TAMPA, Fla. -- An ex-sergeant arrested on espionage charges has admitted to videotaping hundreds of sensitive documents in 1985 in one of the 'most serious breaches' of U.S. and NATO security ever, an FBI agent testified Friday.
Roderick James Ramsay, 28, a former assistant documents custodian for the U.S. Army 8th Infantry Division, headquartered in Bad Kreuznach, West Germany, was arrested without incident Thursday night on a downtown Tampa street.
U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Jenkins ordered Ramsay held without bond during a detention hearing Friday. She scheduled another hearing Tuesday.
Ramsay said little during the 1 -hour hearing. His mother, Dorothy Ramsay, cried as U.S. marshals escorted him out of the courtroom.
FBI Special Agent Joe Navarro testified that the defendant committed 'one of the most serious breaches' of U.S. and NATO military security ever in videotaping secret douments at the behest of another former sergeant who was convicted in West Germany this week of selling military secrets to two communist nations.
'Most of the documents involved that I've reviewed are classified secret or NATO secret,' said Navarro, an expert on counterintellegence and espionage. 'Any one of those documents could do grievous harm to the United States.
'We know (some documents) went to the Soviets,' he said.
'In most of the other spy cases, these individuals had very narrow access to classified information,' Navarro said. 'Because of his job, (Ramsay) had to collate and collect information from other NATO forces and other people. ... I know of no one else with knowledge of such information.'
FBI spokesman Larry Curtin said Ramsay's arrest was part of a seven-year investigation into the activities of Clyde Lee Conrad, a retired sergeant who was convicted Wednesday of treason by a West German court.
Ramsay was stationed in West Germany from 1983 to 1985 and worked under Conrad's immediate supervision, the FBI said. Ramsay faces a possible life sentence if convicted.
Navarro said he contacted Ramsay in August 1988 to ask him about his relationship with Conrad, adding that Ramsay was not considered an espionage suspect until November.
Between August 1988 and the night of Ramsay's arrest, Navarro said he interviewed Ramsay about 40 times. Among the items Ramsay gave Navarro was a phone number to the Hungarian Intelligence Service, written on a water-soluble piece of paper of the kind commonly used by intelligence agents.
Navarro said in an affadivit released Friday that, in December 1985, Ramsay gained access to 'hundreds of documents over the course of a week.' He allegdly admitted he 'made videotapes of these documents for Conrad for eventual sale to the Hungarian Intelligence Service and the Czechoslovakian Intelligence Service,' Navarro said.
Ramsay allegedly told Navarro he used a 35mm camera at first, then switched to videotape because it captured more information and was easier to conceal. Navarro said in all, Ramsay recorded about 45 hours of videotape.
Navarro said Ramsay was paid about $20,000 for the classified documents he taped and obtained for Conrad and others while stationed in West Germany.
FBI officials have not identified the other alleged conspirators, although they said the investigation is continuing.
Ramsay allegedly supplied Conrad with general plans for the defense of Europe, documents dealing with the tactical use of nuclear weapons by NATO and the United States, documents coordinating various NATO forces, technical manuals and military communications technology, Curtin said.
Navarro described Ramsay, who speaks German, Spanish and Japanese, as having a remarkable memory.
'He has demonstrated his extraordinary recall of documents he hasn't seen in four or five years. ... He can identify portions of a document that he hasn't seen in four or five years,' Navarro said.
'His knowledge of top secret plans is unique,' Navarro said. 'Any government, either hostile or benign, would want to know what in the world he knows. He is a marketable commodity for any government.'
Conrad, 42, was sentenced to life in prison for selling military secrets to communist governments by a West German judge who ruled that he placed West Germany and U.S. troops at risk.
The judge said Conrad, a native of Bergholz, Ohio, was paid more than $1.3 million by the communist governments of Hungary and Czechoslovakia between 1975 and 1985. Secret service experts said it was the largest known fee paid to an agent.
Ramsay told Navarro that Conrad visited him in Boston in January 1986 and gave Ramsay a key chain with a small cow bell attached that was to be used to identify co-conspirators.
Ramsay also told Navarro that he kept top secret documents at his mother's home in Tampa. Ramsay said he had planned to sell the documents, but they were destroyed in August 1988.
Ramsay also told Navarro that he had planned and participated in an armed bank robbery in Vermont in 1981, and went to search for as much as $5 million he suspects Conrad had hidden from authorities.
Conrad was arrested in West Germany in August 1988 and indicted one year later for selling top secret nuclear and other military plans to the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian secret services over a 10-year period.
Conrad worked as a document custodian, which gave him access to key documents on U.S. installations and strategy. Some of the documents he was accused of selling were coded 'cosmic secret' and related to U.S. missile bases and a NATO pipeline system.