Gordon Thomas
Tue Mar 9 15:42:28 2004


by Gordon Thomas

Poland's former military intelligence service, Wojskowe Sluzby Informacjne, WSI, was involved with the KGB in exploiting software stolen from the United States. It was then sold back to the State Department after being fitted with an electronic "trapdoor" which enabled all traffic between the State Department and its Warsaw embassy, together with its worldwide network of 170 other embassies and consulates, to be used "for espionage against the United States".

The FBI investigation broadened to include a former Russian diplomat, Stanislav Borisovich Grusev, accused of spying on the State Department, and a company called Synergy International Systems with its main office in Moscow. Many of its programmers are from Armenia, a former Soviet-bloc country. It also has an office outside Washington, in Vienna, Virginia.

It has emerged the trapdoor was installed on Wang VS computers that handle Sensitive Compartmented Information, SCIF, under the supervision of the intelligence arm of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

I was told there is credible evidence the Bureau was "budgeting software like spreadsheets and that its doctored software had been installed on unclassified computer networks at the State Department for a decade".

Intelligence sources in London and Washington have both independently confirmed to me that the doctored software was operating undetected until 1996. It was a time when the State Department was formulating critical decisions about Poland and other Eastern European countries.
The FBI will not say if the investigation is on-going. But its agents are known to have flown to Moscow and Poland and other Eastern Block countries.

Synergy's president and founder, Ashot Hovanesian, has insisted "our company has done nothing wrong. I have asked the FBI to disclose their findings. But no one will tell me anything".
He claimed his company had been "harshly affected" by being "unfairly accused because our employees come from former Soviet countries, including Poland".

The company's software has similarity to a system originally developed by the Washington computer firm, Inslaw. That company is currently engaged in a long-running legal battle with the US Department of Justice over the allegation that Inslaw's software was given to Israel by the DOJ.
The revelations have surfaced in documents posted in a Washington court.

Other documents - removed by MI6 from Stasi files in its headquarters at Normannesstrasse, East Berlin, shortly before the building was ransacked following the collapse of East Germany's Communist system - identify three heads of Polish Military Intelligence as being "directly involved in espionage activities against Britain and the United States after the end of the Polish Communist system".

They are named as General Boleslaw Izdorczyk, who was director of WSI from 1992-1994 and General Konstanty Malejczyk, who served as director from 1996-1997. His successor, General Marek Dukaczewski, is also named in the MI6 document.

A senior intelligence officer in London said there was "strong evidence" that WSI had been involved in the secret sale of arms to Middle East terrorist organisations up to 1999 - "and possibly later".

A Mossad source told me that WSI is "in many ways the old military intelligence service still waging war against the West. Many of its senior officers are a hangover from the former Communist time".
Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director of MI5, Britain's internal security service, has sent a report to the country's Home Office expressing concern that after May 1, it will be easier for Eastern Bloc secret services to infiltrate deep-cover agents into Britain.

A senior member of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorism Squad told me: "we know that there are still close ties between some Eastern Bloc intelligence services and terrorist groups. Those services could make it easier to smuggle in explosives to Britain. Our nightmare scenario is that they could include the materials to make a nuclear 'dirty bomb'".

Meantime, the issue of how the KGB and WSI penetrated the State Department's Wang computer systems could emerge as yet another election embarrassment for President George Bush to deal with as he struggles to deflect the mounting criticism of how the much-vaunted US intelligence community has operated for decades.

"The operation to sell the State Department the software was simple - State just bought it. No questions asked. We need to know who authorised the deal", said Bill Hamilton, the Washington-based president of Inslaw, the specialist computer firm which first created the software sold to the State Department.

The Inslaw software, called Promis, was originally stolen by Mossad in one of the service's most audacious operations. Its then director of operations, Rafi Eitan, posed as a public prosecutor from Tel Aviv. After receiving a demonstration of how the software could be used to "follow a paper-trail" to catch criminals, Eitan persuaded the US Justice Department to give him a copy.
"I told them I wanted it to catch Israeli crooks", Eitan later recalled to me. "In fact, we deconstructed the software and inserted the trapdoor. Then we sold it worldwide".
The man entrusted with that task was British media magnate Robert Maxwell. He sold it first to the KGB and then to the WSI.

