Thursday 30 November 2006

Rome-Tel Aviv-Moscow-London Connection to Litvinenko's Murder

by Trowbridge H. Ford

During March 1992, Vasili Mitrokhin, who had spent his last 12 years in the KGB copying its First Chief (Foreign Intelligence) Directorate's files for his own private use while transferring them from the Lubyanka to its new headquarters at Yasenevo, finally made his move with them after eight anxious years of retirement - taking a sample of his cache to the capital of a newly-freed Baltic state in the hope of persuading the British Secret Intelligence Service aka MI6 not only to take the whole lot but also his whole family too. After three more trips to the Baltic capital with much more evidence of what he had to offer the British, he and his family, along with the rest of his archive, made their way safely to the West on November 7th, apparently a most fitting conclusion to the 75th anniversary of the ill-fated Bolshevik Revolution.

For the next three years, MI6 went carefully through the material Mitrokhin provided, the FCD
documents and the notes he had made about various reports and incidents - what resulted in the intelligence services around the globe being informed of what betrayals and espionage their subjects had apparently been guilty of, ones which considerably exaggerated its scope, and added little to what researchers already knew. And once the process was completed in late 1995, Mitrokhin was freed to use the material as he saw fit - what resulted in the publication in 1999 of Christopher Andrew's The Sword and The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. During the process, there were increasing reports in Washington and
European capitals about alleged spies within their regimes and among their populations, thanks to the information, it seemed, that Mitrokhin had supplied.

Andrew concluded his introduction to the book by claiming that Mitrokhin's Archive had made possible disclosures about KGB activity which went far beyond what any of its former masters "...could have envisaged." (p. 22) Of course, this was an obvious bit of exaggeration as no agency, especially a secret one, can hope to keep all its records. Particularly stupid missions and ones leading to disastrous consequences are unlikely to leave any paper trail in the files of any intelligence service. And the process that Mitrokhin went through to get his archive out of Russia hardly could have escaped the notice of the KGB's successor, the SVR (the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service).

It was apparently quite happy to see the archive go since it could help defuse much lingering
bitterness over the now ended Cold War - especially revelations from the losers about operations in which the victors were badly battered, like during Washington's efforts to get rid of Castro one way or another. It is at moments like this when Andrew's hand is most evident, explaining away some blunder - say how the Soviets learned the need and way of making an atomic bomb from America - without even a mention of Mitrokhin. Most important, intelligence reports are hardly definitive ones about who really did what and to whom for whatever reason; they just raise all kinds of questions regarding such matters.

Still, there is a gaping hole in the material that Andrew provided - the role of the KGB in Italy since WWI, the country in Western Europe with the strongest communist movement. What the Soviets did in the country was generally seen as just a supplement to what they were doing in France, and little more than only 10 most uninformative pages out of a book of 565 pages were included. While the codenames of many alleged agents - DARIO, DEMID, UCHITEL ("Teacher"), QUESTOR, NEMETS, ORLANDO, and several others - were revealed, there were no actual names of real people. Moreover, the names of Italy's leading intelligence agencies penetrated by the above - the Servizio Informazioni Generali e Sicurregga (SISDE), Servizio perle Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militaire (SISMI), and the Secondo Reparto (SIOS) - are not even to be found in the list of abbreviations and acronyms used in the volume (pp. xi-xiv), unlike any other country, much less in the book's substance.

All that Andrew wrote about these Soviet agents in Italy is censored beyond belief. DARIO, a reporter who worked for Moscow for 40 years, was discovered and imprisioned by the Mussolini regime in 1942. (p. 277) After the war, DARIO and his wife, still unidentified by name resumed spying for Moscow until they retired, started receiving their pensions, and were awarded the Order of the Red Star in March 1975. (p. 476) We learn even less about three other Italian journalists, FRANK, PODVIZHNY and STAZHER, though they were receiving the highest monthly salaries from the Center in Moscow. "The other three agents paid 240 roubles a month by the Rome residency," Andrew added, "were DARIO, the veteran agent-recruiter in the Foreign Ministry; NEMETS ("German"), a well-known left-wing politician; and ORLANDO, who cannot be clearly identified from Mitrokhin's notes."(p. 481) And so it goes with many lesser-paid agents.

