NEW YORK -- John Walker, jailed for life for masterminding one of the nation's most notorious spy rings, said his crimes were no worse than those of an insider trader who 'betrays his corporation.'
In an interview on the CBS News program '60 Minutes,' scheduled to air Sunday, Walker, a former Navy communications specialist, expressed little remorse about the massive espionage ring he ran for 18 years with other members of his family.
The spy ring sold vital classified material to the KGB for millions of dollars, helping the Soviet Union decode secret dispatches, including some detailing U.S. troop movements during the Vietnam War. It was broken up in 1985 when Walker's wife went to the FBI.
Walker, his son Michael, his brother Arthur and a friend, Jerry Whiteworth, are all serving time in federal prisons for espionage.
In the '60 Minutes' interview at the maximum security prison at Marion, Ill., Walker said he did not consider his crimes as serious as the government did, insisting he sold national secrets to a country that was at peace with the United States.
'I didn't sell anything to the North Vietnamese,' he said. 'I sold secrets to a country that we were not at war with, and had never been at war with and never will be at war with. Don't make more of it than it is. The Russians are not coming. They never were and they won't.'
Walker asserted that spying for the Soviet Union was little different than corruption in the business world.
'Is it any different than ... an insider trader that betrays his corporation, or a bank teller who robs the bank they work for?' he asked.
But he had some words of advice for those considering espionage as a second career. 'It's not profitable. It's dangerous,' he said.
Walker claimed his wife, Barbara, turned him into the FBI for the money she knew she would make from the movie rights to their family's story. A television movie about the Walkers, 'Family of Spies,' aired last month.
The '60 Minutes' segment also features interviews with other members of the espionage ring who describe how Walker pressured them into turning over secret documents to him.
From the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., Walker's son, Michael, 26, who is serving a 25-year term, described his father as 'smooth.'
'I was groomed,' Walker said. 'It took years. It didn't happen overnight. You just don't say yes, 'I'll do this.' It takes years, years of ... well, I guess manipulation is the word.'
Arthur Walker, who was interviewed at the prison in Terre Haute, Ind., said he thought his brother was trying to help him when he lured him into the spy ring.
'I don't think he got me involved to get me in trouble,' said Walker, who is serving a life term. 'I think this was a way to both help himself, perhaps, and help me at the same time.'
Barbara Walker, who was never implicated in the spy ring, said she did not turn her husband in earlier because she persuaded herself to believe the excuses he made.
'He said, 'this information is obsolete, or it's shortly going to be obsolete. It's not important. A lot of people are doing this. It's like a business,'' she said. 'I didn't believe it. But I wanted to believe it.'