Disinformation - Ion Mihai Pacepa -

Disinformation - Ion Mihai Pacepa -

(Parte 5 de 6)

After formal ceremonies, official document signing, and the requisite exchange of fancy dinners, Gorbachev again followed in Ceauşescu’s footsteps by turning on the charm for members of Congress and high-level American businessmen. Both groups have often made themselves useful to foreign despots.

Both Gorbachev and Ceauşescu came to Washington accompanied by their wives, a diplomatic first. Both first ladies were promoted as intellectuals in their own right. In Washington, the Romanians publicized a scientific study by Elena Ceauşescu—actually ghostwritten by my DIE. Soviet advance publicity glowed over Raisa Gorbachev’s university dissertation, even getting excerpts from it published in the American press. On her fourth visit to Washington, Elena Ceauşescu demanded that I get her an American academic title. It was not easy, but I managed to arrange a ceremony at Blair House making her an honorary member of the Illinois Academy of Science. Raisa Gorbachev returned to the United States in 1990 and was honored at a highly publicized Wellesley College graduation. Toward the end of their visits, both Eastern bloc leaders received a taste of American democracy in action. Ceauşescu had to face the thousands of Romanian and Hungarian émigrés who besieged his residence at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, calling him “Dracula” for his ultra-Marxist domestic policies. Gorbachev had to put up with a large demonstration asking for the right of Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union. Those confrontations momentarily caused both communist leaders to let slip their smiling masks, allowing a glimpse of their steel teeth. In the end, however, both won the American public back over to their side by stopping their motorcades and impulsively plunging into the crowd to shake hands.

In retrospect, it is easy to see that all of this was a product of sophisticateddezinformatsiya experts and public relations crews, employing all their reliable, smoke-and-mirrors framing techniques.

At the time, however, both leaders were perceived as modern pragmatists who deserved to be supported. Indeed, they were believed by many in diplomatic and academic circles to really be—deep down—on America’s side. It was argued that they needed US support to help them in impending tough struggles with their own domestic “hardliners.”

I do not mean to imply that the mighty Gorbachev would necessarily have been trying to copy Ceauşescu word for word and step by step, but Andropov’s resounding success at stage-directing Ceauşescu was certainly there for Gorbachev to consider. It seems particularly significant that Gorbachev, a couple of weeks after returning home from his 1987 trip to Washington, quietly awarded Ceauşescu the Order of Lenin, the highest decoration in the Soviet bloc, in spite of the two men’s strong public differences. As far as I know, Ceauşescu was the only East European leader Gorbachev ever decorated with that high award.

I noted only one fundamental difference between Gorbachev’s and

Ceauşescu’s strategies to butter up the West. Three months after Ceauşescu left Washington, the acting chief of his foreign intelligence service—this writer—was granted political asylum by the United States.

That event shattered the smiling mask Ceauşescu had worn in Washington and allowed the inner workings of his glasnost machine to lie spread out on the table for all to see. From among Gorbachev’s innermost circle, no one has yet stepped forward with the truth about that last Soviet monarch’s methods of governing the country and about his still-admired glasnost. At the beginning of 2001, Gorbachev was still publicly asserting that hisglasnost (for which he had been granted the Nobel Prize and named “Man of the Decade” by Time magazine) was “leading the country out of its totalitarian state and to democracy, to freedom, to openness.”1 In March 2002, however, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had prominently endorsed glasnost in the 1980s, cast the first doubt on Gorbachev. She conceded that “the role of Mikhail Gorbachev, who failed miserably in his declared objective of saving Communism and the Soviet Union, has been absurdly misunderstood.”12

3 DEFECTING TO AMERICA

GLASNOST REALLY MEANS LYING, and lying is the first step toward stealing and killing. On the memorable day of July 2, 1978, Romanian president Nicolae Ceauşescu whispered in my ear, “I w-want

Noel k-k-killed.” Ceauşescu stammered both when nervous and when excited. “You don’t need to r-report back to me,” he added. “I’l learn about it from the W-Western m-media when he croaks.”

Noel Bernard was the director of Radio Free Europe’s Romanian program, and for years he had been blackening Ceauşescu’s carefully crafted cult of personality.

