Former Central Intelligence Agency station chief Harold James Nicholson was sentenced to an additional eight and a half years for the same thing he was caught for before; spying. Nicholson, now 59, plead guilty on November 9 to conspiracy to act as an agent for a foreign government and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. “Today, former CIA official Harold Nicholson is being held accountable for once again violating his oath to protect America’s national security,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. Nicholson apparently felt his alignment with his Soviet era handlers was more important than his son. Nicholson used his son, Nathaniel, to transport messages to his handlers between 2006 and 2008.
In 1997 Nicholson was convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and sentenced to 23 1/2 years behind bars. Nicholson came under suspicion by the CIA when he failed a routine polygraph and the specific question, “Since your last polygraph, have you had a relationship with a foreign intelligence unit that you are trying to hide from the CIA?” Harold’s answer of no showed deceit and he was placed under FBI surveillance immediately. Nicholson was arrested at Dulles International Airport after he deposited large sums of money into his bank account and those of his children. He obtained the money from Russian agents overseas.
When Nicholson joined the CIA in 1980 after serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army intelligence field he advanced quite quickly. The CIA described his ascent as remarkable. He rose from trainee to Chief of Station in just 10 years. Chief of Station is the highest position you can attain at any particular CIA station. After working as Chief of Station for several embassies he was reassigned to “the Farm” where he was to train new agents. Nicholson was believed to have sold the Russians the identities of all his students at the farm and all of the agents operating in Europe.
The thought of money and a possible retirement in Russia are what spurred this recent attempt according to authorities. His son was arrested after returning from Russia where he was supposedly meeting with Russian agents to see if he could attain a “pension” for his father. He was also allegedly paid $47,000 for his fathers past spying activities. “On a personal level, it shows the damage a father can do as he manipulates a son into a world of dishonor,” Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Oregon said. Nathaniel Nicholson was sentenced to 5 years probation after pleading guilty in August 2009 for his role in the case.
Nicholson was the highest ranking officer to be convicted of spying for a foreign government. He is the only agent to be tried and convicted for espionage related activities twice. Nicholson said he was inspired by Aldrich Ames and felt that he was better at the trade than Ames and could avoid arrest. He apparently underestimated his colleagues quite a bit. Nicholson now resides as of late in the Federal Correctional Institution at Sheridan, Oregon. I think Harold should have learned from the phrase “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”