By Kumail Jaffer
THE SOVIET UNION was home to dozens of US defectors, but few would have seen an Army veteran switch sides in the midst of the Cold War.
Clyde Lee Conrad was known as a stellar soldier in the US Army, and was even promoted to an officer role where he looked after top secret NATO documents. However, as James Olson reveals in his new book ‘To Catch A Spy’, his head was turned by the Hungarian intelligence services, who were in turn subservient to the Soviet KGB. The explosive new book reveals how Mr Conrad was turned into a double agent – and gave up thousands of valuable intelligence documents to his country’s sworn enemies.
Mr Olson suggested that, despite Mr Conrad’s apparent loyalty and efficiency in his role, he was convinced by another double agent to change loyalties.
Zoltan Szabo – a Hungarian immigrant who ended up passing secrets back to the Hungarian intelligence services – was also tasked with landing new recruits.
Thankfully for Mr Szabo, the spy business was proving especially lucrative – and Mr Conrad came on board in 1975.
Mr Olson added: “Conrad’s salary as an enlisted man made it difficult for him to support his family.
“The ingredients for big-time espionage were in place: a soldier with top-secret clearance, access at an amazingly high level, weak workplace counterintelligence and serious money problems.
“Conrad jumped on board enthusiastically, stole thousands of war-planning documents for the Hungarians, and was soon cashing in.”
A lack of security – partly down to Mr Conrad’s high ranking as a Sergeant, but also lacklustre supervision – meant the work carried on for years.
He even took over the operation once Mr Szabo stepped down from the army and recruited other double agents.
Mr Conrad was paid over $1million for his work – and the Russians kept getting a head start on any NATO plans.
Mr Olson wrote: “The stark result was that the Russians had chapter and verse on exactly how NATO forces and the US Army would respond in the event of war.
“It is horrifying to imagine how cataclysmic the outcome would have been if war had broken out during those years.”