By Eric Vandenbroeck and
Two issues led us to
investigate what has led to a four (and maybe soon five) part investigation.
One is that in recent weeks, a buildup of
Russian troops along
the Ukrainian border has rattled Western leaders fearful of an
incursion similar to, or
perhaps even more wide-ranging than, Russia's
annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Then, on Dec. 17,
2021, Vladimir Putin demanded that no former Soviet states, such as Ukraine,
be added to NATO, the Western alliance that Ukraine has long expressed a desire
to join, and that NATO cease all military cooperation in Eastern Europe. Such
rhetoric harks back to the Cold War when global
politics revolved around an ideological struggle between a communist Eastern
Bloc and a capitalist West. It also serves Russia's ideological and political
goal of asserting its position as a global power.
The other almost
accidental discovery was about the person responsible for smuggling six CIA
agents who were in bad psychological condition and were in danger of being
arrested by Iraqi forces out of Iraq into Turkey and back to the US. The US
government wanted to reimburse Poland for its operating expenses. But the Poles
refused any payment. Poland did the operation, but the person in charge told
the Americans, NOT for money, but because US officers were in danger. That's
what partners are for. But for him, the most important issue in his life was
his father's disappearance when he was a child. His name is Andrzej Milczanowski. You will find mention of him below. Including
also in part two.
A short history of Polish Spies
Having discussed both
the First and the Second World War
except for 1917-18 we have mentioned
nothing about spies in the modern era whereby a good place to start is with
Poland. Following the partitions in the late 18th century, Poland ceased
to exist for 123 years until the end of World War I, when the destruction of
the neighboring powers allowed the country to reemerge when
in according to Wilson's 13e point should have secured access to the
sea. Which was reversed following the demarcation line in 1939 when Poland
became part of the Soviet Union.
The CIA has the
closest relationships with the intelligence services from other
English-speaking democracies, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. So
close that their alliance is named the Five Eyes. Even make-believe American
and British operatives are thick as thieves. James Bond’s compadre is none
other than the CIA officer Felix Leiter, who returns in the latest Bond
thriller, “No Time to Die.”
But a hugely
important intelligence relationship is with another country: Poland. Out of the
way, under the radar, the officers from this nation have functioned for decades
almost as an adjunct to the agency. “Poland is the 51st state,” a CIA official
once recalled James Pavitt, a former director of the CIA’s
clandestine service, as saying. “Americans have no idea.”
A recent book by Tim
Tate, The Spy, who was left out in the cold highest-ranking intelligence
officer in communist Poland ever to flee the country was Michał
According to the
book, Goleniewski’s betrayal exposed more
than 1,600 Soviet bloc intelligence officers and agent handlers to the West,
including notorious MI6 mole George Blake.
The CIA said that he
was the best spy they ever had when he defected to them in 1961. Goleniewski rose to be a senior officer in the Polish
intelligence service, giving him access to Polish and Russian secrets.
Disillusioned with the Soviet Bloc, he contacted the CIA, sending them
significant intelligence letters. He then decided to defect and fled to America
in 1961 via an elaborate escape plan in Berlin. His revelations led to several
important Soviet spies in the West.
He exposed, in
Britain, George Blake, the KGB’s man inside MI6, and the Portland spy
ring, a group of Soviet
spies who were sending Admiralty secrets, such as details of the UK’s Polaris
nuclear submarines, to the KGB. “He names and identifies some of the most
devastating Soviet bloc spies who have been betraying British American and Nato secrets to Moscow for more than a decade, and only Goleniewski’s information enables them to be caught and the
hemorrhaging of the west’s most vital secrets to be stopped.”
Goleniewski rose to be a senior officer in the Polish
intelligence service, giving him access to Polish and Russian secrets.