The reason for this lack of disclosure is partially explained in the book's Forward: "For legal reasons, some of the Soviet agents identified in the KGB files can be referred to in this book only by their codenames. In a limited number of cases, chiefly because of the risk of prejudicing a possible prosecution, no reference can be made to them at all. These omissions do not, so far as I am aware, significantly alter the main conclusions of any chapter." (p. xvii)

Then there is a lack of any disclosure of KGB activity which cast a bad light on what Western services, especially Italian ones, were doing. About Pope John Paul's assassination on May 13, 1981, Andrew could only write this: "On the first anniversary of the assassination attempt, he made a pilgrimage to Fatima to place Agca's bullet on her altar. If the Pope had died, the KGB would doubtless have been overjoyed, But there is no evidence in any of the files examined by Mitrokhin that it was involved in the attempt on his life." (p. 522)

This conclusion is, however, brought into question when the reader sees the note upon which it is based where Oleg Gordievsky, the more famous defector, declared that half the fellow agents he talked to suspected that Department 8 of Directorate S, the one responsible for assassinations, had been involved. (no. 25, p. 664)

And this lack of candor about the Pope's activities, and how the KGB dealt with them occurred when Andrew discussed the actions of the Papacy under his leadership as if it were actually located in Poland rather than the Vatican. The reader is told in chapters about the Polish Pope and the rise of Solidarity, and the Polish crisis and the crumbling of the Soviet bloc as if Karol Wojtyla were still operating out of Kraków rather than Rome where the KGB had all kinds of sources about his ideas and aims. The whole process culminated in June 1983 when John Paul II finally came to Poland for a 10-day visit, at the end of which he even met the leader of the underground movement, Lech Walesa.

The same lack of candor occurred when Andrew discussed the kidnapping and murder of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in central Rome on March 16, 1978. As far as the Cambridge historian was concerned, it only involved Soviet and Italian Communist Party (PCI) anxiety over the Red Brigades who had kidnapped him receiving assistance from the Czech Securtiy and Intelligence Service (StB). Soviet Ambassador Nikita Rhyzov is reported as saying that the Czechs had only received a "pennyworth of benefit (from the Red Brigades), but did a hundred times more damage," (Quoted from p. 299.) though Andrew didn't explain what it was.

All this avoidance of serious analysis of KGB activites in Italy seems to center around the identity and actions of UCHITEL ("Teacher"), who, it seems, is Romano Prodi, the one-time professor at the University of Bologna, and now The Union coalition's Prime Minister of Italy. About him, Andrew wrote:

"Probably the most important Line X agent at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s was UCHITEL ("Teacher"), who taught at a major university and was controlled by Kuznetsov. Using his wide range of academic and business contacts, UCHITEL provided S&T from a toal of eight major companies and research institutes in Italy, West Germany, France, and Belgium, and carried out other KGB asignments in the USA and FRG. UCHITEL'S most valuable intelligence seems to have concerned military aircraft, helicopters, aero-engine construction and airborne guidance systems. Among the intelligence he supplied was information on NATO's newest combat military aircraft, the Tornado, jointly developed by Britain, the FRG and Italy." (p. 480)

UCHITEL's intelligence was so important that his handler, Anatoli Kuznetsov, prevailed successfully upon the Soviet Foreign Ministry, over the protests of Ambassador Rhyzov, to establish a consulate in Milan just to handle his take more easily - what might well indicate that Prodi was also the Foreign Ministry's agent too, NEMETS (("German"), the well-known left-wing politician, though Rhyzov could have just been concerned about unduly risking such a treasure-trove of information. When Kuznetsov was expeled from Italy for spying in August 1981, the Center in Moscow panicked for fear that UCHITEL'S whole network had been blown because of Kuznetsov's comings-and-goings. But it turned out that Vladimir Vetrov (codenamed FAREWELL), a most disgruntled agent in Directorate T in Moscow, had provided thousands of S&T documents to the French Security Service (DST), obliging President Francois Mitterrand to expel 47 Soviet intelligence officers in France, and the Italians to go along with Kuznetsov's expulsion.

