BOSTON (AP) - The youngest member of a family spy ring for the Soviet Union has been released from a halfway house after serving 15 years of a 25-year prison sentence.
Michael Lance Walker, 37, the son of the ring's leader, John A. Walker Jr., was released Wednesday. He will be on supervised probation for the rest of the sentence.
"The kid who went to prison is not the same person who is here now," Walker said from his sister's home in Dennis after his release Wednesday.
"I didn't want to be the same bad guy that went to prison," he told The Cape Cod Times of Hyannis. "I wanted to change. I've been away from my parents, and now I've learned to become my own man. I'm different now."
The spy ring operated for 17 years, causing what authorities described as extensive damage to national security.
Michael Walker was arrested in 1985 on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, where he was responsible for destroying secret messages. A box filled with 15 pounds of secret documents he had stolen was found hidden near his bunk.
The Navy seaman pleaded guilty along with his father, a retired Navy warrant officer, to spying charges. He testified that he became a spy in 1983 "for the money and to please my father."
John Walker admitted passing secrets while he was a shipboard communications officer, and after his retirement by recruiting his son, brother and a friend, Jerry A. Whitworth, a chief petty officer.
John Walker, 62, and his brother, Arthur, 65, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, will not be eligible for release for another 15 years. Whitworth, 60, is serving a life sentence.
In his interview Wednesday, Michael Walker said he felt no animosity toward his father for luring him into the ring, or toward his mother, Barbara, who tipped off authorities about her ex-husband's activities. She has said she would not have exposed the ring if she had known her son was involved.
"I feel bad about what happened to my mother and father," Michael Walker said. "I'm not sure what even led them to do what they did."
Compare and contrast the treatment of Michael Walker with the treatment of Jonathan Pollard. Walker was an active participant in of one of the most damaging episodes of hostile spying in the history of the United States. Pollard's friendly espionage was on behalf Israel, a close ally of the US. Walker's espionage was for the Soviet Union, a hostile nation.
There is not a shred of evidence of any damage done by Pollard to US national security. Indeed Pollard was never charged with harming the US. The damage done by Walker, however, was vast, observably blatant and supported by an abundance of evidence.
Both Walker and Pollard have served 15 years. In the Walker case the Government honored the plea agreement it made with Walker and did not oppose his early release. In the Pollard case, the Government violated the plea agreement it signed and continues to oppose Pollard's release from prison at any time.
CIA chief George Tenet and his agency have not said a word to protest the early release of Walker, in spite of the enormity of the crime he committed, and the vastness of the damage done. Congress as well has had no comment about Walker's early release. This is not the case with Pollard. Every time it looks like Pollard might go free - after serving just as long as Walker - there is a huge outcry by these Government agencies. They shrilly insist that freeing Pollard would not serve the cause of deterrence and would encourage others to spy. Interesting that there are no similar concerns about freeing Walker...
On the contrary, there seems to be little concern in the CIA or Congress that others might be encouraged by Walker's example and his early release, to spy for a hostile country. The only country that it seems can't be trusted not to spy is a friendly one - Israel - and that is apparently why they want to make an example of Pollard, and keep him in prison forever.
Pollard and only Pollard, they say, can never be forgiven. If so, obviously neither can Israel, the country he served. This is a bizarre approach to take if Israel is truly a "close friend and strong ally." What's wrong with this picture?