East German Stasi spies questioned for evidence on Lockerbie bombing

Lockerbie air disasterFive former officers of East Germany’s State Security Service, known commonly as the Stasi, have been questioned in Berlin over the Lockerbie air disaster at the request of British prosecutors. A total of 270 people died on December 21, 1988, when Pan Am flight 103, flying from Frankfurt to Detroit, exploded in mid-air over the Scottish village of Lockerbie. In 2001, a British court sitting in the Netherlands ruled that the bombing was carried out by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, former head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines. Al-Megrahi was also believed to have been an officer of Intelligence of the Jamahiriya —Libya’s main intelligence service. He claimed he was innocent of the crime until his death in 2012 from cancer.

But Scotland’s independent public prosecution agency, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, has always claimed that several other Libyan intelligence operatives helped Megrahi bring down Pan Am flight 103. Last December, the Crown Office said that it was continuing to pursue a criminal inquiry into several individuals —other than Megrahi— who were “involved in the conspiracy” to bomb Pan Am flight 103. As part of the inquiry, Crown Office prosecutors have interviewed potential suspects and witnesses, including Abdullah Senussi, former head of Libyan intelligence.

On Thursday, the German news agency DPA said that five former officers of the East German Stasi —all of them in their 70s and 80s— had been interviewed in connection to the Lockerbie bombing. The news agency said that the interviews had been conducted by German intelligence officers at the request of Crown Office prosecutors in Britain. Later on Thursday, the Berlin office of the German state prosecutor confirmed that the unnamed five individuals had been interviewed “as witnesses, not as suspects” throughout the past nine months. It gave no further information, saying that “it would be inappropriate to comment on a developing criminal investigation”.

All five former Stasi officers are believed to have provided evidence at the trial in the Netherlands that resulted in Megrahi’s conviction. Among other things, they told the court that the Libyans had contracted a Swiss businessman who manufactured the timer that detonated the Lockerbie bomb. Moreover, the 2014 documentary My Brother’s Bomber, directed by the American filmmaker Ken Dornstein, whose brother died in the Lockerbie bombing, claimed that the Stasi had closely monitored the activities of Libyan intelligence in West Germany in the years leading up to the downing of Pan Am flight 103. Some believe that the Stasi had evidence of a conspiracy by several Libyan intelligence officers to carry out the bombing.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 March 2019 | Permalink

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Industrial espionage damages a country’s long-term productivity, study finds

StasiState-sponsored industrial espionage aimed at stealing foreign technical secrets may boost a country’s technological sector in the short run, but ultimately stifles it, according to the first study on the subject. The study is based on over 150,000 declassified documents belonging to the East German Ministry for State Security, known as Stasi. The now-defunct intelligence agency of communist-era East Germany was known for its extensive networks of informants, which focused intensely on acquiring technical secrets from abroad.

The history of industrial and economic espionage by governments is indeed extensive. It includes lucrative efforts by the United States to steal industrial production methods from Europe in the 19th century, and successful attempts by the Soviet Union to steal atomic technology from the American-led Manhattan Project in the 1940s. But there have been no systematic attempts to evaluate the effect of state-sponsored industrial espionage on the entire economy of the sponsoring nation –until now.

This new study –the first of its kind– was carried out by two economists, Erik Meyersson, from the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, and the Spain-based Albrecht Glitz of Pompeu Fabra Univeristy in Barcelona. The two researchers describe their preliminary findings in a working paper entitled: “Industrial Espionage and Productivity”, published by the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn, Germany. Its findings are based on an analysis of nearly 152,000 declassified industrial-espionage-related communiqués sent by Stasi spies to their handlers between 1970 and 1988. The communiqués were examined with reference to their date of authorship and the content-descriptive keywords appended to them by the Stasi.

