Groat would seem an excellent candidate for the job of stealing codes. Six-foot-three, handsome and articulate, he is a former Green Beret trained in scuba diving, underwater explosives, parachuting, survival and evasion; he knows how to build homemade pistols, shotguns, silencers, booby traps and bombs. He also speaks Mandarin Chinese. He says he relished his work at the Shop—both for the opportunity to serve his country and for the adrenaline rush that came with the risks.
He grew up in Scotia, New York, near Albany. He joined the Army in 1967, before marrying his high-school sweetheart, and served as a captain in the Special Forces. He left after four years and worked in a series of law-enforcement jobs. As a police officer in Glenville, New York, Groat displayed a streak of unyielding resolve: He ticketed fire engines when he believed they were breaking the law. “The trucks would run with lights flashing even when they were not responding to a fire. They were checking the hydrants,” he says. “I warned them, ‘Do it again and I’ll ticket you.’ They did and I did.” After he ticketed the fire chief, Groat was fired. He sued and won his job back—and then, having made his point, quit to become a deputy U.S. marshal in Phoenix.

The CIA Burglar Who Went Rogue