What do you know about espionage in the U.S. Navy?

  • Did you know the first American tried in peacetime under the World War I Espionage Act was a Navy Yeoman caught spying for the Japanese in 1936?
  • Everyone knows Jonathan Pollard was employed by ONI/NIS when he spied for Israel. But do you know the other three ONI employees that were found guilty of espionage?
  • Did you know that some of these cases were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and established legal precedent?

Click here and see the 63 individuals we have identified as being arrested for espionage. Did we miss any?

Lee Harvey Oswald Update

As the 56th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is observed next week, we have published 63 documents about Oswald’s emotional issues, discipline and discharge from the USMC, travel to the Soviet Union, renunciation of his U.S. citizenship, and contact with pro-Cuban and socialist organizations. See some of the early post assassination FBI reporting which emphasized the need to leave no stone unturned. See the actual documents and investigative reports. Click here

Learn more about NCIS and its predecessor organizations at https://ncisahistory.org/

1958-1962 Investigations of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Russian Connections

Prior to shooting President John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald had married a Russian woman, traveled to Russia and renounced his U.S. citizenship.  As a former Marine and Marine Reservist, he was investigated by the Marine Corps, Naval Intelligence and the FBI.  His half-brother was interviewed by AFOSI.  See the investigative documents.

Rise and Fall of Naval Counterintelligence – 11 November 1918

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, ONI policy was to limit collection to technical information that would assist the Navy in improving the capabilities of the fleet rather than to gather intelligence of an operational nature.  ONI had eight officers and eight civilians, and 75 percent of their time was spent in clipping and filing newspaper articles.

Beginning in 1916, the war in Europe induced a rapid expansion in ONI.  Counterintelligence, in which ONI had not previously been involved, received the greatest emphasis.  It was reasoned that the Allies were already producing intelligence for the support of operating forces, but that the U.S. Navy was very vulnerable internally to German acts of sabotage. Strong security measures were needed quickly.

When the Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, there were 306 naval reservists plus 18 civil service clerks and messengers serving in ONI.  [Beyer comment:  It is believed that these numbers do not include the contract special agents assigned to branch intelligence offices.]

Following the war, ONI dropped back to an office force of forty-two in 1920 and returned to its prewar interests in all maritime countries.  Most of its counterintelligence responsibilities were terminated.

(Source:  Packard, Wyman H., Captain, USN (Ret.), A CENTURY OF US NAVAL INTELLIGENCE, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1996.)

1919 – Canceled Credentials Issued to Departing Special Agents

The practice of war-time military bonuses began in 1776, as payment for the difference between what a soldier earned and what he could have earned had he not enlisted. Breaking with tradition, the veterans of the Spanish–American War did not receive a bonus and after World War I, they initially received only a $60 bonus.

In the attached letter, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt responds to the request of an ONI special agent for a $60 bonus and World War I service pin.  Benjamin Gardiner was a civilian special agent assigned to the Branch Naval Intelligence Office, New York.  According to the NY office’s accounting records for April 1918, SA Gardiner was paid a salary of $125 for the month.

In lieu of the bonus and pin, the Office of Naval Intelligence instituted the practice of canceling the identification cards held by representatives of that Office during the war, and returning them to their original holders as a memento of their service.

This practice continues in the current Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), whereby special agents are presented,upon their retirement, a shadow box containing their canceled credentials.

Naval Counterintelligence – 100 Years Ago

The two memos below are evidence that the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) was conducting counterintelligence investigations, including physical surveillance of investigative subjects and personnel security (background) investigations on communications specialists during World War I.  The third element of the NIS mission (criminal investigations) was not formalized until 1945.

Early evidence of ONI conducting counterintelligence investigations September 17, 1918

Early evidence of ONI conducting personnel security (background) investigations October 26, 1918

TBT – Intrepid 4 and the NIS CI Operation

The year was 1967 and four sailors from USS Intrepid deserted in Japan and showed up in the Soviet Union.  Read about how NIS identified and neutralized the Japanese anti-war protest group that supported and encouraged the Intrepid 4 at NIS Operation Gold Filling.


TBT (Turn Back Time) – NIS Activities in 1966

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was one year old.  The backlog of personnel security (background) investigations was eliminated for the first time since World War II after the resources of the Army, Air Force, and Civil Service Commission chipped in.  Automated work hour and production reports were developed but accurate data input was an issue (sound familiar?).  Command inspections were conducted by the Director.  Autovon high speed teletype network installed – reducing the previous total reliance on mailing leads).  DoD National Agency Check (NAC) Center and Central Index of Investigations (DCII) created.  Read about this and more at Naval Investigative Service Activities Report 1966