Editor’s note: The following article about Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa – the top Soviet bloc intelligence official ever to defect to America – was published recently in the popular German newspaper FAZ. It tells a fascinating story, including some previously unreported details, of the defection and dangers still faced by the 85-year-old former spy-chief who today calls himself a “proud American.” Pacepa’s latest book, “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion and Promoting Terrorism,” co-authored with historian Ronald Rychlak and published in June by WND Books, was also turned into a blockbuster feature-length film documentary.
By Karl-Peter Schwarz
Copyright 2013 Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
BUCHAREST – Thirty-five years ago, a court in Bucharest sentenced Ion Mihai Pacepa to death for high treason, and the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu put a $2 million bounty on his head. Romanian, Libyan and Palestinian killer commandos swarmed out to try to find him in America. On Oct. 28, Pacepa celebrated his 85th birthday.
He has long given up waiting for his rehabilitation in Romania, where old remnants of the Securitate [secret police] are still at work. Nevertheless, in September he received a letter from the Bucharest Institute for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism, which is subordinate to the Romanian government. The Institute invited him to Romania for a series of conferences. It says in the letter that Pacepa played a significant role in “unmasking the criminal nature of the communist dictatorship in Romania.”
That was a “big day” for him, Pacepa wrote in an email to his friends. He writes that he is the first defector from the Cold War days to have been officially rehabilitated.
Lt. Gen. Pacepa was the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected to the West from the Soviet bloc. He was the acting head of the Romanian foreign intelligence service (DIE), state secretary in the Ministry of Interior and, above all, personal adviser to Ceausescu. There was little he did not know about the development, methods and operations of the intelligence service, including its interrelationships with the KGB.
After receiving his engineering degree in 1951, Pacepa was recruited for the foreign intelligence service. In 1957, he was engaged in espionage under cover as a member of the Romanian Commercial Mission in Frankfurt, but he was recalled home when it was feared that his cover was about to be blown. In Bucharest he assumed the position of director of industrial espionage (S&T), a subject especially dear to Ceausescu’s heart.
In 1972, Ceausescu assumed direct control of the foreign intelligence service and increased the number of its officers from 1,000 to 3,000. During a visit to the Adriatic island of Brioni, Ceausescu told Tito that a modern intelligence service had the task of building communism with political help, money and technology from the West. In order to realize his megalomaniacal industrial plans, Ceausescu cast his greedy eyes on Western money and Western technology. Tito advised him to “smile nicely at the West, extract the maximum from it, and don’t let yourself be infected by capitalism.”
Pacepa constantly points out that, in fact, Moscow never entirely relinquished its control over the renegade satellite countries of Romania and Yugoslavia. To the contrary, Romania’s independence from the Soviet Union, which Ceausescu cleverly revealed, was the “Trojan Horse” that he employed to trick the West in his own and in Russia’s interest.
And the West gladly went along with the ruse, because in those days many people hoped that because of the communist countries’ movements toward nationalistic autonomy, the Soviet bloc might disintegrate all by itself. On July 24, 1978, Pacepa’s daughter Dana accompanied her father to the airport. She could not suspect that it would be many years before she would see him again.
In his suitcase, the lieutenant general carried a letter from Ceausescu to [Chancellor] Helmut Schmidt. Ceausescu’s goal was for Schmidt to agree to [the aircraft company] Fokker’s having a “joint venture” with Romania. The dictator promised that he would absolutely not give Moscow any technical details about the planes with vertical takeoff capability. The Romanian Embassy had already set up an appointment with Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, at that time a ranking official in the German chancellery. Nothing came of it, however. Pacepa rang at the gate of the American Embassy in Bonn and asked for political asylum. He left Germany aboard a Hercules plane of the American Air Force, which landed him in Washington on July 28.
Two years later, he explained his flight in a letter to his daughter, which was broadcast by Radio Free Europe (RFE). He wrote that in July 1978 he had received the order to kill Noël Bernard, the head of the Romanian department at RFE. Ceausescu hated Bernard. In December 1981, the journalist died as a result of having been poisoned by a radioactive isotope. In Bucharest, Pacepa’s flight set off a political earthquake. From one day to the next, the foreign intelligence service’s network – Ceausescu’s pride and joy – became worthless. Ceausescu flew into a rage. Just three months earlier, as his greatest foreign policy achievement, he had been received in Washington by the American president Carter. And now this humiliation!
Elena Ceausescu, who had enormous influence over her husband, took the reins in her own hands and cleaned out the foreign intelligence service. As word got around that she wanted to staff it with entirely new personnel within five years, there were more defectors to the West. The DIE, Pacepa says, was “the first espionage agency in history to be completely destroyed by the flight of one man.”
