I nicknamed Professor Christopher Andrew The Cambridge Parrot because of his habit of mouthing the words given to him by his masters in MI5 and MI6. Unfortunately, once a parrot learns to speak, it has the annoying habit of using the same phrases over and over again. This is the case here, because in Christopher Andrew's new book he has repeated most of what he was taught to say about me in the Mitrokhin Archive. However, the interesting thing are the differences, because this reveals far more about what was in the minds of Andrew's MI5 masters than they probably realised.
The Defence of the Realm
The intelligence from KGB files provided by Vasili Mitrokhin in 1992 suggests that there were fewer new British Line X recruits during the 1970s than in the decade before Operation FOOT. The most important new recruit was, almost certainly, Michael John Smith (codenamed BORG), a Communist electronics engineer. The secretary of the Surrey Communist Party in the early 1970s, Richard Geldart, later described Smith as an ‘out-and-out Tankie’ - a hardline supporter of the crushing of the Prague Spring by Soviet tanks in 1968: ‘Not to put too fine a point on it, he was the total nerd. There was socialising going on, but he was not part of it.’(97) A Line X officer at the London residency, Viktor Alekseyevich Oshchenko, made initial contact with Smith in a pub near Smith’s flat at Kingston-on-Thames in May 1975. On instructions from Oshchenko, Smith left the Communist Party, ceased trade union activity, became a regular reader of the Daily Telegraph, joined a local tennis club and - as his KGB file quaintly puts it – ‘endeavoured to display his loyalty to the authorities’.(98)
Michael John Smith first came to the attention of the Security Service in November 1971 at the age of twenty-three, when surveillance of the CPGB revealed a membership application from a ‘Michael Smith’ in Birmingham. Both the Service and the local police, however, failed to identify him. In January 1973 the Service received a report that an engineer called Michael John Smith with an address in Chessington had attended a district congress of the CPGB in Surrey. Because the surname was so common and the address was different, no connection was made with the Birmingham Smith. By a remarkable coincidence, the Surrey Communist Party contained another Michael John Smith and the 1973 report, like some subsequent reports, was wrongly placed on his file. In July 1976 the Michael John Smith recruited by Oshchenko began work as a test engineer in the Quality Assurance department of EMI Defence Electronics, a job which required a normal vetting (NV) security clearance giving him access to material classified up to secret. Since C Branch, because of the filing error, had no knowledge of Smith’s Communist background, he was given the clearance. In the spring of 1977 the Service’s earlier filing error was corrected when it was discovered that the Smith working for EMI had been active in the Surrey District Communist Party from 1973 to 1976. The C2 adviser to EMI, a List X firm (that is, working on classified government contracts), did not, however, raise the case with them until February 1978 - a delay understandably criticized in a later Security Commission report. After a series of discussions between the Service, EMI and MoD, Smith’s security clearance was revoked and he was moved to unclassified work.(99)
One reason for C2’s lack of urgency was almost certainly, as a later Director K acknowledged, ‘the perception in K Branch that by the 1970s the KGB did not recruit members of the CPGB as agents ... I remember absorbing it myself in my early years in the Branch.’(100) Earlier in the Cold War, following well-publicized cases on both sides of the Atlantic in which Communists had either conducted or assisted Soviet espionage, the Centre had become much more wary about recruiting Party members. Lyalin had reported to the Security Service after his defection: ‘The KGB are not supposed to cultivate or recruit known Communists. If after recruiting an agent they discovered that he was a Communist, they would try to modify his behaviour as far as the outside world was concerned and renounce his Communist views.’(101) But though Directorate K did not realize it for over a decade, Lyalin had been far too categorical. As in the case of Smith, the Centre was quite capable of making exceptions.(102)
For a year before Smith lost his security clearance in 1978, he had been working on the top-secret Project XN-7I5, developing and testing radar fuses for Britain’s free-fall nuclear bomb.(103) The KGB passed the documents on Project XN-7I5 provided by Smith to N. V. Serebrov and other nuclear weapons specialists at a secret Soviet military research institute codenamed Enterprise G-4598, who succeeded in building a replica of the British radar fuse. Smith’s intelligence, however, seemed too good to be true. Serebrov and his colleagues were puzzled as to how Smith had been able to obtain the radio frequency on which the detonator was to operate. This information, they believed, was so sensitive that it should not have appeared even in the top-secret documents on the design and operation of the detonator to which Smith had access. Armed with a knowledge of the radio frequency, Soviet forces would be able to create radio interference which would prevent the detonator from operating. The Centre, like the Soviet nuclear weapons specialists, also seems to have been suspicious of the ease and speed with which an engineer with a previous reputation as a staunchly pro-Soviet Communist had been able to gain access to one of Britain’s most highly classified nuclear secrets so soon after going through the motions of leaving the Party and switching from the Morning Star to the Daily Telegraph. Its suspicions that Smith’s intelligence on the radar fuse might have been a sophisticated deception seem to have strengthened when he told his controller in 1978 that he had lost his security clearance and, for the time being, could no longer provide classified information.(104)