While Prodi's spying, it seems, was most important in Soviet efforts to keep up with the West's technological advances, he is best known for feedback from Moscow which helped reduce suspicions that the Soviets were involved in the Moro assassination, and the attempt on Pope John Paul II's life. While Minster of Industry in Guilio Andreotti's government, Prodi came very close to preventing Moro's murder. On April 2, 1978, he claimed that the Christian Democrat was being held by the Red Brigades at Gradoli, thanks to information provided apparently at a séance with his deceased party predecessors during which a oaija board was used. Actually, it must have come from the extra-parliamentary left, probably the Soviets, who certainly did not want him murdered. Unfortunately, the police thought that Prodi was referring to the Rome suburb by that name rather than the Rome headquarters of the Red Brigrades, Gradoli 96.

And Prodi helped defuse the political crisis after Mehmet Ali Agca shot the Pope on May 13,1981 - what Alexander de Marenches, Director General of France's Service de Documentation Exterieure et de Contre-Espionage (SDECE) had let run because of all the S&T spying that the Soviets had been carrying on, thanks particularly to UCHITEL's efforts, until his arch-domestic enemy, DST, had closed down the process. A month before the shooting, the extreme anti-communist spook predicted that there was an Eastern Bloc plot afoot to kill the Pope, and six days after it almost succeeded, the SISMI provided a document, claiming that a Soviet official had announced to a meeting of the Warsaw Pact that Agca had been trained by Moscow to do the job - what turned out to be a crude forgery. Robert Gates, the White House's choice to replace the totally discredited Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, was still maintaining the claim during his Senate confirmation hearings to be the DCI for the first Bush administration despite the findings by the Agency's own analysts.

Actually, the shooting appeared to be just what a group of neo-fascist Turks, the Gray Wolves, had put together, and only after Agca had been in prison for a year, and coached by SISMI agents to confess more that he said that three Bulgarian agents, headed by Colonel Sergei Antonov, had induced him to do it in Antonov's apartment, though Agca could not describe it properly. Apparently, Agca was talking about another apartment in the building where dissident Roman Catholics - agents who had helped get rid of the new Pope's predecessor, radical reformer John Paul I - had helped persuade him to do so. In sum, Agca's alleged Bulgarian Connection was disinformation concocted by various neofascists, like CIA's Paul Henze - author of The Plot to Kill the Pope - to cover up what they were most responsible for in the hope information would ultimately surface which would change their apparent lies into the truth.

While they were left waiting, Prodi was steadily burning his bridges with his communist past, and spying for the Soviets. In 1982, thanks, in part, to his efforts to limit the fallout from the Pope's near murder, he was appointed chairman of the famous state-holding company, IRI, which Mussolini had started where he put his research about increasing competition and developing small and medium size businesses to work. And though he left it after the Cold War collapsed, he returned again to IRI's chairmanship in 1993. During his tenure there, he brooked no questioning of his apparent integrity in office by twice suing successfully reporters who charged him with conflict of interests in awarding a contract to his own economic research company, and for selling a loss-making food conglomerate, SME, to Unilever when he had been a consultant for the private conglomerate.

