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December 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Son of Imprisoned CIA Agent Dodges Prison

Harold James Nicholson/cia photo

By Allan Lengel and Glynnesha Taylor

Like father, like son? Not any more.

Nathan Nicholson, the son of a high-ranking imprisoned CIA officer, avoided prison Tuesday as a result of his guilty plea in which he had agreed to cooperate against his father, the Oregonian newspaper reported. He was sentenced in federal court in Portland, Ore. to 5 years probation and 100 hour of community service.

His father, Harold James Nicholson, who was already in prison for espionage after pleading guilty in 1997, pleaded guilty once again in November to espionage in a case involving his son Nathan Nicholson and the Russians. The father was already serving a 23-year sentence.

Authorities alleged that the son had helped his imprisoned father collect some back payments from the Russians while passing on information.

The 26-year-old told The Associated Press and The Oregonian newspaper that he had idolized his father, but “after this, I want to be my own man now. I don’t want to live in someone’s shadow.”

Harold James Nicholson worked for the CIA for 16 years. Between June 1994 and November 16, 1996, authorities said he provided the Russian Federation documents, photographic negatives and information relating to the national defense of the United States, according to Nicholson’s indictment. He was arrested in November 1996 at Dulles Airport in Virginia while trying to board a plane to Zurich, Switzerland with classified documents.

In return, Nicholson received cash payments he used to pay credit car bills and other expenses, according to court papers. In 1997, he pleaded guilty and agreed to have no direct contact with any foreign government or through another party. His youngest son Nathaniel was 12 at the time.

Authorities say that agreement was broken when around June 2006 Nicholson’s son Nathaniel J. Nicholson began communicating with the Russian Federation on behalf of his father.

Over time, Nathaniel visited his father on numerous occasions at the federal prison in Sheridan, Or., to get information to pass on to the Russians. Authorities alleged that Nathaniel met with representatives of the Russian Federation in San Francisco, Mexico City, Lima, Peru and Cyprus and passed on information and collected money for Nicholson’s past espionage activities.

Nicholson told Nathaniel to disperse the money to family members, which he did, authorities alleged.

Authorities alleged that Nicholson taught his son Nathaniel how to communicate with the Russians in code via email and how to avoid detection by law enforcement.

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