25 January 2006

Citizen Smith - 3 days in Oporto

I was surprised to receive a letter from Frederico Duarte Carvalho in 1998. After exchanging letters I sent him some information about my espionage case, and he has been helping me ever since to discover new evidence to help me win an appeal against my conviction.

Frederico wanted to interview me in Full Sutton prison, and although he made an official request to do so the Prison Service made it impossible for us to meet. I even had to engage a solicitor to argue my case, to be allowed to meet with a journalist - but again our old friend official procrastination was employed. This is another way in which the British justice system unfairly prevents prisoners from fighting their cases - because if nobody can listen to the story it will then be hidden behind the prison walls.

Below is article that Frederico wrote about my case, which I have reproduced with his permission.

The Citizen Smith Case or The Spy Who Came In From Oporto

by Frederico Duarte Carvalho

Why is a Portuguese journalist writing a book about an almost unknown British spy? Recently I had to answer to this same question to Igor Prelin, my favourite ex-KGB officer whom I first meet in Cannes, France, during the Television Market Fair of April 1994. After I met Igor Prelin in Cannes, I travelled to Moscow the following year and conducted a few interviews with other ex-KGB officers. We only talked about stories with Portuguese interest from the recent past like Angola and other African nations of Portuguese language. No interest on a story about a British spy. Until that is, a few days ago. I called Igor in Moscow and asked him about a British electronics engineer named Michael John Smith, who, in November 1993, was sentenced to 25 years after being found guilty of espionage for the KGB at the end of the 1970s and beginning of 1980s. He was arrested in August 1992, after the defection from Paris of Victor Oschenko, who was said to be his Soviet controller. Igor Prelin, who was the spokesman for Vladimir Kryuchkov, the KGB leader behind the failed coup of August 1991, told me that he knew nothing about that British/Russian spy.

I was born and lived in Oporto. Nowadays I work in Lisbon at the weekly newspaper Tal&Qual. Oporto is Portugal's second city, and next year it will be European Cultural Capital. It is also the town of the Port wine and has had a large British community for many decades. My father works as a manager of the local office of a British shipping company and my first plane trip was to London, when I was only 16. So, for me, British culture has always been present, and I admired the British media.

I started working as a journalist in December 1991 at the Oporto daily newspaper O Primeiro de Janeiro. It was in September 1993 that The Times published on its front page the news of Michael Johns Smith's trial at the Old Bailey; and my attention was drawn to the fact that the prosecution alleged that the KGB sent Mr. Smith on a course in spying in Oporto.

My editors didn't find anything of interest in the story because we were a small local newspaper and, if the case became of major interest, then the national newspapers, with correspondents in London, would cover it. So I dropped the story but I didn't forget it; and when I went to London, in August 1998, on a week's holiday, I decided to find out what really had happened to Michael John Smith and that Oporto thing. I went to The Times building and got a copy of all the articles about the 1993 trial.

Making contact
When I arrived in Lisbon I got in touch with Michael John Smith thanks to the Prisoner Location Service of Birmingham. Michael is in HMP Full Sutton, York, and his number is PR3345. Michael wrote me back in September 1998 and said that he was very grateful that I had taken an interest in his story and that he had no problem in talking to me about Oporto. Two months later, November 2nd, I got another letter, but this one was signed by a certain Mr. W., in which he told me that he was Michael's friend and that Mr. Smith had asked him to help me out. And, Mr. W. wrote this to me:

'I shared accommodation with Michael during the 1970s. We both went on holiday to Spain and Portugal in his car in August 1977. I was with him during the short stay in Oporto from Thursday 11 August to Saturday 13 August 1977. We stayed at Parque de Campismo da Prelada. I was present when we requested a campsite employee to indicate the whereabouts of bus stops and a restaurant on a town map for our guidance in finding our way around Oporto. Years later (8 September 1992) I was visited by British Special Branch Police Officers, and early during the interview I was shown the map that I recognised from the holiday. Imagine my surprise when I realised that the same map was considered evidence of a KGB espionage training operation allegedly carried out by Michael. The prosecution made much of this trip during his trial because a prosecution witness, a Mr E, had done such a training operation during 1979 in Lisbon. Since I found these allegations ridiculous I was prepared to be a witness for the defence, but I was never required to appear in court. I continue to visit and correspond with Michael who continues to vigorously fight his conviction. We believe he is a victim of a miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the British M. o. D., Crown Prosecution Service and Police. The British Security Services continue their under-handed methods as revealed by the current case of ex M.I.5 spy, David Shayler, who tried to whistle blow on his secret service bosses.'

