05 February 2006

Professor Christopher Andrew - Code breaker

Christopher Andrew is well-known as an academic and as a commentator on intelligence matters. What a good idea I thought, if his intense dedication to the world of intelligence could be ploughed into writing his own book of fiction, about a quest for some Holy Grail - the mother of all Codes - a book with a title like “The professor, the bishop and the secret society”.

What the public really craves for is a good story, one to excite the imagination, something that will turn into a best-seller like Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. You see, Christopher Andrew is an eminent professor at Cambridge University, who works tirelessly to uncover codes, plots and sub-plots. This involves the study of manuscripts, such as the Mitrokhin Archive, and secret files that he alone in the academic world has access to.

Then we have the man in the field, Oleg Gordievsky, the master of the chameleon disguise who can pass himself off as one of the diplomats. Gordievsky would make a perfect character as a counselling bishop, telling both sides he was their man, while really acting the role of the double-agent. Of course we also need a secret society, and what could be more secret than the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. The plot might involve murder, the risk of murder, and intrigue by the bucket load.

Over recent years I became aware of Christopher Andrew’s views, from the radio and television interviews he has given and newspaper articles that quoted his statements. It became apparent that he was definitely on the side of the west, and it would be hard not to see that here was a man who has a special relationship with MI6. He is a “safe pair of hands” for the dissemination of knowledge and truth - that might be the view from Vauxhall - and The Ministry of Truth needs a loyal servant to spread the word to the people. We do not want our academics to be unbiased - what use is that! Everybody knows that the best research work comes from those who believe passionately that they already know all the answers, and the research merely fills in the gaps to make the message more understandable and more palatable.

Oleg Gordievsky is a great supporter of MI6 - well he would be, wouldn’t he - because they supported him and got him out of Russia, and he now tells that story again, and again and again ... I always thought what a remarkable escape Mr Gordievsky made - he was surely facing certain death. He has explained on a Panorama programme how he was interrogated for 5 hours by the KGB, even being given drugs to make him confess the truth about his involvement with British Intelligence. According to Gordievsky’s account, he was able to resist this drug induced state and not say a word about his role as a double-agent. It seems strange that Gordievsky was able to resist these truth drugs, because he has said how determined Russian dissidents, who were also given these drugs, had broken down and confessed on TV. So, either Mr Gordievsky has remarkable physical stamina, that even when his body is full of truth drugs he is still capable of lying; or, possibly, he is not telling the whole truth in his story? Who knows?

What I do know is that Gordievsky was so sure my case involved the KGB, he became extremely excited and claimed it could only point to the KGB. Well, even my lawyers thought Gordievsky’s evidence at my trial was somewhat exaggerated - it appears from my previous posts that William E. Colby, Philip Agee and my expert Mr P (who was an expert in tradecraft himself) all thought Gordievsky was wrong.

Like Christopher Andrew, Oleg Gordievsky also comes out of the woodwork whenever there is any whiff of criticism against MI6. I thought I was imagining this at first - it appeared I was being perhaps too observant - but then I started to take note and save some of the newspaper cuttings where Gordievsky had been quoted, or he had sent letters to newspapers. All the examples firmly supported the position that MI6 was whiter than white, and all the rest, particularly the Russian intelligence services, were bad. It was a little like that George Orwell unscientific axiom of “four legs good, two legs bad” - obvious when you see the joke, but subtly convincing when you do not. I don't support either side, but I can detect when there is an unreasonable uncritical argument going on, because life is seldom black and white but usually grey.

So here we have MI6’s two excellent public supporters and spokesmen, both having their own good relations with MI6. Yet there is more to the interrelationships, because both men also have good relations with each other, as can be seen from Christopher Andrew co-authoring Oleg Gordievsky’s books. Does it matter, you may ask? Maybe not, but you would be well-advised to remember who their ultimate sponsor is. We used to criticise the Soviet Union because the official party line went out through all the public organs, so we cannot criticise ourselves if the Secret State does the same in the UK.

Let me move on to what I really wanted to say in this post. There is an argument doing the rounds that the Mitrokhin Archive is Mitrokhin’s copyright - in other words his archive belongs to him. Well, I would have thought, if he copied it from official records, then does it not belong to the Russian government? I would expect the British government to take one of their clerks to court for a similar act of copying, if the clerk simply published files out of one of the ministries and peddled it on as their own work. I wouldn’t have thought Parliament would agree that the clerk had the copyright to that material. Or let us do a more direct comparison: would a pen pusher at MI6 be allowed to copy a few files on his desk, and then be allowed to publish them as his own work - would he be given respect as the author? This may be taking the point to a ridiculous degree, but it does show how our view changes when we look at it from the other side. It's a funny old world isn't it?

Having looked around on the UK Parliament’s website, as one does, I noticed that there has been some comment on this issue in both Houses:

21 Oct 1999
Lord Monkswell: … I thought it curious that the original Mitrokhin archive appears to remain the private property of Mr Mitrokhin. … what other resources of the secret services are effectively the private property of individuals who are not under the control of the Official Secrets Act? Secondly, why did not the secret services simply buy the Mitrokhin archive from him, thereby ensuring that it was their property, to deal with as they saw fit? Thirdly, was the reason that the secret services did not have enough money to buy it? ...