In fact, Prodi so improved his public image that he led the Olive Tree coalition to victory in the 1996 parliamentary elections, becoming the country's Prime Minister. He championed the growth and strengthening of the European Community until, it seems, the fallout from the Mitrokhin Archive began to threaten his political position, arranging then with Massimo D'Alema, head of coalition partner, the Democrats of the Left (formerly the PCI), his ouster by withdrawing his party's support, a never before used parliamentary maneuver. D'Alema might well have been NEMETS, the well-known left-wing political, and his wife Linda Giuva, a
computer and information systems specialist, the mysterious ORLANDO.

Of course, one would never know it by looking at what D'Alema did as Prime Minister. It was only because of his support of NATO's bombing campaign of Yugoslavia - what even Silvio Berlusconi and the right opposition opposed - that Clinton's effort was successful, as the military alliance could not have sustained it for more than a few days without Italy's ground support. As Bob Woodward has implied in State of Denial, mass suicide seemed likely in the White House if Italy had not made possible the 78-day bombing campaign required to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milsoevic to cave in. (p. 61) By doing so, Italy gained new-found respect among the Israelis since it finally got a European country involved in stemming the threat of international terrorism.

When the D'Alema government fell, and Berlusconi took over, Prodi became President of the European Commission during which the Community expanded further, and adopted the euro. Behind the scenes, though, Prodi threw his weight behind America's program of extradordinary renditions of suspected terrorists. In Sweden, he even got Foreign Minister Anna Lindh to go along with the kidnapping of two suspected terrorists in December 2001, Stockholm's security officials merely looking on while CIA agents stripped them of their clothes, bundled them onto their plane at Bromma's airport, and took off for parts unknown. Then there was the famous kidnapping of Hussan Mustafa Osama Nasr aka Abu Omar which I have written about earlier on this site - what was carried on with Prodi's approval, and behind the back, it seems, of Berlusconi's government with SISMI help.

Then one can only wonder what high approval went for the SISMI's Colonel Antonio Nucera
forging documents for "cut out" Rocco Martino, claiming that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake from Niger in order to restart his nuclear program, and then its head, Niccolo Pollari, taking them directly to Vice President Dick Cheney, avoiding the customary link, the CIA, in the process. It was thanks to these false documents apparently that President Bush included those famous 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address which took the Coalition to preventive war against Iraq - "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." (Quoted from p. 218.)

SISMI, to cover its tracks, as best it could, placed La Republica reporters Giuseppe D'Avanzo and Carlo Bonini under surveillance for breaking the story that Saddam's pursuit of Niger yellowcake was based its forgeries. Then a judicial investigation discovered that SISMI had been carrying on a vast surveillance program, and had allegedly been trying to discredit Prodi - what seems to have just been cover for what they both were doing. To limit any possible fallout for the military intelligence agency after the Milan kidnapping surfaced, Pio Pompa, Pollari's aide, forced Libero to print a stroy that Prodi, as EC President, had authorized the now vast CIA rendition program of suspected terrorists.

In this context, what the SIS made available of the Mitrokhin Archive to Italian intelligence services was the last thing they wanted to see, and they made short work of it - neither
exposing nor identifying anyone as Soviet spies, especially Prodi and D'Alema. And when the Senate committee, under the leadership of Paolo Guzzanti, got its chance, the group found nothing really important, thanks to the investigations by Mario Scaramella, a professor at the University of Naples, and a likely SISMI agent.

In a report, entitled "Parliamentary Commission Destroys Soviets Information Intended to Defame the CIA," issued March 28, 2006, the Guzzanti Commission declared that it had
discovered "...the deep manipulation of the 'Mitrokhin File'." These turned out to be that there was a Bulgarian Connection to the Pope's assassination since a photograph showed Sergei
Antonov apparently standing next to Agca in St. Peter's Square when John Paul II was assassinated, and that Moro's kidnapping was, it seems, a left-wing diversion so it could steal NATO's counter invasion plans for Northern Italy from the Ministry of Defense in case of a Soviet invasion.'