After reading this I thought: Sure, he is innocent and I'm Santa Claus! But my interest in this story grew because, by coincidence, my house in Oporto is next to the camp site where Michael and Mr. W. had stayed more than 20 years ago. Later on, Mr. W. sent me copies of the Oporto maps and some copies of the surviving photos that they both had taken in Oporto. He also sent me copies of the transcripts of Michael's interviews by the police and parts of the trial where the Oporto case had been mentioned. And that was the first time that I read the name of Oleg Gordievsky, when he gave testimony about the Oporto map crosses.

On the Oporto map there are four crosses. An MI5 officer, Mrs. C., came to Oporto to investigate them. She said that three of them didn't have any tourist interest, and the fourth was a typical restaurant, called O Fado.

Michael John Smith was criticised at the Old Bailey by Mr. Justice Blofeld because he couldn't remember the meaning of the crosses during his first interview with the police. Mr Smith first said that those where places of tourist interest and then changed his opinion to bus stops. This contradiction helped the Crown to establish a link between a training mission in Lisbon by a certain Mr E, in 1979, and the KGB agent, Victor Oschenko, appointed as Michael's controller.

For those who live in Oporto the crosses may be easily placed in places of tourist interest. And if you want to explain the bus stops it is also easy. The court accepted a different interpretation.

Tracing Smith’s steps
I've tried to recreate the footsteps of Michael John Smith in Oporto during his trip in August 1977. Mr. W. had sent to me three pictures of Oporto that they had taken during their holiday and two photos of Michael that were taken during the trip just for me to see how he looked then. The three photos of Oporto are from places with tourist interest not very far from the places were the crosses were. One is a view of the old part of Oporto that was considered to be World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1997; another is a corner of a famous commercial street in town, not very far from cross number 1; and the third is inside the old historic part of the town, just next to the Oporto Cathedral. With all this material there was a copy of a recent hand-written letter by Michael in which he recollected in detail his two days in Oporto. On that letter, among other things, he mentioned this:

' ...on the way back to the bus stop (after a evening at the restaurant O Fado) we again passed the street where the street festival was going on that area called Victoria: I see from the map that there is actually a road named Rua da Victoria, but whether it was in that road we saw the festival I'm not sure, but they gave us little green flags and a bit of card (or a sticker) with the address on it. I remember there were 2 Spanish gypsies there, and one of them wanted to be involved in getting us introduced into was going on there. The festivities had obviously just finished for the night, but someone brought us a bottle of beer each, and one of the gypsies had a guitar and I played something on it, and he said he couldn't believe I was English because I played with too much passion for an Englishman. Someone went and got the daughter of a doctor to come and translate, because she could speak reasonable English. I think the club was for literary pursuits, because they had books there, and they also played chess, and I remember there was a wooden or plastic copy of the Tutankhamen mask face, and the club had a weird mix of things in it. They wanted us to sing some English songs, but I don't think we knew what to sing. Anyway in the end we had to leave to catch the bus and I remember we looked back and waved at them in the street as we left and I thought what a strange encounter. I took 3 photos and I posted them to the club, so for all I know, they might still be pinned up on the wall in the club!'

When I read this I went to Rua da Victoria and entered the first club there. It's a very narrow place. A man was playing cards and above his head in an empty wall there was a Tutankhamon face mask. I asked the people there if they had a photo album with pictures of festivities from 20 years ago. There was only one photo album in the club. On it, there were black and white photos of festivities, and they looked to be around 20 years old. But among them, there was a particular colour photo: a gypsy playing the guitar and a person with a foreign look clapping hands. I sent the photo to Mr. W. who sent it to Michael and I got the confirmation: it was Citizen Smith during his August 1977 Oporto trip.

That was really a strange thing for a spy to do in a KGB training mission, I thought; or Michael John Smith is indeed a very clever spy to act like a normal tourist; or he is very dumb by leaving photos of his presence around the world... I'm not saying that he isn't a spy, but I think it's now very difficult for me to explain to Portuguese readers that he came to Oporto in a KGB training mission as it was said in court in November 1993.......

And, I recall that the ex-MI6 officer, Richard Tomlinson saw a MI5 report on the case which concluded that Mr. Smith had not given any important or damaging information to Victor Oschenko. Tomlinson said:

'I was therefore very surprised when I learnt of MI5's claims at Mr. Smith's trial of the extent of the damage allegedly caused by him, and the extraordinary sentence which he subsequently received. I suspect the evidence was exaggerated at a higher level in MI5 in order to ensure that Mr. Smith received a heavy sentence. The intelligence services depend on disproportionate sentences for breaches of the Official Secrets Acts to cultivate the mystique of the importance of their work. I believe Mr. Smith has been made a victim of this tactic.'

Frederico Duarte Carvalho has his own blog, which you can see here.

