SEATTLE -- Information provided by the John Walker family spy ring has allowed Soviet attack submarines tracking U.S. Trident nuclear subs to penetrate the Strait of Juan De Fuca on the northwest Washington coast since 1981, it was reported today.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in a copyright story that Soviet nuclear-powered subs have infiltrated the U.S.-Canadian-owned strait as far east as Admiralty Inlet off Whidbey Island, a strategic entrance to Puget Sound.
Based on information from an unidentified retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer, the newspaper documented how the Soviets, using information passed by the Walker spy ring, have been slipping inside U.S. anti-sub defense network in the 90-mile-long, 15-mile-wide strait.
The former Navy official said he was making the information public out of concern that U.S. coastal defenses are not getting adequate attention from the Defense Department.
'The U.S. military does not have enough assets to thoroughly monitor the straits,' the source said.
Intelligence experts say the Soviet operation is designed to identify the particular signals of the Trident subs, each of which carries 24 multiple-warhead Trident II missiles -- enough nuclear firepower to wipe out all major and moderate-sized cities in the Soviet Union.
Since 1981, the home port of the Trident fleet has been at the Bangor Naval Base, located 20 miles further inland than the deepest Soviet penetration. To date, seven subs have berthed at Bangor and he eighth and last, the USS Nevada, will arrive some time later this year, the Navy has said.
The periodic presence of Soviet spy ships off the Washington coast just outside the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been widely reported, but now it appears they may have been working as mother ships for the Soviet subs.
The Walker family spy ring has been credited with supplying Soviet KGB agents with secrets that have enabled the Soviets to dramatically narrow the gap in submarine performance and to counter U.S. anti-submarine warfare abilities.
At the Pentagon, officials acknowledged that there has been increased activity by Soviet attack submarines in the Seattle area since Bangor opened as a Trident base three years ago. Among them have been nuclear-powered Victor III class boats, one of the most modern Soviet attack subs, they said.
'There's nothing off Seattle today, but we've seen them in the past,' said one official, speaking on condition he not be identified. 'We've known that they've had Victor subs in that area before.'
Generally, no more than one Soviet attack submarine at a time will appear in the area, the officials said. Navy aircraft and ships monitor the movements of the submarine, they said.
'It's not a threat today, but it would be in a wartime scenario,' an official said of the Soviet sub presence. 'This is what they'd do in time of war.'