Six days later, MEP Gerard Batten, head of the British Independent Party, dropped the verbal equivalent of a polonium bomb in Brussels by declaring that the Italian Prime Minister was the Soviets' leading agent there, and calling for a parliamentary inquiry into his activites. Citing Litvinenko's story (but wihout naming him) about what the former deputy head of the Federal Security Branch General Anatoly Trofimov had told him when the former KGB Lt. Col. finally planned to flee Russia - "Don't go to Italy, there are many KGB agents among the politicians: Prodi is our man there." - Battan raised all the questions that the Italians, Israelis, Russian and Britons were most eager to forget, much less answer, especially since Trofimov and his wife had been brutally gunned down in 2005, and later the same day, the BBC reported that Litvinenko, "another high-level source, a former KGB operative in London, has confirmed the story."

Three week later, Battan increased the pressure not only for a parliamentary investigation of Prodi's activities but also Litvinenko's assassination by declaring: "Former senior members of the KGB are willing to testify in such an investigation, under the right conditions." (Quoted from Ludwig De Braeckeleer, "Was Romano Prodi the Top KGB Man in Italy?," Ohmy News, November 23, 2006.) Battan added that Litvinenko had passed the information along to Scaramella, consultant for the Guzzatti Commission, in Febraury, showing that the Bulgarians and Soviets were behind the assassination of John Paul II.

Litvinenko's claims could not have been more reckless - embroidering Prodi's spying for the Soviets for the benefit of neo-fascists, and telling it to a source who could broadcast it to the world without reservation or amendment. While no reliable newspaper would have published his claims, even if completely true, a European parliamentarian could broadcast it without fear of any censorship under the protection of sovereign immunity. Batten, in doing so, put all the onus for it on Litvinenko. The only wa it could possibly be undo was to silence him while demonstrating to those similarly inclined and informed what would happen to them if they did.

To get Litvnenko's claims back on a less-threatening level, threats on Anna Politkovskaya, who was investigating Moscow's conduct in Chechnya - what Litvinenko had written about in Blowing up Russian: Terror from Within shorty after his arrival in Britain - soon resumed. Once everyone was alerted to them, she was murdered in Moscow by a single masked gunman. Then Paola Guzzanti was claiming that the SVR had assassinated her too, like Trofimov - thanks apparently to information that Scaramella had picked up during his regular visits to his FSB
successor. Just before the assassination, Litvinenko travelled to Israel to meet Boris Berezovsky's former deputy, Leonid Nevzlin, at Yukos who was residing there, and was told how President Putin was allegedly dealing with his enemy oligarchs in the oil business:

"Several figures linked with Yukos are reported to have disappeared or died in mysterious circumstances while its head, Mikhail Khodorkosky, and others have been jailed." (Quoted from Daniel McGrory and Tony Halpin, "More people tasked for poisoning after spy dies," TIMESONLINE, November 27, 2006.)

Then Scaramella scheduled a most secret meeting with Litvinenko on November lst where he would reveal the SVR's latest actions against Putin's enemies, and what he should be most
tight-lipped about for, it seems, security reasons. Before meeting Scarmella, Litvinenko had tea at the Millennium Hotel with former fellow employee of Berezovsky's at his Russian TV station, Andrei Lugovoy. And after the meeting with a most nervous Scaramella, he dropped by Berezovsky's headquarters and a few other places before heading home, leaving apparently a trail of radioactive polonium-210 along the way.

Whoever of these persons poisoned him - and Lugovoy seems the most likely - the others saw the doomed man in succession to help provide themselves with alibis for his assassination. This would explain Scaramella's discomfort during the meeting at the Japanese Sushi Bar - his not even being hungry for anything while Litvinenko proceeded to eat away in front of him.

The whole operation was a classic example of using disinformation to lure your prey into position to poison himself to death, and a way which would not be lost on anyone else inclined to talk out of turn, especially at any EC investigation Gerard Batten might arrange.