Disillusioned with the Soviet Bloc, he contacted the CIA, sending them
significant intelligence letters. He then decided to defect and fled to America
in 1961 via an elaborate escape plan in Berlin. His revelations exposed several
important Soviet spies in the West, including the Portland spy ring in the UK,
the MI6 traitor George Blake, and a spy high up in the West German intelligence
service. Despite these essential contributions to the Cold War, Goleniewski would later be abandoned by the CIA after
making the outrageous claim that he was actually Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia – the last remaining member of the
Romanov Russian royal family and therefore entitled to the lost treasures of
On 4 January 1961, Goleniewski entered the US Consulate in West Berlin and
announced he was ‘Sniper,’ the name he first used in April 1958 when he began
sending the CIA secret intelligence reports. Goleniewski
exposed 1,693 Soviet bloc agents, including some of the most infamous spies of
“No other defector or
agent, before or since, has identified such a vast haul of spies,” said Tim
Tate, author of The Spy Who Was Left Out in the Cold.
remarkable scale of Goleniewski’s successful
espionage on behalf of the West, he is not the celebrated spy he should be,
Tate argues, because the “mind games” the CIA played with him after he defected
made him paranoid and delusional. “The CIA was primarily responsible for
driving its best and most effective spy insane,” says Tate. During his
research, he used freedom of information requests to obtain the CIA’s files on Goleniewski, many of which had never been made public
before. “The agency’s files, and Goleniewski’s own
previously unpublished letters and affidavits, reveal how the CIA and the US
state department betrayed Goleniewski, reneged on his
contract, harassed, smeared and attempted to discredit him and, ultimately,
pushed his already fragile mind into full-blown madness.”
As a result, he says,
Goleniewski is primarily known as the man who falsely
claimed to be Alexei Romanov, heir apparent to the last Tsar of Russia. “His
extraordinary contribution to western national security has been largely
airbrushed from history,” Tate
details in an interview.
Goleniewski was promised US citizenship and an employment
contract at the CIA, and MI5 sent him a silver tankard as a thank you present.
But then another defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn, arrived in the US and managed to convince the CIA’s
head of counter-intelligence that “only he, Golitsyn,
is a true defector and everybody else is bogus.”
to Rebekah Koffler’s book Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to
Defeat America, Golitsyn is a Soviet KGB
defector who wrote two books in the 80s claiming that the collapse of the USSR
was a planned long-term deception by the Soviet government to lull the West
into a false sense of security. He predicted things like the fall of the Berlin
Wall, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the rise of a democratic regime in
Russia. As Golitsyn tells it, in reality, the Soviet
power structure would secretly continue to control the old Soviet states from
Moscow, the KGB would secretly influence the heart of Russian politics, and
things like the rise of the EU were designed to consolidate European (and
secretly, Soviet) power against America.
Goleniewski remained a familiar figure for researchers of the
Cold War for at least thirty years. In The Spy Who Was Left Out in the
Cold, Tim Tate retells, somewhat uncritically, stories from the headline
revelations of the 1960s, when Goleniewski’s case was
first revealed to the public, adding to the relatively newly released
information from the CIA and reports from Polish sources. For example, various
CIA reports declassified in the early 2000s and the UB case file TELETECHNIK, concerning
their hunt for Goleniewski after his defection.
Goleniewski died in 1993 in New York, still claiming he was
Tsarevich Alexei. But not all the secrets he knew died with him, however. Tate
says the one file on Goleniewski he did not manage to
access was MI5’s due to what was described as its “continuing sensitivity.” “I
cannot find a legitimate reason for MI5 to withhold it. I cannot work out what
‘continuing sensitivity’ there could be in a file on a man six decades after he
defected and three decades after the fall of the iron curtain. It makes no
herself is a Russian-born U.S. intelligence expert. Working with the Defense
Intelligence Agency, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency’s National
Clandestine Service, she has led “red” teams during wargames and briefed the
Pentagon, the White House, and NATO on Russian affairs, from 2008 until
late 2016, she has delivered
classified briefings to top US military commanders, NATO ministers, the
directors of the CIA and DIA, the White House National Security Council, and
senior congressional staff.
There were other
important critical Polish spies during the time of Koffler and Goleniewski and mainly post-1993.