Ceauşescu continued: “And a few days later, blow up that whole w-wasp’s n-nest.” The “wasp’s nest” was the Munich headquarters of Radio Free Europe. “With a briefcase of S-Semtex,” Ceauşescu expertly specified, referring to an explosive that had been developed in communist Czechoslovakia for use in international terrorism. “We’ve g-got to f-finish with all that shit.”

All through those twenty-seven years I had spent in the Soviet bloc intelligence community, I had been living with the nightmare that, sooner or later, orders to have someone killed would land on my plate. In 1951, when I became an intelligence officer in the KGB community, I swore to myself that I would avoid involvement in any operations that could lead to a loss of life. I may have done a lot of reprehensible things during all those years, but I had kept that resolution. Up until that moment I had been safe, since General Nicolae Doicaru, the longtime chief of Romania’s foreign intelligence service, the DIE, had been in charge of “wet operations,” as the KGB community’s jargon termed the killing and kidnapping of political opponents abroad.

The previous June, however, Ceauşescu had anointed me as head of his

Presidential House, a new position, and there was no way for me to avoid further involvement in political assassinations, which had grown into a main instrument of foreign policy throughout the Soviet bloc.

Head of Presidential House was a job essentially like chief of staff in the American White House. Ceauşescu had invented this post in April 1978, after his triumphant visit to Washington—where I had accompanied him—but within it he had also included the day-to-day handling of Romania’s intelligence services. It was like being the White House chief of staff, national security adviser, director of the CIA and head of the Department for Homeland Security all at the same time.

Since 1972, when I had risen to enter the inner sanctum of the Soviet bloc, I had come to realize that sooner or later I would have to screw up my courage and break with that evil society, which I was sure would eventually either quietly collapse or else lead to worldwide cataclysm. The physical step, however, proved to be much harder than the mental one.

Privilege can generate cowardice, as it did in my case. Communist rulers have always been very generous with their spy chiefs—that is, until they tire of them and kill them off. It proved not easy for me to renounce my exorbitantly luxurious life at the top of Romanian society, my Bucharest villa with its swimming pool and sauna, my fleet of cars and drivers, my summer house at the Black Sea, and my hunting lodges in the Carpathian Mountains. “Defector”—that word used by the US government for a Soviet bloc official who chose freedom in the West—also acted as a chain around my ankles, for the word lay in frighteningly close proximity to the word “traitor.”

The prospect of being involved in political killings was the drop that finally burst the dam of my indecision. On Sunday, July 23, 1978, I flew to Bonn, where I had to deliver a message from Ceauşescu to the West German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt. Soviet ruler Leonid Brezhnev had asked Ceauşescu for help in stealing the technology and blueprints for a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) military airplane that had been developed by Fokker A.G., West Germany’s main airplane producer. The Kremlin believed that using the “independent” Ceauşescu to build a cooperative venture with Fokker for producing a civilian airplane (Fokker-614) would afford the best access for stealing the VTOL technology. The German chancellor, however, had shown reluctance to approve the venture, rightly fearing that the secret military technologies involved might end up in Moscow.

“Just make sure you plant the conviction in his thick German skull that

Moscow will never see one iota of anything,” Ceauşescu instructed me, after he had finished dictating his message to the West German chancellor. “Promise him anything he wants.”

That Sunday, the music suddenly went dead on my TAROM flight to Vienna, where I was to pick up an Austrian plane for the rest of my trip. A woman’s voice cut in fuzzily with an announcement in Romanian and German: “Ladies and Gentlemen, our plane will land at Schwechat Airport in a few minutes. Captain Georgescu and his crew wish you a pleasant sojourn in Vienna and hope you will fly TAROM soon again.”

The door of the plane had barely been cracked open when Romania’s ambassador in Vienna, Dumitru Aninoiu, whose wife was an undercover DIE officer, hopped on board. “Welcome to Vienna, comrade state secretary,” he greeted me loudly, using my cover title, as he reached out to grab my briefcase. “We’l have lunch together.”

As we were leaving for the airport’s VIP salon, I cast one final glance over my shoulder at the white BAC 1-1 plane with the Romanian flag painted on its tail. I knew I had flown TAROM for the last time.

Two days later, a black taxi dropped me off in front of the United States Embassy in Bonn. As I stepped out onto the sidewalk, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. My mouth felt as if it had been freeze-dried, although the palms of my hands were unaccustomedly moist. With a few rapid steps, I crossed over to the entrance and went inside.

