Clyde Lee Conrad

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Clyde Lee Conrad in 1965

Clyde Lee Conrad (1948 – January 8, 1998) was a U.S. Army non-commissioned officer who, from 1974 until his arrest on August 23, 1988, sold top secret classified information to the People's Republic of Hungary, including top secret NATO war plans. He was convicted of espionage and high treason in a German court in 1990, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.


According to court records, Conrad was introduced to the Hungarian secret service in 1975 by his supervisor in the 8th Infantry Division, former U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Zoltan Szabo. Szabo, who was convicted of espionage in Austria in 1989, received a 10-month suspended sentence. He assisted in the investigation by identifying some of the documents Conrad sold to the Hungarians. Among the documents sold by Conrad were the wartime general defense plans (GDP) of many units. These contained the precise description of where every unit was to go in case of war, and how they would defend. Conrad was originally recruited by Zoltan Szabo, a Hungarian émigré who served in the U.S. Army as both an NCO, and later as an officer. Szabo was also a colonel in the Hungarian Military Intelligence Service. Szabo recruited Conrad shortly before retiring from the U.S. military.

It is still unknown today how many people participated in the Szabo-Conrad spy ring, but it is known that their espionage activities lasted for several decades. Four others were later convicted on espionage charges in Florida for involvement with Conrad’s spy ring: Roderick James Ramsay, sentenced in August 1992 to 36 years in prison; Jeffrey Rondeau and Jeffrey Gregory, sentenced in June 1994 to 18 years each; and Kelly Therese Warren, sentenced on February 12, 1999 to 25 years in prison. Conrad's method of recruitment was usually attempts to appeal to enlisted Army personnel, promising them large amounts of money for supplying him with intelligence reports. Ramsay alleged to the FBI that Conrad had recruited dozens of others, including at least one member of the Army's counter-espionage branch, and at least one officer who later became a general.

Conrad was arrested in 1988 by Federal Republic of Germany authorities and tried for espionage on behalf of the Hungarian and Czechoslovak intelligence services. Conrad was convicted by the Koblenz State Appellate Court on June 6, 1990 of masterminding an espionage ring that sold highly sensitive information, and was sentenced to life in prison. German prosecutors said that the documents Conrad leaked, dealing with troop movements, NATO strategy, and nuclear weapons sites, eventually made their way to the Soviet KGB. Chief Judge Ferdinand Schuth, who presided over the case against Conrad, concluded in the verdict that because of Conrad's treason:

If war had broken out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the West would have faced certain defeat. NATO would have quickly been forced to choose between capitulation or the use of nuclear weapons on German territory. Conrad's treason had doomed the Federal Republic to become a nuclear battlefield.

Conrad died of a heart attack, 50 years old, in Diez prison on January 8, 1998.

Of all Americans convicted of espionage, Conrad is one of only five spies to have been considered to have made "big money" ($1 million or more for spying). Aldrich Ames, Larry Wu-Tai Chin, Robert Hanssen, and John Walker are the other four.

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