Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of an occasional series of feature stories exploring some of the most important insider threat cases in U.S. national security history.
Ramon Garcia was born in Chicago on April 18, 1944. He was a quiet young man, introverted and an intellectual of sorts. As an undergraduate at Knox College, he studied chemistry and Russian. Then he went on to study dentistry at Northwestern. By 1971, he had completed the requirements for a Master’s degree in Accounting and Management Information Systems. Two years later, he earned his certification as a public accountant.
But a year employed as a junior accountant at a public firm in Chicago had its downside. For one thing, it was boring work – even if pushing paper and crunching numbers behind a desk suited one’s quirky and reclusive personality. So in 1972, Ramon decided to make a change. He joined the Chicago Police Department and became an investigator in the Financial Section of the Inspection Services Department. It wasn’t the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) unit, but it was better than being a run-of-the-mill downtown accountant.
After four years with the Chicago PD, Ramon once again got the itch to reach for the next level. On January 12, 1976, he entered duty as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, holding a Top Secret security clearance. After his initial training, Ramon was detailed to the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office, where his accounting and information systems background led him to the White Collar Crime Squad. The future was looking bright for the young Ramon. The FBI had seized upon his unique educational background and was making good use of it. Ramon was doing the type of work he was cut out for, even if he wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with or the most talkative guy in the office. There seemed to be no limit to how far a smart guy like Ramon could go in the bureau.
By the summer of 1979, Ramon had been detailed to the New York City Field Office. He initially worked in accounting – his area of expertise – but by the following March he began working on intelligence matters. Because of his experience with computers, Ramon’s first official assignment was to help establish the N.Y. Field Office’s automated counterintelligence database. The new database represented a sea-change for the FBI. It was new technology, and was having a profound impact on the way counterintelligence investigations were managed. Its contents, which included biographical data on hundreds of foreign diplomats and intelligence agents living and working in the United States, were classified Secret. Ramon’s work on the database was generally considered a success.
The early 1980s brought a new round of changes for Ramon. He was now working at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. For a brief time he worked intelligence matters as a Supervisory Special Agent, but soon returned to budgeting work, managing the FBI’s piece of the National Foreign Intelligence Program. Once again, Ramon found himself preparing budget justifications. Only this time his work was being read and acted upon by the Congress of the United States.
Despite the mundane nature of his work at headquarters, Ramon’s budgeting responsibilities gave him access to the entire gamut of data pertaining to FBI intelligence and counterintelligence operations. This would come in handy in 1985, after Ramon had been transferred to the Soviet Analytical Unit, the mission of which was to provide senior policy makers and other analysts throughout the intelligence community with analysis of Soviet intelligence operations inside the United States.
Ramon’s career was back on track. His number-crunching days had once again given way to real FBI work involving access to Sensitive Compartment Information (SCI) – among the most highly classified programs in the U.S. intelligence community. Before being granted access, however, Ramon was forced to undergo SCI indoctrination training and sign a special access agreement. The agreement Ramon signed read in part:
…I have been advised that direct or indirect unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of the designated Sensitive Compartmented Information by me could cause irreparable injury to the United States and be used to advantage by a foreign nation…
…I have been advised that any unauthorized disclosure of the designated Sensitive Compartmented Information by me may be a substantial violation of this agreement, and may result in the termination of my employment.
At this time, Ramon also began serving as a member of the FBI’s Foreign Counterintelligence Technical Committee, which was the body responsible for coordinating and managing technical surveillance and eavesdropping operations against foreign intelligence agents operating in the U.S. Everything Ramon touched turned to gold. His career was moving forward and appeared to be on a rapid upward progression. Ramon was not only living the American dream, he was among the brave few whose job it was to protect and defend it. And for a talented FBI agent looking for action there was no better place than the New York Field Office. And Ramon was heading back.