyst at the NSA. He was arrested in 1996 after a former Soviet archivist for the KGB defected and became a U.S. government witness.
“At the height of the Cold War in September 1965, disgruntled U.S. soldier Robert Stephan Lipka walked boldly into the (Russian) embassy in Washington, D.C. Inside, he negotiated the sale of highly sensitive National Security Agency documents,” says a release on the book.
“For the next two years, Lipka delivered a steady stream of important information on U.S. security, before attempting to get out of the spy game as his military enlistment period expired.
“... As Lipka exited the scene, KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin planted the seeds of his own treason, which bore unexpected fruit decades later. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, Mitrokhin fled to the West, offering a treasure trove of archived KGB files in return for protection.”
“Fool’s Mate,” available from Amazon.com and Kindle, reconstructs the investigation through the eyes of Whiteside, the special agent who led the case from beginning to end.
A Chester County resident, Whiteside served the FBI from 1971 until his retirement in 2001.
He’s a counterintelligence consultant to the U.S. government.
By Alleged Spy Motivated Greed Millersville Espionage Suspect Showed More Interest In Betting On Horses Than Political Leanings.
February 25, 1996 |by ELIZABETH SHOGREN, The Los Angeles Times
Sitting in his blue-green Chevy van three years ago, talking to an undercover FBI agent he believed to be a Russian intelligence official, Robert Lipka allegedly confided his reason for betraying his nation during one of the most frigid stages of the Cold War: "I worked strictly for money."
The life Lipka led in Lancaster County before FBI agents arrested him Friday on charges of espionage lends credence to that claim.
Lipka, according to people who know him, has two obsessions: trading rare coins and betting on horses. Although he worked briefly as a high school history teacher after supposedly financing a college education with espionage earnings, Lipka essentially dropped out of the work force in his late 20s.
Since then, authorities and acquaintances say, his only steady occupations appear to have been dealing coins and placing bets.
Over the past year, Lipka spent much of his time at an off-track betting facility in York, about a 30-minute drive from his home in Pennsylvania's Amish country.
Gambling, it seems, has been a big part of Lipka's life for decades. His first wife said in court papers that she filed for divorce in part because he wagered away most of his money.
What authorities believe to be his biggest gamble ever -- smuggling classified documents out of the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., and selling them to the Soviet KGB -- apparently came due 20 years after the fact: His first wife, Patricia, helped authorities build the case against him.
Sources confirmed yesterday that the cooperating witness in the case against Lipka is his ex-wife. She provided key information on Lipka's alleged contacts with Soviet agents, who paid him $500 to $1,000 every time he provided them with U.S. documents, the sources said. She was approached by FBI agents who were investigating Lipka after following leads provided in 1993 by a KGB defector.
Authorities say Lipka himself corroborated much of the government case against him during four meetings in 1993 with an FBI official who posed as a Russian spy trying to resume contact. In the recorded meetings, Lipka allegedly described his former espionage activity, expressed willingness to work for the new Russian intelligence agency and complained that he was paid too little when he worked for the KGB.
Lipka told the undercover FBI agent that he had used his rare coin business as a front to launder money, according to the affidavit for his arrest.
Lipka's declaration to the FBI three years ago seems to place him in the same category as other spies prosecuted since the mid-1980s who appear to have been motivated more by greed than by ideology. Government officials believe that financial gain was the primary consideration in the espionage activities of Aldrich H. Ames, the CIA counterintelligence official who pleaded guilty in 1994 to spying for the Soviet Union, and retired Navy Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr., who headed a family spy ring that sold secrets to the Soviets.
The fact that Lipka might take his place in the same rogues' gallery of traitors has stunned his neighbors along the neat, upper-middle-class street where he lives with his second wife and two sons, ages 10 and 13.
Neighbors say they are shocked to learn that the seemingly "normal" father they thought they knew is suspected of selling secrets to the KGB. The FBI says Lipka turned over highly classified information to the Soviets during his military service in the 1960s, when the Army assigned him to work as a clerk at the super-secret NSA. Lipka allegedly continued to supply Soviet agents with material after leaving the military in 1967 to attend college at nearby Millersville University.
Some of the college professors who knew Lipka at the time he was allegedly selling secret documents to Soviet agents say the espionage accusations could shed light on his behavior.
"No wonder he was so arrogant," said Terry Madonna, a professor of political science at Millersville University. "No wonder he walked around treating us professors like we were nothing."
"I always thought his stories about being in military intelligence were exaggeration," said Jack Fischel, chairman of the history department. Both Madonna and Fischel taught classes attended by Lipka.
Several Millersville faculty members say Lipka stands out in their memories mainly because he was a loudmouth.
"He is a difficult personality. Argumentative. Obstreperous," Madonna said. "But there's nothing I could see in his ideology that indicated he was an America-hater."
Madonna speculated that it was "outright greed" that led Lipka into his current difficulties, a theory that rings true with others who knew him.
Several professors say they would describe Lipka's views during his college years as somewhat libertarian. While he tended to take strong positions on many topics, they say, his opinions did not seem to conform with any traditional ideology. No one recalls him expressing sympathy with communism.
Lipka's penchant for airing his views extended well beyond college. Over the years, he supplied local newspapers with a steady stream of commentary on a wide range of issues.