Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was KGB agent, researchers claim

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Two Israeli researchers claim that a document from the archives of the Cold-War-era KGB identifies the current president of the Palestine Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as a Soviet agent. The document was found in the United Kingdom, and was smuggled out of Russia by a former senior archivist of the Soviet KGB. Abbas is the leader of the largely secular Palestinian group Fatah, which controls the West Bank. Unlike Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by Israel and its allies, Fatah is seen by Tel Aviv as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. That is disputed by Hamas, a religiously inspired group, which controls the Gaza Strip and maintains a tense relationship with Fatah and Abbas himself.

The allegation about Abbas’ past emerged on Wednesday in the Israeli media, after two local academic researchers disclosed the contents of a KGB document discovered at Cambridge University’s Churchill Archives Centre in Britain. The researchers, Gideon Remez and Isabella Ginor, of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the document dates from 1983. It was found among thousands of similar documents that were secretly smuggled out of Russia in the early 1990s by British intelligence, following the defection of Vasili Mitrokhin, an archivist in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB during the Cold War. Some of the documents later formed the basis of a two-volume edition on the activities of Soviet intelligence, which was edited by Cambridge University Professor Christopher Andrew.

According to Remez and Ginor, the document identifies Mahmoud Abbas as a “KGB agent” based in Damascus, Syria, codenamed krotov, which in Russian means ‘mole’. Abbas was born in Palestine in 1935, but his family fled to Syria in 1948, following the establishment of the state of Israel and the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli war. The young Abbas grew up in Damascus, where he went to university and joined the local branch of the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, of which Fatah is a member. If true, the allegation that Abbas worked for the KGB will not come as a surprise to observers of Palestinian politics. For most of the Cold War, the PLO was known to be close to Moscow, while Abbas was intimately involved with the Palestinian-Soviet Friendship Association, a pro-Moscow group that was widely seen as an agent of communist influence in the Palestinian territories. But the document from the Mitrokhin archives may be the first concrete evidence that Abbas was handled by the KGB.

Palestinian officials quickly dismissed the document on Wednesday as a fabrication and a deliberate slander. Mohammed al-Madani, a member of the central committee of Fatah, and a close associate of Abbas, said the allegation was part of a “clear effort to damage [Abbas] by various actors, including the government of Israel”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 August 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.

Ex-KGB spy killed in London ‘warned Italy about Russian terror plot’

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A witness has told a British inquiry investigating the murder of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko that the former spy may have been killed because he warned Italian authorities about an impending Russian terror plot. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting former KGB/FSB colleague Andrey Lugovoy at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder.

Speaking in a London court on Monday, Italian newspaper editor and politician Paolo Guzzanti said he believed Litvinenko was murdered by the Kremlin because he was helping Italian authorities assess a series of Soviet and Russian intelligence operations in the country. Guzzanti was speaking as the former president of the so-called Mitrokhin Commission, a parliamentary board set up in 2002 to investigate past intelligence operations by the Soviet KGB in Italy. Most of the work of the Commission stemmed from the revelations in the Mitrokhin Archive, named after Vassili Mitrokhin, who for three decades was the archivist in the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. Mitrokhin defected to the Britain in 1992, taking with him a treasure trove of documents about Soviet intelligence activities that took place abroad during the Cold War.

Guzzanti told the inquiry that Litvinenko had cooperated with the Mitrokhin Committee and had even shared information with one of its consultants, Mario Scaramella, about ongoing attempts by the FSB to organize terrorist strikes in Italy. According to Guzzanti, Litvinenko informed Scaramella that Russian intelligence operatives were helping transport weapons from Ukraine to Italy in order to assassinate Guzzanti and thus sabotage the work of the Mitrokhin Committee. Based on Litvinenko’s information, Scaramella accused Alexander Talik, a Ukrainian former officer of the KGB who lived in Naples, Italy, of helping Russian intelligence operatives smuggle guns into the country. Talik and a number of his accomplices were promptly arrested by Italian authorities after they found several weapons and grenades in their possession. According to Guzzanti, Litvinenko’s role in stopping the alleged assassination attempt against him and other members of the Mitrokhin Committee was what led to the Kremlin’s decision to murder the former KGB spy.

