A former National Security Agency employee convicted of selling defense and communication secrets he gained during his career has been released from federal custody 30 years after his arrest. The sentence for Cold War-era spy Ronald Pelton, 74, ended on Tuesday. He had been placed on home confinement several months ago to serve out the final stretch of his sentence and was released Tuesday from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, an agency spokesman says. Pelton, a former NSA intelligence communications specialist, was arrested in November 1985 on charges of selling information to the Soviets about signals intelligence between 1980 and 1985 for $35,000 plus expenses.
Pelton worked for 14 years for the NSA before resigning in 1979. The FBI says Pelton, because of financial problems, approached the Soviet Embassy after leaving the agency and offered to sell the secrets. Prosecutors have said a Soviet KGB agent who defected and later returned to Moscow tipped investigators to Pelton. Among the secrets Pelton gave up was information about Operation Ivy Bells, an effort by the NSA and the Navy to tap Soviet communications cables that were laid under the ocean. He was sentenced to three life terms in 1986 by a federal judge who said he had betrayed a "special position of trust," compromised citizens of the United States, and endangered US agents. (A Navy analyst who spied for Israel was freed last week after serving 30 years.)