A power grid company employee who told “60 Minutes” in a story that aired Sunday he is a former KGB spy poses “no national security threat,” according to a statement from the FBI.
Jack Barsky told the CBS news program that long before he worked in the Capital Region he served as a spy for the Soviet intelligence agency. He previously lived in the New York City area and in eastern Pennsylvania.
Barsky told the program he passed along computer code and other information to the Soviets until 1988, when he essentially faked his death to the Soviets and stayed in America.
60 Minutes: The Spy Among Us
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The program interviewed a former FBI agent about how Barsky was later discovered in Pennsylvania, turned over the information he had, wasn’t charged and was allowed to go on with his life.
He arrived in the Capital Region in recent years and took a job as director of software development at New York Independent System Operator, a nonprofit agency based in Rensselaer that manages the load placed on National Grid and other utilities in the state.
He is currently on administrative leave from that post, company spokesman David Flanagan said.
Flanagan said in a statement that the FBI “generally informs a company such as the NYISO of any potential security threat of which it is aware.
“We have a long standing and productive relationship with the FBI and at no time did the FBI indicate that this employee posed a threat.”
The FBI, in its own statement issued in response to the “60 Minutes” piece, said “the FBI was aware of this information and has determined that there was no national security threat.”
Flanagan said that “out of an abundance of caution,” they have reviewed physical and computer records and found no threats or indication of improper behavior.
“The employee did not have direct access to grid operations or energy market systems that would enable manipulation of software,” Flanagan’s statement said. “Further, the individual did not have physical access to our control rooms.”
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, issued a statement Tuesday saying he heard of the report prior to its airing and responded by meeting with representatives of both the FBI and NYISO.
“I appreciate their vigilance in this matter,” Gibson’s statement reads, “and I will continue to make myself available to support their efforts to keep us safe.”
In the “60 Minutes” report, Barsky told reporter Steve Kroft about his origins in East Germany. He arrived in New York City in 1978. His initial mission, to get close to a Carter administration official, failed. He eventually learned computing and proved useful in passing computer codes to the Soviets until 1988.
They summoned him back then, but he was too devoted to his American family. He wrote them a cover story and was essentially declared dead. He went on living as an American in Pennsylvania.
A defector led to his discovery in the mid-90s. He was visited by the FBI after an elaborate surveillance operation. He told them what he knew and was allowed to remain free.
He later remarried and moved to upstate New York, the program said. He became a U.S. citizen last year.
Asked by Kroft why he was telling his story, Barsky said, “I want to meet my maker clean. I need to get clean with the past. I need to digest this fully.”
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