Paul W. Valentine, Staff Writer - The Washington Post - October 12, 1988
BALTIMORE - In the first espionage prosecution involving South Africa, a former U.S. Army clandestine warfare specialist acknowledged in federal court today that he gave scores of classified military documents to the South African regime from 1979 to 1983.
Thomas Joseph Dolce, 49, until recently a civilian research analyst for a hush-hush weapons evaluation center at Aberdeen Proving Ground northeast of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to a single count of passing a secret ballistics report to an agent of a foreign government.
But in a statement of facts read at the court hearing by federal prosecutor Gary O. Jordan, Dolce acknowledged delivering batches of classified documents on 40 or more occasions, by mail and in person, to three military attaches at the South African Embassy in Washington and to South African missions in London and Los Angeles between the fall of 1979 and the summer of 1983. Dolce's attorney, Harold I. Glaser, characterized the documents as "numerous."
A sentencing date has not been set. Dolce, now in custody, faces up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
The revelations in court here come after a string of espionage cases that have rocked the country in the last three years, bringing military security measures into question by some members of Congress and the Reagan administration. Most notorious was the Walker family spy case in which former Navy warrant officer John Anthony Walker, his son, a brother and a close friend were sentenced in 1986 for operating one of the most damaging spy rings in U.S. history on behalf of the Soviet Union.
Prosecutors refused to assess the damage in today's case. One source close to the investigation described the case as "not a heavy-hitter spy case," involving mid-level secret documents with no Soviet documents. "We got fragged, but we didn't get nuked," he quoted one of the investigators as saying.
Dolce, a small, balding man with glasses who lives with his family in Havre de Grace near Aberdeen, was described in the statement of facts as having a "long-term interest in the Republic of South Africa" and was motivated to pass military secrets "by ideological rather than financial reasons." The statement said there was no evidence he received money.
He told FBI agents he "believed he was doing for South Africa what the United States should have been doing," according to the statement of facts.
At one point, Dolce told investigators that he "furnished the South Africans with anything he came across pertaining to Russian equipment," the statement of facts said. "He reasoned that the South Africans were confronted with Soviet equipment in nearby Angola and that the United States should be providing this information to them.
Prosecutors would not say whether the information also was to be applied to suppression of black resistance against South Africa's internal policy of apartheid, or racial separation.
Prosecutors indicated they learned about Dolce's activities only last April but do not believe he has transmitted any secret documents to the South Africans since 1983.
Prosecutors would not say how they first learned of Dolce. Glaser said only that they came across him "inadvertently....There were no wiretaps or surveillance."
Maryland U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox, who said agents are still debriefing Dolce, about what he divulged, refused to describe or quantify the secret documents, except to say they had a "potential use for purposes of sabotage."
Willcox described the case as "the first espionage prosecution ever involving the South African government."
According to an Army spokesman, Dolce worked with a secret clearance at the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity unit at Aberdeen until he resigned Sept. 30 "for personal reasons."
According to the statement of facts, Dolce, a mathematician, had an interest in South Africa going back at lease to 1971 when he moved there from the United States but returned "disappointed with the employment opportunities."
After going to work at Aberdeen, he wrote an unclassified paper on clandestine warfare, according to the statement of facts. He circulated it at the State Department and CIA, the statement said, "but received no reaction." He then mailed it to the South African Embassy where officials immediately showed interest. He met with senior defense attaché Col. Bernardus Redelinghuys, who told him South Africa would be "most appreciative" of any additional information, the statement said.
Thereafter, Dolce began almost four years of transmitting documents to Redelinghuys and two of his successors, Brigadier Phillipus Johannes Schalkwyk and Brigadier Alexander Potgieter, according to the statement.
Embassy press secretary Alsyne Reesberg would not comment on the case. "We consider this history now," she said. "Two of the three attaches are retired and the third one is no longer in the United States. South Africa does not consider itself a hostile country to America, and we do not compete globally with the United States in military terms."