To try to resolve its doubts the Centre devised a series of tests to check Smith’s reliability. The most detailed, personally approved by the KGB Chairman, Yuri Andropov, and termed in KGB jargon ‘a psycho-physiological test using a non-contact polygraph’, was conducted by KGB officers in Vienna in August 1979. Smith was asked more than 120 questions (all ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and his replies secretly recorded. Subsequent analysis of the recording reassured the Centre that he was not, as it had thought possible, engaged in a grand deception orchestrated by British intelligence. Though Smith had been led to suppose that the ‘psycho-physiological test’ was a routine formality, it had never before been used by the KGB outside the Soviet Union. The Centre was so pleased with its success that it decided to use the same method to check some other agents.(105) The excitement of working for the KGB seems to have appealed to Smith. A hint of the exotic began to enliven a hitherto drab lifestyle. In 1979 he got married, took up flamenco dancing, began cooking Spanish and Mexican cuisine, and gave dinner parties at which he served his own home-made wine.(106) Smith also began a campaign to recover his security clearance at EMI, even drafting a personal appeal to Mrs Thatcher, to whom he complained, ‘There is a cloud over me which I cannot dispel.’ He had made little progress in dispelling the cloud by the time he was made redundant in 1985. No doubt because of his lack of access to classified material, the KGB had broken contact with him at least a year previously, though it was later to recontact him.(107) In November 1993 Smith was sentenced to twenty-five years’ imprisonment (reduced to twenty on appeal) for collecting and communicating material in the period 1990-92 while working for GEC ‘for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state’.(108)
Despite Line X success in running Michael John Smith and ACE, Operation FOOT had turned the United Kingdom into a hard target for Soviet intelligence. It remained so for the rest of the Cold War. Material smuggled out of KGB archives by Vasili Mitrokhin later revealed that, because of the difficult operating conditions in London, at least six (probably more) British Line X agents either met their case officers outside the UK or were controlled by residencies elsewhere in Europe.(109) Operating conditions were also made more difficult by the C Branch advisers to List X firms. The uncharacteristic error made in the Michael Smith case was an exception which proved the rule - evidence of how important protective security was as a defence against Soviet S&T operations.
The Defence of the Realm page 583
The Defence of the Realm page 585
The Defence of the Realm page 586
During the 1980s Line X (scientific and technological intelligence) in the KGB London residency had greater success than Line PR.(126) The last major success of the residency in the Thatcher era, in the autumn of 1990, was to resume running the electronics engineer Michael John Smith, who had so far escaped detection by the Security Service.(127)
The Defence of the Realm page 730
There were of course some able KGB officers who succeeded in slipping through the net. Possibly the ablest was Viktor Oshchenko of Line X, who was responsible for the recruitment of Michael John Smith, probably the most important espionage case in Britain still unresolved at the end of the Cold War.(137)
The Defence of the Realm page 732
97 John Steele, ‘25 years for the Spy Who Stayed in the Cold’, Daily Telegraph, 18 November 1993.
98 Andrew and Mitrokhin, Mitrokhin Archive, p. 550.
99 Report of the Security Commission (Cm 2930), July 1995.
100 Security Service Archives.
101 Security Service Archives.
102 Director K wrote in 1994: ‘The message from the defector reports - particularly in the mid 1980s - is consistent: exceptions could be made, there was no ban on former members etc.’ Security Service Archives.
103 Report of the Security Commission (Cm 2930), July 1995, chs 2-4.
104 Andrew and Mitrokhin, Mitrokhin Archive, pp. 550-51.
105 Ibid., pp. 551-2.
106 ‘ “Boring” idealist who spied for Russia gets 25 years’, The Times, 19 Nov. 1993.
107 Report of the Security Commission, July 1995 (Cm 2930). Andrew and Mitrokhin, Mitrokhin Archive, pp. 552-3.
108 Though Smith was tried only on charges relating to his espionage between 1990 and 1992, the Security Commission concluded that ‘the most serious of Smith’s known espionage activities occurred whilst he was working for EMI.’ Report of the Security Commission, July 1995 (Cm 2930).
The Defence of the Realm page 957
127 See above, pp. 583-5.
137 See above, pp. 583-5.
The Defence of the Realm page 975