Lord Bassam of Brighton: … The fact remains, however, that the Mitrokhin archive is the Mitrokhin archive; it is his property. It is for Mr Mitrokhin to use or dispose of the Mitrokhin archive as he wishes. He created the archive; it his personal property. I can assure the noble Lord with honesty and integrity that, as far as I am aware, no other material has been made available to Mr Mitrokhin or Professor Andrew in the creation of the book.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords … both security organisations have had the habit of leaking information to a handful of journalists. This has gone on for many years. In many cases it has had a most destructive effect on relations with other organisations within the criminal justice area.
Lords Hansard

The role of Professor Christopher Andrew becomes clearer from the Intelligence and Security Committee - The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report:

Why was Professor Andrew chosen?
The SIS first approached Professor Andrew in 1995 with a view to being invited to participate in the publication project. The SIS regarded Professor Andrew as a safe pair of hands, who had worked previously *** on the Gordievsky books. Professor Andrew was also security cleared and had signed the Official Secrets Act. Professor Andrew agreed to complete the project, knowing that ministerial approval would be required before the book could be published. The SIS nominated Professor Andrew as the editor for the book in the 6 March 1996 submission to Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary.

The Committee regards Professor Andrew as a distinguished academic who has specialised in the espionage field. He was a good choice to undertake this work.

As Professor Andrew has said in a radio interview:

Christopher Andrew: “The information doesn't belong to the government, it belongs Vasili Mitrokhin and we don’t yet live in a police state when author's houses can be invaded by the government and say, ‘aha I find these files interesting I think we will publish them’. This is Vasili Mitrokhin's material. He decided, god bless him, that he needed somebody who knew about that sort of material to write the book with him and he took that decision. Nobody would even be asking the question if it was about any other sort of material.”

I see, so because Vasili Mitrokhin copied his archive from official files belonging to the Russian government, and we do not live in a police state, then the files quite rightfully belong to Mitrokhin - his own work, in other words. Well maybe the truth is that there’s a bit more fiction in the Mitrokhin Archive than he was letting on, and therefore he has the right to call it his own “work”.

On 26 October 1999 my Member of Parliament made this statement:

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): … my constituent, Michael John Smith, was imprisoned for 20 years for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. He claims that there was a miscarriage of justice and entrapment by the security services. He was convicted in part on the evidence of defectors. … it is interesting that if the existence of the Mitrokhin archive had been known to his defence counsel at his trial in 1993 and his appeal in 1995, it might have been relevant to the preparation of his case, especially as he is mentioned several times in Professor Christopher Andrew’s book about the Mitrokhin archive. ...

… it is amazing that it is appropriate for Malcolm Rifkind to hand over papers to Professor Christopher Andrew, but not to make them available to Members of Parliament. ... I asked [the Home Secretary] why Professor Christopher Andrew has those papers if they are secret. If they are not secret, why cannot we see them? I pressed him on the security classification of the papers. He said that they were of great sensitivity. I replied that I am not aware of the security classification of "great sensitivity." …

… Mr. Mitrokhin came here because he had to get out: things were getting a bit hot for him. That should also be borne in mind in relation to Oleg Gordievsky, who also published some papers. … I think that there was a propensity to exaggerate, especially when there was the possibility of a financial return on the publication of their books. We must tread cautiously when examining the contents of the documents. We must consider what the motives for defection were, and what has been published by those people or on their behalf.

In his letter to me, the Home Secretary said, in effect, “Awfully sorry, Mackinlay, but the ownership of the archive is not with me, but with Mitrokhin.” … I believe that ownership should be with Her Majesty's Government. … When a person is about to defect, a price is extracted. That person should be told, "What you bring with you in return for safe asylum"--and, no doubt, some remuneration for future life - “is our property.” I find it ridiculous that it should now be suggested that the papers are Mitrokhin’s property.

… I tabled a parliamentary question asking whether comparable conditions had been placed on Gordievsky and Victor Oschenko when they defected, and in relation to the ownership of any material that they might have published. ...

Malcolm Rifkind's stewardship of the matter was highly selective. … Those who have been traduced, living or dead, have no access to the papers, just as we in the House have no access to them. It is time the facts were revealed ...

Who the heck is Professor Christopher Andrew? I know that he is a distinguished academic who does not just read books--he writes them--but why should he have a superior position over hon. Members and everyone else in the land? It is wholly unsatisfactory.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind suggests that Professor Christopher Andrew was given the archives, so that he could make a proper historical analysis. That is bunkum. We will get a very partial and selective interpretation, so I hope that the Government will think about the matter again. I hope that they will consider the freedom of information point ...

Since I have taken an interest in the matter, I must tell the House that, for the first time, the lock on my house in Tilbury has been tampered with--it has been damaged--and my dustbin has been pinched. I am sure that it is a coincidence--but if anyone is looking for documents, they will be on the shelf in the living room, between the Edward VIII coronation mug and the Neil Kinnock general election victory mug of 1992.

Well, as Andrew Mackinlay correctly identifies, there is more than a little hypocrisy in all this: it’s alright for an ex KGB man to copy official files and call them his own copyright to publish as he likes in the west, but presumably there would be an outcry if an ex MI6 man did the same in Russia. Clearly, nothing is ever straightforward in the world of secrecy. Now that Mitrokhin has been dead these past 2 years, does that mean the UK now owns his archive - or does it just pass around the family like some golden heirloom?