Marconi Space & Defence Systems

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wrote to Marconi to try to get to the bottom of the issue about what communication had occurred between Marconi’s Technical Director and Dr Lewis on 10/11 October 1993:

From: Michael John Smith
H.M.P. Full Sutton, York

21st November, 1995

To: The Technical Director
Marconi Space and Defence Systems
The Grove
Warren Lane

Dear Sir,

Re: Alleged Contravention of the Official Secrets Act

You may recall that I was convicted on 18th November 1993 for offences under the OSA. However, you may not know that only one classified document was involved in my case. This document originated at Marconi (MSDS Stanmore) and was marked RESTRICTED. The details of this document are:

Reference number: 79481/PBH/BB/S08
Issue 2
Date: 8 January 1982
Title: Demonstrator Programme Requirement Specification Bandpass Filter Assembly
Prepared by: P. B. Hutchinson
Approved by: M. R. Winstone

(1) Dr Meirion Lewis (an expert in design and manufacture of SAW devices at DRA) stated in court that he had hand delivered some written questions concerning the aforesaid RESTRICTED document to the Technical Director of Marconi (Stanmore), on the evening of Sunday 10th October 1993. Dr Lewis said that he telephoned and spoke personally to the Technical Director on the morning of the 11th October 1993, who gave him all the information he was giving in evidence, including the fact that the RESTRICTED document was related to the ALARM project.

(2) The Crown presented the view that Dr Lewis's statement on 11th October 1993 was the first time in my case that a link with ALARM had been established. ALARM had not been mentioned at all in the previous 14 months since my arrest on 8th August 1992.

(3) From the witness box, Dr Lewis made an impromptu technical argument to explain how the RESTRICTED document, on its own, would enable ALARM to be jammed. However, Dr Lewis admitted, while giving evidence on trial, that he was not an expert on ALARM, on missile technology, or on jamming techniques.

These three facts raise very important queries, the most important of them being: could a person who had admitted not to be an expert in the relevant fields, and who has been additionally informed only on the morning of the very day that he gave evidence on the issue on which he was not an expert, explain in scientific terms how a secret project (to which he, therefore, had no access as he was not part of it) could be affected by the information contained in a classified document?

Whatever the reply to that question, in spite of the relevance of its serious legal implications (on the issue of national security), the facts show - and so I am led to think by information I have been unofficially provided with - that the police had connected the RESTRICTED document with ALARM at an early stage in the investigation.

Moreover, the very facts point to the MoD having prevented information coming out that could have led to different conclusions to those on which the prosecution relied in their case. Nevertheless, I have no reasons to believe that GEC Marconi were deliberately involved in such a way of preventing the course of justice.

You should be aware that I am serving a 20 year sentence for having the RESTRICTED document in my possession, a document to which Dr Meirion Lewis gained an easy access, notwithstanding being a classified document used in a secret project which involved an issue of national security.

Therefore, before concluding, I ask you very respectfully to let me know whether you have the records of Dr Lewis's requests to the Technical Director of your company on the 10th and 11th October 1993, or any information concerning a link between the RESTRICTED document 79481/PBH/BB/SO8 Issue 2 and the ALARM project in connection with my case. If so, and possible, I will appreciate it if you could let me know whether I can be furnished with that information.

I thank you in anticipation for your kind and prompt reply to this letter.

Yours faithfully,
Michael John Smith

I should have realised that asking straightforward questions would not lead to answers. Instead of giving me the most basic answer - to confirm there had indeed been some contact between Dr Lewis and Marconi’s Technical Director - the next correspondence I received came from Marconi’s lawyers:

From: Allen & Overy
One New Change
London, EC4M 9QQ

10th January 1996
Our Ref: DLM/TM/LT:164244.1

To: Michael John Smith
H.M.P. Full Sutton, York

Dear Sir,

Alleged Contravention of the Official Secrets Act

We act for GEC-Marconi Limited who have passed to us your letter of 21st November received on 5th December.

Your will appreciate that concerns about your conviction are matters for the Prosecution and for your lawyers, not for our clients. Your most immediate concern appears to relate to aspects of the evidence of Dr Lewis but it seems from your letter that he was cross examined about this at the time.

Our clients are not able to consider a request for information relating to your case except as part of the legal process or following an approach to which the Prosecution is a party.

Yours faithfully,
(Signature illegible)

Allen & Overy Letter

It is interesting that Allen & Overy have mentioned the cross-examination of Dr Lewis, because I did not refer to it directly in my letter. It is true that a small part of my letter refers to information that came out of the cross-examination - but how would Allen & Overy or Marconi have known that? This is a curious point, which implies there was something going on behind the scenes that the defence was not told about.

It was the defence’s difficulty during the cross-examination that resulted in the matter not being properly dealt with at trial. Neither Dr Lewis nor any other witness was available to resolve the problems that arose from Dr Lewis’s testimony. If Marconi’s Technical Director had appeared at the trial, maybe I would not be still trying to resolve the anomalies now?