Now it has emerged in those documents lodged with the Washington court on December 22 last year - and which the mainstream US media has so far failed to realise their significance - that the doctored Promis programme was purchased by the State Department "on a one-source contract and installed in posts throughout the world without the proper security and vetting procedures".
Intelligence sources in London and Washington believe the software installed in the US embassy in Warsaw provided the WSI with a "clear window into the thinking of the United States" in such key areas as the emergence of the Solidarity government, the reliability of Lech Walesa, and President George Bush's belief that initial aid to post-Communist-era Poland should be modest.

The effects of that initial Washington caution continue to reverberate. The documents posted in the Washington court will add fuel to the suspicion that the WSI and the other arms of Polish intelligence, the SB, were able to position themselves in their relationship with the West.
The renegade FBI agent, Robert Hanssen, who pleaded guilty in 2001 to spying for the Soviet Union during the preceding 20-year period, also gave his KGB handlers copies of the Promis software that were used within the FBI and other US intelligence agencies.

The same version of that software was bought by Germany's BND. But after Hanssen's arrest, the BND removed it from all its computers at Pullach in Bavaria.

The German security service has publicly refused to reveal who they purchased it from or how much damage the software could have done to its own operations.

It also emerged last year that "rogue elements" in the KGB had sold Osama bin Laden a copy of the software for US $2 million.

"There have been persistent reports that bin Laden has been able to use his Promis software to stay one step ahead of those chasing him", confirmed Hamilton.

The documents filed with the Washington court are part of a case that a former federal prosecutor, Charles Twist, is bringing against the US Department of Justice, claiming he was fired by the Department's Anti-Trust Division because he had exposed corruption within the division.
While it will be at least another year before Twist's allegations will be tested in court, they have already cast a light on the activities of Polish intelligence which will undoubtedly cause concern in Washington and London.

They also raise the question of the "spy and be spied upon" mentality in the relationship between the WSI and East Germany's Stasi.

What are described as "a small library" of Stasi documents, now in the possession of MI6, reveal that the Stasi also had its version of Promis - again sold by Robert Maxwell.

But Marcus Wolf, who had run the Stasi from 1958 until 1985 - and now lives in quiet retirement in East Berlin - had ordered his own computer experts to further doctor its Israeli version to give it access to WSI computers. It enabled the Stasi Robotron computers to double-check on what the WSI were telling the KGB.

"It was the classic case of tracking the trackers", Wolf has said.

With its 90,000 staff and 120,000 informers - some in other Communist intelligence services - the Stasi was the most powerful intelligence-gathering machine in the Eastern Bloc. For instance, it employed 1,000 people to bug telephones and 2,000 just to steam open private mail.
Another glimpse into the secret world of Polish intelligence has emerged through the Stasi documents, now in the MI6 registry at its headquarters overlooking the River Thames in London. It details not only how Robert Maxwell sold Promis to both the SB and WSI - but how in return Mossad was allowed to steal a Russian MIG.

Ari Ben-Menashe - the former Israeli National Security Adviser to the Shamir government who later worked for Maxwell - had established a "good working relationship with Polish intelligence". He later claimed that a Polish general "close to the head of the WSI" received US $1 million after agreeing to write-off the MIG as no longer airworthy.

"The money was paid into a Citibank account in New York. The plane had only recently arrived at Gdansk from its Russian aircraft factory. The fighter was dismantled, placed in crates marked "agricultural machinery" and flown to Tel Aviv. There the plane was reassembled and test-flown by the Israeli air force so that its pilots could know how to counter the MIG-29s in service with Syria", Ben-Menashe told me.

The Stasi files reveal how a routine inventory of aircraft supplied by Moscow to Warsaw Pact countries uncovered the theft some weeks after the plane had reached Israel.

The Stasi files describe how, after the theft was discovered, a strong protest was made by the Kremlin to the Israeli government.

"It was supported by a threat to stop the exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union", one Stasi file records.

The Israeli government, its air force having fully tested the MIG-29, apologised profusely for the "mistaken zeal of officers acting unofficially".

The aircraft was once more disassembled and returned to Gdansk in its original packing cases.
By then the WSI general was living in America, his US 1 million securely lodged. Before the plane was returned by Israel, its government had agreed that an American air force inspection team could check-out the MIG before it was returned to Gdansk.

In an observation on the incident, one of the MI6 analysts had noted on the files that the Stasi had reported the details of the incident to Moscow "some time before the WSI filed their report".
The view of the KGB about this is not known.



Copyright Gordon Thomas 2004

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