At the end of Monday’s proceedings, the inquiry directors announced the would adjourn until the next provisional hearing, which has been scheduled for July 27.

News you may have missed #881 (Cold War history edition)

Vehicle tracking deviceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►McCarthy-era prisoner tries to overturn espionage conviction. In 1950, Miriam Moskowitz was secretary to Abraham Brothman, an American chemical engineer who was convicted for providing secret industrial information to communist spy Elizabeth Bentley. Moskowitz, who was having an affair with Brothman at the time of his arrest, was convicted of obstructing justice and served two years in prison. Now at age 98, she claims she has discovered evidence that key witness testimony about her role in Soviet espionage was falsified, and wants her conviction thrown out. In 2010, Moskowitz authored the book Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice, about her case.
►►Files show USSR spied on Czechoslovak communist leaders after 1968. The Soviet KGB spied aggressively on senior members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) for two decades following the Prague Spring of 1968, because it mistrusted them. The information on Soviet intelligence activities against the KSČ comes from files in to the so-called Mitrokhin Archive. Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR.
►►Canada’s spy agency reveals Cold War-era spying equipment. As part of its celebrations for its 30-year anniversary, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has released photographs of what it calls “tools of the trade” –gadgets designed to hide or transport secret communication, acquire surreptitious photographs, listen in on private conversations, etc., without detection. The gadgets include Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko‘s gun, a toy truck with a concealment compartment for hiding a microdot reader, a hollowed-out battery used to contain clandestine messages or microfilm, and many others.

Soviet documents ‘identify New Zealand diplomat as KGB spy’

Bill SutchBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A batch of documents from the so-called ‘Mitrokhin archive’, which were made public late last week, have reportedly identified a former New Zealand senior diplomat as a Soviet spy. William Ball Sutch was born in 1907 and received a PhD in economics from Columbia University in the United States in 1932. Shortly afterwards, he returned to his native New Zealand in the midst of the Great Depression. At around that time he traveled to the Soviet Union, but showed no outward interest in communism. He entered government service, working for several departments, including the Ministry of Supply and the Department of Industries and Commerce, where he rose to the post of secretary in 1958. Prior to that, he had represented Wellington at the United Nations headquarters in New York in the early 1950s. He retired in 1965 as head of New Zealand’s Department of Industries and Commerce, and died in 1975. A year before his death, however, Sutch was the main subject in the most sensational spy scandal in New Zealand during the Cold War. He was arrested in a counterintelligence operation in Wellington while secretly meeting Dimitri Razgovorov, an officer of the Soviet KGB. Sutch, who had been monitored by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) for quite some time prior to his arrest, was charged under the country’s Official Secrets Act. But eventually he was found not guilty after an eventful five-day trial, which took place amidst a media blitz in the Kiwi capital. Now, however, the Wellington-based Dominion Post newspaper says it has acquired copies of internal KGB documents that identify Sutch as a KGB recruit. The Australian-owned newspaper says the documents are part of the massive archive transported to the United Kingdom in 1992 by the late Vasili Mitrokhin. Mitrokhin was a Soviet archivist for the KGB, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR. The latest batch of papers, which were made public at Cambridge University’s Churchill College, indicate that the New Zealand diplomat worked for the KGB for 24 years prior to his 1974 arrest. Read more of this post

Comment: Bin Laden’s Alleged ‘Magazine Stash’ May be CIA PsyOp

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Rumors of an alleged discovery of “a stash of pornography” in Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan have spread like wildfire since Friday, when Reuters published an “exclusive” report on the subject. The report, written by Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria, cites “current and former US officials […] who discussed the discovery […] on condition of anonymity”. According to the allegations, “[t]he pornography recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive”. The report was almost immediately picked up by several news outlets, including The New York Times, which notes that the disclosure “will be welcomed by counter-terrorism officials because it could tarnish [the al-Qaeda founder’s] legacy and erode [his] appeal”. Indeed. It appears that only Danger Room‘s Spencer Ackerman thought it wise to air a brief disclaimer to the effect that the “welcomed disclosure” may in fact be “a CIA information operation”. He has a point. Read more of this post