The report concludes that stealing industrial secrets can boost a nation’s economic activity in the short run. However, in the long run, a nation’s strategic focus on industrial espionage tends to impede homegrown research and development, and ultimately stifles technological productivity on a national scale. This is because “easy access to secrets” from abroad tends to “discourage both state and private investment in research and development”, according to Meyersson and Glitz. That is precisely what happened to East Germany, argues the report. The country’s total factor productivity (TFF –the growth of its output measured in relation to the growth in inputs of labor and capital) rose significantly as a result of its industrial espionage.That was especially noticeable in the digital electronics sector, where the output gap between East and West Germany was narrowed by a fourth. However, that trend was temporary, and East Germany was never able to develop an organic digital-electronics industry. Industrial espionage is like “research and development on cocaine”, professor Meyersson told Science, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Maybe you can have a little bit of fun with it, but it’s not good for you in the long run”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 August 2017 | Permalink

Werner Stiller, one of the Cold War’s most notable defectors, dies

Werner StillerWerner Stiller, also known as Klaus-Peter Fischer, whose spectacular defection to the West in 1979 inflicted one of the Cold War’s most serious blows to the intelligence agency of East Germany, has died in Hungary. Stiller, 69, is believed to have died on December 20 of last year, but his death was not reported in the German media until last week. Born in 1947 in the German Democratic Republic, Stiller excelled in the sciences from an early age and eventually studied physics at the University of Leipzig, which was known at the time as Karl Marx Universitat. Shortly after graduating, he joined the GDR’s Ministry of State Security, commonly known as the Stasi. Within a few years, he was working as a case officer for the Main Directorate for Reconnaissance, the Stasi’s foreign intelligence division, where he was in charge of scientific espionage in the West. By the late 1970s, Stiller was handling nearly 30 spies —most of them abroad— who were regularly providing him with intelligence relating to nuclear research, weapons technologies, and biomedical research.

However, the Stasi vehemently disapproved of Stiller’s promiscuous lifestyle —he was married five times in his life and was reputed to have had many more affairs— which was one of the reasons why he decided to seek a new life in the West. In January of 1979, with the help of a waitress he was having an affair with, Stiller defected to West Germany along with a packet of microfiche containing hundreds of classified Stasi documents. He later helped the waitress escape to the West with her young son and an estimated 20,000 more pages of classified documents. The West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) eventually shared the information from Stiller’s defection with the United States Central Intelligence Agency. It led to the dramatic arrests of 17 Stasi agents and officers in Europe and the US, while at least 15 others escaped arrest at the last minute, after being urgently recalled back to East Germany. The Stasi is believed to have recalled an additional 40 operatives from several Western countries as a precaution in response to Stiller’s defection. The information that Stiller gave to the BND also helped visually identify the longtime director of the Stasi’s Main Directorate for Reconnaissance, Markus Wolf. Previously, Western intelligence services had no photographs of Wolf, who was known as ‘the man without a face’, due to the many decades he spent as an undercover officer.

In 1981, Stiller moved to the US, where the CIA provided him with a new identity, using the fake name Klaus-Peter Fischer, a Hungarian émigré. He studied economics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, before working as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs in the US and eventually an exchange broker for Lehman Brothers in Germany. It is believed that the Stasi kept looking for Stiller until the dissolution of the GDR in 1990, with the intent of abducting him or killing him. In 1999, Stiller moved to Hungary, where he stayed until the end of his life. He is survived by a son and a daughter.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 April 2017 | Permalink

Extraordinary lecture by Soviet spy Kim Philby surfaces on videotape

Kim PhilbyA videotaped lecture by Kim Philby, one of the Cold War’s most recognizable espionage figures, has been unearthed in the archives of the Stasi, the Ministry of State Security of the former East Germany. During the one-hour lecture, filmed in 1981, Philby addresses a select audience of Stasi operations officers and offers them advice on espionage, drawn from his own career. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, Harold Adrian Russell Philby, known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until 1963, when he secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often seen as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War.

The videotaped lecture, which was never intended for public consumption, was found recently by the BBC in the archives of the BStU, the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records in Berlin, Germany. Excerpts can now be viewed publicly for the first time.