Ceausescu lost all confidence in his entourage. He fired four members of the Politburo and a third of the ministers, he had 22 ambassadors recalled and more than a dozen Securitate officers arrested. Like Stalin in the final years of his life, he saw himself surrounded by enemies. He could no longer rely on anyone – only on his wife. The communist Romania that Ceausescu had formed in the 1970s along North Korean lines had turned into a family dictatorship.
Ceausescu’s killers searched in vain across the United States for the defector. Sergiu Nica, a lieutenant colonel in the Securitate, in August 1979 met with Carlos (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez) in Prague to enlist him for the “liquidation” of Pacepa. “The Jackal” found the assignment too risky. Pacepa was safely in America, but there he ran up against a problem he had not anticipated.
Carter refused to believe that Ceausescu’s good image in the West stemmed from successful disinformation by the KGB and the DIE. Pacepa had even revealed to the CIA that the Romanian intelligence service was in the process of making a “false flag” recruitment of Billy Carter, the president’s brother. In fact, in 1979 Billy was unmasked as a Libyan agent. But the president preferred to believe the Securitate’s version – that Pacepa was a KGB agent. In September 1978, an emissary from the American president is said to have actually apologized to Ceausescu for Washington’s having granted Pacepa political asylum.
“Carter forbade me to publicize anything,” Pacepa writes. It was not until 1985 that he succeeded in transmitting the manuscript of “Red Horizons” to President Reagan’s new director of Central Intelligence, William Casey. At that point, not everything that Pacepa reports in this fascinating book has been investigated. But what has been investigated has been confirmed. Reagan called it “my bible for dealing with dictators.” In its Romanian program, Radio Free Europe read from it for weeks in early 1988, in connection with Ceausescu’s 70th birthday.
The Securitate had warned the responsible RFE director Vlad Georgescu ahead of time: “If you broadcast Pacepa, you die.” Georgescu died of a brain tumor in November 1988. He was convinced that he had been poisoned. “The means we used were a success,” reads an entry in his Securitate file.
Pacepa avoids meeting people he is not absolutely sure he can trust. In Romania he published a three-volume “Black Book of the Securitate.” His most recently published book in the United States about the technique of disinformation ( “Disinformation”) contains among other things a detailed discussion of a “framing,” in which the KGB succeeded in slandering Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope.” Pacepa is sure that the long arm of the KGB stretches out as far as ever from Putin’s Russia – deep into the churches, the universities, the seats of government.
“The current disinformation campaign, which is aimed at rehabilitating Ceausescu at my expense, seems to be growing,” he writes in “Disinformation.” “In the parliamentary elections of December 2012, more than 60 percent of the votes went for Ceausescu’s former communists.”
It is true that in 1999, the Bucharest Supreme Court lifted the death sentence against Pacepa as a “serious error of justice,” returned his military rank to him and declared the confiscation of his personal property to have been illegal. The Romanian governments have, however, ignored this ruling. The order for Pacepa’s arrest was still in force in 2004. Was the letter he received from the Institute for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism merely a gesture on the part of Romanian minister president Victor Ponta, as a way of ensuring Washington’s good mood for his upcoming visit?
In any case, Pacepa has many enemies among the former communists who are again in power. One of them is Ioan Talpes, formerly a close associate of Ilie Ceausescu, one of the dictator’s brothers. In 1990 Talpes attached himself to the new president, Ion Iliescu, and became the head of the foreign intelligence service. Talpes accuses Pacepa of having been acting on KGB orders when he defected to the Americans, in order to discredit the independent, anti-Soviet foreign policy of the Socialist Republic of Romania.
Another protagonist in the campaign is a different kind of defector. Larry L. Watts is an American who in the 1980s entered the Military History Institute in Bucharest that was run by Ilie Ceausescu. Among historians, he has disqualified himself as the author of a revisionist biography of Ion Antonescu, in which he tries to whitewash the dictator (who ruled from 1940 to 1944) from any active participation in the murder of Romanian Jews. Watts published his accounts in the magazine “Bursa” and in other anti-Semitic and nationalistic publications. In his book “With Friends Like These,” he praises Ceausescu’s “immensely popular foreign and security policies,” which he says were destroyed by KGB intrigues and Western gullibility.
Almost a quarter-century after the violent deaths of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, Romania is still fighting over how nationalistic Romania’s national communism really was. Pacepa is a crown witness for this chapter of history, and he still has powerful enemies who want to make him hold his tongue.
The preceding was originally published Nov. 17 in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung under the headline “The crown witness should hold his tongue” and subtitled “The Romanian state security officer fled to America in 1978. Ceausescu dispatched killer commandos after him. Even today, Pacepa has powerful enemies.”
Order “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategy for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion and Promoting Terrorism” or the companion film, “Disinformation: The Secret Strategy To Destroy The West.” Get both the book and DVD together – at a very special reduced price.