Comments on papers relating to the Michael Smith case
Witness Statement of John Richard WELCH
Witness Statement of Mrs “C”
Prepared for Dfax Agency Leeds
Professor Paul Rogers
University of Bradford
12 April 1993
The following papers were viewed:
John Richard WELCH 17 August 1992
Mrs “C” 9 November 1992
Exhibit Numbers 31, 32 and 43, which would appear to correspond to documents listed as JS42, JS43 and JS44 in the above witness statements.
2. A brief comment will be made on the statement of John Richard Welch, who would appear to be a civilian employee of the Metropolitan Police and an expert in handwriting. This will be followed by a more detailed analysis of the witness statement by Mrs “C” of the Security Service. This will, in turn, focus on two aspects of the witness statement - a series of specific comments and questions followed by a more general analysis of the approach adopted, its relevance to the present case, and its possible value to the prosecution and defence
Statement of John Richard WELCH, BSc
3. Only page 61 was viewed, which appears to be a continuation of a longer statement. This part of John Welch’s statement gives an impression of being written by a careful and experienced analyst who “guards his back” against potential cross-examination, not least by avoiding giving a conclusive view. The core part of his statement is:
“I compared the bulk of writing in each of the items JS/41, 42, 43 and 44 with the writing of Michael Smith in items JS/18, 49, 50 and 51. I found many similarities between these writings. No single similarity is conclusive but the combination of similarities leads me to conclude that the bulk of the writing in each of the items JS/41, 42, 43 and 44 were written by MICHAEL SMITH.” (WELCH - p61)
Note that he did not compare all of the writing in the first four items mentioned, only “the bulk”. This may be merely the caution of a careful analyst or acceptance that MICHAEL SMITH was not the sole writer. This latter is supported by his conclusion that only “the bulk of” the writing in those first four items was that of SMITH. (WELCH - P61)
5. He does not represent his findings as an open and shut case, though he is prepared to present his conclusions in court and, presumably, allow them to be examined by a defence expert witness. There may be room for disagreement, but this is not likely. It might, however, be relevant that Mr Welch does not conclude firmly that there is a single author (SMITH). This might be worth examining in more detail.
Witness Statement of Mrs “C” - specific points
6. The first part of this discussion will draw out particular points from the witness statement. The second part is a more general analysis.
7. The witness has worked for the Security Service for 23 years, and has made a study of the techniques used operationally by the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union and Russia. Her study includes information gained from de-briefing of defectors and observation of Soviet and Russian intelligence officers in the UK. (Mrs “C” p61)
8. Although she has 23 years experience in the Security Service as a whole, we are not informed of extent of her experience in this particular area. We are not told her position within the Security Service and whether, in this particular field of expertise, she is a senior officer or has recently moved into this area. We are not told whether the data gained by de-briefings and observations has been gained, at least in part, by her personally, or whether it has been through her study of the work of others.
9. We have no indication as to whether she has only worked on Soviet and Russian intelligence practice or whether she has experience of other intelligence services - for example, those of former Warsaw Treaty Organisation countries such as Czechoslovakia or Hungary or western commercial competitor nations such as France, Japan and the USA. We do not know whether she is familiar with British intelligence techniques practised overseas.
10. Throughout her statement, she equates the Soviet Union with Russia in terms of continuity of the intelligence services. For example:
“The objective of these intelligence services is to gather intelligence with the aim of gaining political, economic and military advantage for their parent state. Included in this aim is the intention to cause short or long term damage not only to the Western State in which their intelligence is gathered but also to other Western States.” (Mrs “C” p62)
11. Note the persistent use of present tense. There is a clear implication that Russia is as much a security threat as was the Soviet Union. Even though this statement was made only five months ago, there appears to be no recognition whatsoever of the major changes in East-West relations over the past five years or of the likely concern of Russian intelligence services with security threats from areas much closer to home.
12. Her assessment must be assumed to be the official assessment of the Security Service since she is giving a witness statement in an official capacity. If this assessment of Russian policy is correct, one hopes that it has been communicated, as a matter of urgency, to the British Foreign Office and to US President Bill Clinton, as they seem currently to be operating on a rather different agenda.
13. We are informed that the Soviet/Russian security services have developed a particular “tradecraft” over a number of years in order to safeguard their espionage activities. (Mrs “C” pp62-65). We are not told whether this is an evolving tradecraft or whether it is rooted in stone. Tradecraft in use in 1961, 1968, 1982 and 1983 is mentioned, mostly relating to meeting places and passing of messages. No indication is given as to whether this tradecraft is peculiar to Soviet/Russian practice, indeed no indication is given as to whether the witness is aware of the tradecraft of other intelligence agencies.
14. Even within the tradecraft practices specified, there appear to be inconsistencies. Reference is made to the Soviet/Russian practice of arranging meetings in open places where surveillance is difficult (Mrs “C” p63), but a meeting place said to involve SMITH, Roxeth Recreation Ground, is described as having restricted access yet is still claimed to be “typical of sites selected by intelligence officers for clandestine meetings” (Mrs “C” p64).
Witness Statement of Mrs “C” - general comments
15. The statement gives an elementary indication of tradecraft as apparently practised by Soviet/Russian intelligence services. No indication is given as to whether the tradecraft is peculiar to these services. The great majority of the tradecraft appears to be a matter of common sense for anyone involved in activities which he/she would prefer to keep quiet, whether these are political or commercial activities and whether legal or illegal.
16. Repeated reference is made to people meeting in open places. This seems hardly surprising, unless it is a feature peculiar to Soviet/Russian services. Perhaps other states have other practices (British meeting in pubs, French in restaurants, Americans in ice cream parlours and Japanese in bath houses) but open places would appear to have an attraction to any service.
17. Similarly, the use of various marks or signals to reduce direct personal contact would appear appropriate to any confidential activity, as much to commercial espionage where financial stakes may be very high, as to interstate espionage.
18. It thus appears to be argued that the tradecraft which involved SMITH is peculiar to Soviet/Russian services, but in the absence of any comparative data for other services, or indeed for typical commercial espionage operators, there is no way in which this can be proved through this witness statement.
19. Furthermore, if the SMITH defence rests on the notion that there was a commercial espionage involvement, then his contact(s) could well have had previous involvement(s) with intelligence activities, subsequently using the knowledge gained therein, perhaps for post-retirement commercially-directed activities.
20. In all, the evidence is hardly satisfactory. At first sight it might seem impressive, mainly because one assumes that a witness statement from such a source will result from impressive knowledge and powers of analysis. Anything beyond a cursory consideration of the statement suggests otherwise - if this is the best the Security Service can do, then a measure of public accountability may be long overdue.