The recording begins with an introduction by Markus Wolf, one of the most high-profile intelligence operatives of the Cold War, who was head of East Germany’s Main Directorate for Reconnaissance, the foreign intelligence division of the Stasi. Then Philby takes the stand and for about 15 minutes recounts his recruitment by the Soviet NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. He tells his audience that the Soviets recruited him despite his extremely young age and joblessness, seeing him as “a long range project”. They did so, he says, because they knew he was part of “the ruling class of the British Empire” and was thus bound to end up in a position of power. His NKVD handler was clear as to his agent’s task, says Philby: his mission was to join the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. The young Philby then spent years trying to work his way into the intelligence agency, and did so successfully.

With extreme candidness, Philby proceeds to tell his East German audience about his mission, given to him by his NKVD handler in the late 1940s. It was to unseat Felix Cowgill, his boss in MI6’s Soviet counterespionage division, and take his place. He achieved that, he says, even though Cowgill was a man he “rather liked and admired. It was a very dirty story”, admits Philby, “but after all our work does imply getting dirty hands form time to time, but we do it for a cause that is not dirty in a way”.

Of particular interest to intelligence observers is Philby’s justification of his role in Operation VALUABLE/FIEND, in which the Central Intelligence Agency, in association with MI6 and other Western European intelligence agencies, secretly sent Western-trained Albanian agents into communist-controlled Albania. The agents were tasked with organizing an armed popular revolt against Albania’s communist rulers. But Philby, who had been given the job of overseeing the operation on behalf of MI6, betrayed the entire program to the Soviets, thus ensuring its complete failure. In his lecture, he justifies his betrayal by arguing that it helped prevent World War III. Had VALUABLE/FIEND succeeded, claims Philby, it would have been expanded to Bulgaria, at which point the USSR would have intervened, causing World War III.

Following the end of his prepared remarks, Philby takes a series of questions from his audience, including one about how he managed to “stay ideologically pure” while living in a capitalist society. In responding, the British defector praises his Soviet handler, who looked after his “political as well as physical health”, and advised his audience, which presumably included dozens of Stasi case officers, to do the same. A summary report of the recently unearthed videotape can be read on the BBC’s website, here. There is also an audio podcast on Philby’s lecture, which includes commentary from Professor Christopher Andrew, of Cambridge University, and Hayden B. Peake, most recently curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection.

Author: Ian Allen and Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 April 2016 | Permalink

Ex-Soviet spy living in America comes out 25 years after Cold War

Jack Barsky, real name Albrecht DittrichBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Eastern Bloc spy, who still lives in the United States after arriving there in 1978 on orders of the Soviet KGB, has spoken out for the first time. The spy assumed a forged American identity and remained operational for a decade before abandoning his post and quietly blending into American suburbia, toward the end of Cold War. He spoke last weekend to CBS’ flagship investigative program 60 Minutes. He told the program that he now lives in the US as Jack Barsky, an identity he assumed soon after arriving in New York with a forged Canadian passport.

But his real name is Albrecht Dittrich, and he was born in communist-era East Germany. He was a PhD student in chemistry when, in 1970, he was approached by the Stasi, the East German secret police, and asked whether he would consider training as an intelligence operative. He accepted and trained for three years under the supervision of the Soviet KGB. In 1973, he was taken to East Berlin and detailed to the KGB for training as an operations officer. He was later transferred to Moscow, where he underwent a full year of phonetics training and was taught to speak English with “no trace of a German accent”, he says.

Soon after arriving in the US, in 1978, he acquired a social security card using a birth certificate issued for Jack Philip Barsky, an American child who had died at the age of 10 in the Washington, DC, area. He told everyone that he was born in Orange, New Jersey. He eventually enrolled in a Manhattan college, where he studied computer systems. His first job out of college was as a computer programmer for Metropolitan Life Insurance, commonly known as MetLife. While there, he stole computer code for the KGB, including “a very prominent piece of industrial software still in use today”, which was “helpful to the Soviet Union”, he says. Barsky traveled back to East Germany often, using a series of false passports. During one of those visits, he married his longtime girlfriend and had a son with her. But he also married in the United States, and had two children with his wife, so as to better blend into American society. The two families knew nothing of each other’s existence.