There is also the other strange point in Allen & Overy’s letter, that they can only become involved in my research of the evidence if the Prosecution is a party to it. Why would I wish to involve the Prosecution, when I believe they are the party who created this mess! However, this is yet another indication that Marconi had some involvement with the Prosecution that was not revealed to my defence team.

Final word from Security Commission

From the time I wrote my letter to the Security Commission on 10 January 1997, to the time I received their reply dated 13 October 1999, is a period of 33 months. It seems incredible that I had to wait 2 years 9 months for the reply printed below, particularly when I realised the reply avoided addressing any of the questions I had asked.

I was drawing the Security Commission’s attention to serious doubts I had about how their investigation had been conducted, and that I was not happy with the evidence they had used to arrive at their conclusions. After all, I was just asking the sort of questions that I would have hoped the Security Commission would also be curious about:

(i) Why was there confusion about the classification of the restricted document - surely this might indicate some systematic failure if documents could be wrongly classified?

(ii) Why did they not investigate what the document was being used for at Hirst Research Centre, and how it came to be in my desk? Provenance is usually an important indicator of whether practices are secure and appropriate to the level of sensitivity involved.

(iii) Why did it take so long, until the second day of my appeal hearing, to suggest that the “restricted” document was wrongly classified - was there an administrative cover-up to avoid transparency in what had gone wrong?

(iv) Why did the Security Commission not interview expert witnesses who could tell them exactly what damage or risks were involved with the “restricted” document? Dr Meirion Francis Lewis did not even work on the ALARM project, so why would the Security Commission rely on his evidence to arrive at their conclusion?

From: Edna Chivers
Cabinet Secretariat
Cabinet Office
4 Central Buildings
Matthew Parker Street
London SW1P 9NL

13 October 1999

To: Michael Smith
HMP Full Sutton, York

Dear Mr Smith,

This letter follows-up my initial response to you of 13 August.

Like Mr Barron, I have to draw your attention to the fact that I can only comment from the point of view of the Security Commission inquiry, the terms of reference for which were set out in his letter to you of 30 October 1996 and were to do with the lessons to be learned for future protective security arrangements in Government: it is not part of the Security Commission’s function to reassess the evidence given at your trial. It would be inappropriate, therefore, for me to comment on any other aspect of your case.

In response to the questions you raise about the Commission’s inquiry, I can reassure you that the Commission is confident that it has covered appropriately all the issues relevant to its remit and that its report accurately reflects all the events surrounding your case.

So far as your questions relating to the relationship between the damage assessments received by the Commission and your appeal against conviction and sentence are concerned, I have to say that I think the issue was adequately dealt with in the report itself and in Mr Barron’s letter to you of 20 December 1996 in which he clearly explained the sequence of events: prior to the appeal hearing in May 1995, the Solicitor General saw a copy of the damage assessment which had been prepared by the Ministry of Defence for the Security Commission inquiry. He found this to be at variance with the evidence previously given at the original trial by the witnesses for the Crown. Once this error was realised, the MoD then prepared a revised damage assessment as explained in Annex A of the report. This was provided to the Defence Counsel and to the Security Commission. The record indicates that these events were dealt with fully at your appeal hearing.

The Commission is unable to help you any further but please accept my apologies once again for the delay in letting you have this response.

The Chairman of the Security Committee has seen and approved this reply.

Yours sincerely,
Edna Chivers

Secretary of the Security Commission

Security Commission letter 13 October 1999 page 1

Security Commission letter 13 October 1999 page 2

Edna Chivers tries to conveniently gloss over the way the change in the MoD’s damage assessment report was dealt with. How long had the prosecution lawyers known about this U-turn in the MoD’s opinion, before disclosing that information to my defence team?

My lawyers, particularly Mr Michael Mansfield QC, were quite astounded by the ambush tactics employed. On 2 consecutive days of my appeal: on 15 May 1995 we were first presented with the “old” damage assessment report (dated 7 March 1994), then on 16 May 1995 we were handed the quite different amendment, apparently written that morning! The timing and drastic change in the MoD’s position was clearly designed to unsettle my defence. One would have to be an idiot or a na├»ve simpleton not to see what was going on here: the MoD and prosecution were operating a cold calculating scheme to confuse and damage my defence by underhanded tactics. I defy anybody to see it differently.

There are lots of unanswered questions in this saga, and for the safety of the nation it is important we can trust the Security Commission to not only ask the right questions, but also to leave no stone unturned in its quest for the truth. How could members of the Security Commission believe they had completed an effective investigation if they left so many potential weaknesses uninvestigated?

Rather than imply that the Security Commission’s investigation of my case had been thorough, and everything dealt with in their report or in correspondence - which is clearly what Tony Blair believes from his answer to Andrew Mackinlay MP - I would suggest there is a lot more still to be disclosed about the issues surrounding that “restricted” document.