The lobby for the general public was small but crowded. A statuesque woman squeezed into a chic khaki safari suit and draped in several pounds of gold jewelry, who was casually leaning against the wall next to the door, suddenly stopped talking when I came in. She measured me up and down for a very long moment, as did her companion, a short, pudgy man in an ill-fitting suit of light gray silk. Some of the other people also turned to look at me. Even the old-fashioned bureaucrat behind the teller-like window, his coat sleeves protected by black sleevelets, raised his eyes to peer out at me. In short, the whole room seemed to be watching me.

Of course, I knew that it was normal for a waiting room crowd to give every new arrival a careful going-over. On that day, though, I could not think about what was or was not normal.

I approached the Marine officer, who stood like a statue, feet apart and arms crossed over his chest, barring the only door leading to the inside of the embassy, and said to him, dropping my voice as low as I could: “I am a Soviet bloc two-star intelligence general, and I want to defect to the United States.”

I became a free man on July 27, 1978. Because of my extremely high position in the Soviet bloc, only the president of the United States could approve my request for political asylum. Thus, Pete, the CIA officer I talked to at the US embassy, scheduled another meeting for 10 p.m. three days later at the Dom-Hotel in Cologne, to give me the answer. Those were three very long days.

When I arrived at the Dom-Hotel that fateful Wednesday night, the first thing I did was look around for the men’s room. As I opened the door, I saw Pete inside. My biochemistry was, evidently, not unique.

Pete seemed embarrassed for only a second. Then he took an envelope from his breast pocket and gave it to me. It contained a cable signed by Adm. Stansfield Turner, the director of Central Intelligence, stating that President Jimmy Carter was granting me political asylum, security protection, and help for starting a new life in America. It also said that a CIA airplane sent from Washington was waiting at the Rhein-Main Air Base to pick me up.

Reading that cable over and over again gave me an enormous feeling of relief. Not in my wildest dreams, though, had I ever imagined that I would become a free man in a restroom.

It was past midnight when our four-car motorcade came roaring up to the gate at the US Rhein-Main Air Base. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pile of clothes waiting for me on the plane, as all I had with me was the shirt and pants I was wearing.

Throughout all those years of torment in Romania, the only things of which I had been certain of were that I would not die under communism and that no matter how high I might have been shoved up the communist ladder, I would start my new life in America without any encumbrances from my past. That was why, when I set out from my room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cologne to board the CIA plane, the only things I took with me were my passport; my personal notes; a camera containing a couple of snapshots of my daughter, Dana; and a wristwatch with the signature of King Hussein of Jordan on its dial, which I had just gotten from the king for—as he put it—saving his life from an assassination attempt organized by PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

After we had been served dinner, Pete called it a day. “Let’s catch a few hours of sleep,” he suggested, guiding me to the airplane’s bedroom. Pete took a pair of pajamas and a travel kit out of his garment bag. After a couple of moments, he quietly put them back and, still dressed, scrunched up under the blanket covering his bed. Pete’s weariness may have been less overwhelming than his embarrassment when he realized that I had neither pajamas nor toothbrush. A few minutes later, Pete was sawing wood.

Of course, I was also exhausted and could hardly believe everything was over. That whole Thursday, I had tried to look as if I had been indeed getting ready for a routine trip back to Bucharest, not for the voyage of a lifetime. I had spent the morning in the acoustically protected “bubble” at the Romanian Embassy, in the company of the DIE chief of station, General Stefan Constantin. At noon, I had again met Chancellery Minister Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski at the Bundeskanzleramt in Bonn to get Chancellor Schmidt’s answer to Ceauşescu’s message. From the twinkle in his eye and his warm handshake, I understood he must have known about my decision, and that cheered me up enormously—I had tremendous confidence in that bulldog of a man.

Afterward I had flown to Bremen, where I held a meeting with Fokker representatives, and in the evening I had been back in Cologne to meet with Frederick W. Smith, founder and chairman of the American shipping company Federal Express, who wanted to buy one hundred commercial Fokker-614 planes that would be produced in Romania in cooperation with Fokker. Then I had attended the official dinner given for me by the Romanian ambassador, Ion Morega, in the salons of the embassy, where I had even told a few jokes.

(Parte 5 de 6)

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