Spy Conrad sentenced to life in prison
Stars and Stripes June 7, 1990
KOBLENZ, West Germany — Retired U.S. Army sergeant Clyde Lee Conrad was convicted of high treason Wednesday and sentenced to life in prison.
In announcing the verdict, Judge Ferdinand Schuth said Conrad was guilty of particularly deadly acts of treason that could have led to the destruction of West Germany and the NATO forces. He also fined Conrad 2 million marks, or about $1.2 million, and ordered that a long list of property items, including computers and cameras, be seized to help pay court costs.
"Conrad's high treason could have prompted a war," Schuth said. "He had turned over the defense plans of the West. Knowing the defense plans of the NATO forces, the Eastern bloc could have been tempted to attack."
Schuth called Conrad the worst traitor since the end of World War II.
Conrad had looked pensive up to the time of the sentencing, but as it was announced he exchanged smiles with his attorney, Klaus Hummerich.
The 43-year-old American was arrested in August 1988 and accused of playing a leading role in a spy ring selling Army and NATO defense secrets to the Soviet bloc. He had been in investigative custody since then and throughout the trial, which began Jan. 17.
A sergeant first class at the time of his retirement in 1985, Conrad was last assigned to the 8th Inf Div in Bad Kreuznach, where he was in charge of a vault loaded with classified documents, including all the secret plans of the division. After his retirement, he lived nearby with his German wife and son.
In explaining the severity of the court's decision, Schuth said the treason was made even more serious by the fact that he was in charge of the safety of the documents that he sold and that a horrible loss of lives could have resulted. Compounding the treason was Conrad's attempt to sell information about his Hungarian connections to the United States — the country he was betraying, the chief judge of the panel said.
"Reports from witnesses have shown that this man was willing to kill and torture for money. In the 13 years he practiced his spying, the court estimates that he made at least 2 million marks," Schuth said.
"When he was first approached in 1975 and asked to spy by his boss of the time, Zoltan Szabo, then a U.S. Army sergeant first class, Conrad didn't hesitate. By 1978, court records show that he already had a safety deposit box in Switzerland filled with gold.
"His superiors believed him to be totally trustworthy," Schuth said. "They relied on his expertise. All the time, he was living a double life. He was turning over all of the classified U.S. and NATO documents — everything."
Conrad was lauded by the Hungarians as the best agent of the Cold War, the judge said.
It was through Szabo (who later was convicted), a naturalized American citizen, that Conrad made contacts in Sweden with Hungarian-born brothers Sandor and lmre Keresik. With their help, Conrad set up a courier system delivering US. Army top secret and cosmic top secret material to the communist governments of Hungary and Czechoslovakia between 1975 and 1986.