Ex-NSA Worker Gets 24 Years for Spying

'I'm Glad It's Over,' Code Analyst Says

February 27, 1999 - Patricia Davis - The Washington Post

A former National Security Agency code analyst who began spying in 1988 when he walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington and volunteered his services was sentenced yesterday to 24 years and four months in prison for selling top-secret documents to the KGB.

During the 10-minute hearing, David Sheldon Boone, 46, stood up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria and repeated what he had said to FBI agents when they arrested him at a hotel last October: "I'm glad it's over."

"I regret the actions I took," Boone told U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. "They were wrong. They overshadowed anything good I've done in my life -- before and after."

Boone's attorney, James C. Clarke, had asked the judge to sentence Boone to 24 years and four months, which was at the lower end of federal sentencing guidelines in his case. Clarke noted that Boone's spying "doesn't appear to have caused significant harm" and was not as serious as that committed by other spies -- including former CIA agent Harold J. Nicolson, who revealed the identities of new CIA recruits and was sentenced in 1997 to 23 years and seven months in prison.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Connolly said that Boone, who gave the KGB highly classified documents, had put the lives of U.S. pilots at risk and should receive 27 years and six months.

By giving him the lesser sentence, Bryan said that he was not in any way trying to minimize the seriousness of Boone's actions but that he did take his age into account. Clarke told the judge that Boone would be 70 when he is released from prison.

Boone, who served in the Army from 1970 to 1991, pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit espionage. As part of a plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit $52,000, including his retirement fund and a hand-held scanner he used to copy documents. According to court records, Boone was a signals intelligence analyst throughout most of his Army service. During two stints between 1974 and 1985, he was assigned as a code analyst in Augsburg, Germany. After that, he was assigned as a senior cryptologic traffic analyst at the NSA at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland.

Boone apparently turned to spying in 1988 because of problems in his personal life. Strapped for money and angry over a pending divorce case, he showed up at the Soviet Embassy and offered to sell a classified document. He walked out with a $300 payment. Over the next three years, in Washington and at his next posting in Augsburg, Boone met with his Soviet handler, known as "Igor," about four times a year, receiving payments totaling more than $60,000. During that time, officials said, Boone turned over extremely sensitive documents, including information about U.S. nuclear targets in the Soviet Union.

At times, Boone would attempt to conceal his espionage activities, disguising himself with a wig and a mustache.

In September 1988, court records state, Boone was contacted by "an individual working on behalf of the FBI whom Boone believed to be an Agent of the SVRR," the Russian successor agency to the KGB. During two meetings, officials said, he agreed to work full time on behalf of the SVRR and continue his espionage activities.

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