Clyde Lee Conrad
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Clyde Lee Conrad held a top secret security clearance when he retired from the U.S. Army in 1985. Â His last assignment before retirement was the 8th Infantry Division (ID) in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. His supervisors considered him the “go to guy” in the battalion. Conrad was the non-commissioned officer (NCO) in charge of a vault filled with classified documents. In addition, he was the key custodian for the classified photocopier. He was well-liked by his peers, subordinates, and supervisors who all relied heavily on his expertise. His knowledge was so extensive, officers requested he be allowed to remain at the 8th ID instead of changing duty assignments. What these trusting soldiers did not know about Conrad was he served as the mastermind of a spy ring conducting espionage for the Hungarian Secret Service.
Conrad began his moonlighting espionage career in 1975 when his boss, SFC Zoltan Szabo, approached him and asked if he wanted to earn some extra money. Szabo, a Hungarian immigrant, served in the U.S. Army as an NCO and officer. However, his true loyalty was to Hungary as a colonel in the Hungarian Military Intelligence Service. Szabo needed someone to continue the espionage activities after he retired, so he recruited Conrad shortly before his retirement. Szabo helped Conrad make contact with two Swedish citizens that were Hungarian born. Sandor and Imre Keresik helped Conrad set up a courier system to deliver over 30,000 copied U.S. Army top secret materials to the communist governments of Hungary and Czechoslovakia until 1986. He passed NATO war plans which included detailed descriptions of nuclear weapon locations and movements of troops, tanks, and aircrafts if NATO ever went to war with the Warsaw pact countries. During the time he spied, Conrad recruited several other soldiers. He recruited poorly paid enlisted personnel by promising them large amounts of money. A few of his U.S. Army spy recruits included Roderick James Ramsay, Jeffrey Rondeau, Jeffrey Gregory, and Kelley Warren, who were all caught and convicted on espionage charges after the Conrad trial.
So how did he get caught?
Four years after Conrad began selling secrets, one of the CIA’s assets, Vladimir Vasilyev, told the CIA that Moscow had obtained war plans. The CIA warned U.S. Army Counterintelligence (CI) who began looking for a traitor in their midst. In 1985, Army CI determined, based on analysis, that the security breach was most likely in the V Corps. A list of suspects was identified and in 1986, investigators realized that Clyde Conrad fit the profile. It appeared Conrad was living well-above a retired SFC salary in Germany without a second job. The Army decided to attempt a sting operation against Conrad. When Conrad was identified as the spy, the Army ran into another problem. He could not be arrested by the military and the FBI had no jurisdiction in Germany. In order to prosecute him, the U.S. had to bring German authorities in on the case. Conrad was arrested at his home on August 23, 1988, by the German police and was convicted of high treason and espionage in a German court in 1990. He was sentenced to life in prison. But Conrad only served eight years of his life sentence. On January 8, 1998, at the age of 50, he died of heart failure in a German prison. The former sergeant is reported to have received more than one million dollars for selling secrets, one of only five spies considered to have been paid handsomely.