Then, in 1988, the KGB informed Barsky that he was to return home immediately because of fears that the Federal Bureau of Investigation may be closing in on him. But the spy disobeyed orders; he decided to abandon his post and continue living in the US. He lived a comfortable life in rural Pennsylvania, until 1997, when the FBI began monitoring him. His name had been provided to the US government by Vasili Mitrokhin, a retired archivist for the KGB, who in 1992 defected to Britain, taking with him several suitcases of classified KGB material. The FBI purchased a house next to Barsky’s and eventually bugged his home. The former KGB spy was arrested in May 1997, but struck a deal with the FBI and was spared a jail sentence in return for sharing everything he knew about his training, mission and operations with the Bureau. Today he still lives in the US. He is divorced, but says his life is in America, not in Germany.

Interview with US airman who spied for East Germany

Jeff CarneyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former intelligence specialist in the United States Air Force, who became one of East Germany’s most lucrative spies in the West, has given a rare media interview. Jeff Carney was a linguist and intelligence specialist assigned to the US Electronic Security Command at Tempelhof Central Airport in West Berlin during the closing stages of the Cold War. In April of 1983, Carney, who was then aged just 19, walked across the dividing line between West and East Berlin and asked to speak to representatives of the East German government. He has since argued that his defection was prompted by his disagreement with the foreign policy of the administration of US President Ronald Reagan. But in an interview aired on Wednesday by the BBC, he claimed there was “nothing ideological about his decision to defect”, and that he, as a gay man, “felt unwanted” because of the US military’s stance on homosexuality. His plan, which he described in his interview as “an impulsive move” was to request to live in the German Democratic Republic. But instead of granting his wish, East German intelligence officials commanded him to return to his post at Tempelhof and become an agent-in-place. Carney claims that they threatened to reveal to his US Air Force superiors his attempt to defect if he refused to cooperate. The young airman returned to his base and began spying for East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (MfS), commonly known as Stasi. He was provided with a miniature camera, given the operational codename UWE, and was told supply his handler, codenamed RALPH, with classified documents, which he smuggled out of Tempelhof in his shoes and clothing. His West German tour came to an end in 1984, when he was transferred to the US state of Texas. While there, he continued to spy for the Stasi, traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Mexico City, Mexico, in order to meet with his East German handlers. However, in 1985, believing that his superiors in the Air Force were beginning to suspect him of espionage, he traveled to Mexico and walked in the East German embassy in Mexico City, demanding to be transferred to East Germany. The Stasi eventually smuggled him out of Mexico to Cuba, and from there to Czechoslovakia before resettling him to East Germany. Read more of this post

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Kalevi Sorsa

Kalevi Sorsa

►►Diplomat says Finland’s ex-prime minister was Stasi agent. Finnish former diplomat Alpo Rusi said last week that Kalevi Sorsa, Finland’s longest serving prime minister, who led the country in the 1970s and 1980s, is on a secret list of 18 high-profile Finns with links to the Stasi, East Germany’s Cold-War security service. West German intelligence handed the file to its Finnish counterpart in 1990, but the Finnish Supreme Court ruled last year that the list would not be made public.
►►Nazi criminal spied for West Germany. A wiretap operation conducted in the early 1960s by the CIA against the BND, West Germany’s foreign intelligence service, revealed that the BND employed a senior Nazi war criminal, Franz Rademacher, to spy for it in Syria, CIA records show.
►►US government aims to build ‘data eye in the sky’. Social scientists are trying to mine the vast resources of the Internet — Web searches and Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, the digital location trails generated by billions of cell phones to “predict the future”.