Polish Intelligence informed old comrades in the KGB
that, in the view of Poland’s Intelligence Command, the Soviets were betraying
Poland by considering German unification - without getting Germany to recognize
Poland’s western border formally. The second message was a bombshell: Polish
officials intimated that they were considering membership in NATO and the
European Economic Community and open to recognizing the United States’
The man whose father was murdered during
the Katyn Massacre
On 6 July 1990, Czesław
Kiszczak stepped down as minister of interior. In 1981 he played a
crucial role in imposing martial law and suppression of the Solidarity movement
in Poland. But eight years later, he presided over the country’s transition to
democracy as its last communist prime minister.
Although he’d been
running Poland’s government since August 1989, Mazowiecki had been cautious
around Kiszczak and the rest of the security officials
from the old system. He’d waited months before he appointed a Solidarity man to
the Ministry of Interior. That man was Krzysztof Jan Kozlowski (18 August
1931- 2013), a Polish journalist and politician who served as Poland’s Minister
of the former Interior and Administration with the Cabinet of Prime Minister
Tadeusz Mazowiecki from 1990 until 1991. Kozlowski also served as the
first Chief of the Office of State Protection in Polish Urząd
Ochrony Państwa (UOP) from
1990 to 1992.
1990, Prime Minister Mazowiecki appointed a formerly jailed
dissident, Andrzej Stanisław Milczanowski, to
take Kozłowski’s place as deputy minister and chief
of the UOP. This personnel move marked a watershed in the transformation of
Poland’s Communist-era intelligence operations.
Andrzej Milczanowski was an enlightened choice to run the UOP. He
liked to say he couldn’t remember anything about the most important person in
his life. “It may be grand rhetoric,” he said, “but it’s true.” He loved his
mother, his big sister, his wife, and their daughter, but it was the specter of
his father, who’d vanished when he was four months old - that shaded his
existence. Milczanowski’s dad was a prosecutor in the
eastern Polish city of Równe. On 23 September 1939, a
week after the Soviet Union invaded Poland, agents from the Soviet secret
police, the NKVD, seized him and other leading Poles from the city
administration. Other than a note smuggled from prison a few days later that
read, “Take the kids and run,” the family never heard from him again.
With “two children
and her parents on her back,” as Milczanowski put it,
his mother kept the family together in territory occupied first by the Red Army
and then by the Germans. First, she feared deportation to Siberia and then to a
German labor camp. Thanks to her daring, the family remained intact.
With the end of World
War II, Milczanowski’s family became part of Poland’s
massive population reshuffle. Stalin turned Równe
into Rivne and assigned it to Ukraine. Milczanowski’s
family was uprooted and moved four hundred miles westward to a Silesian town
that a Polish government hadn’t ruled in three hundred years. The ghost of a
missing father haunted Milczanowski, engendering
hatred of the Soviets and their client state, the People’s Republic of Poland.
“Let’s just say I wasn’t predisposed to Communism,” he observed. Despite being
on the shorter side, Milczanowski loved to box as a
youth. Well into his eighties, he retained the steely-eyed look and pitbull intensity of a man who could take, and give, a
Free Poland’s first
prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, initially offered Milczanowski
the job of the public prosecutor general, Poland’s version of attorney general.
Milczanowski turned it down; he’d already been a
prosecutor. A few days later, Mazowiecki had another idea. Would Milczanowski consider directing the UOP, forming the first
free intelligence service in the new Eastern Europe? “That’s more like it,” Milczanowski replied.
Milczanowski understood that Poland needed seasoned spies. Given
Poland’s dangerous neighborhood, reinventing the wheel wasn’t an option. He
needed to merge fresh recruits in with the old. So, in July 1990, the Poles
began vetting officers in the Ministry of Interior to rid the service only of
those who had seriously violated human rights during Communist times.
As he transformed the UOP, Milczanowski
earned the respect of the ex-Communist officers who made up the bulk of the
service. As he managed this process, Milczanowski had
a powerful ally: the CIA. The agency lobbied against a purge of the
intelligence services. The reason was simple. Communist spies were often very
good. The Polish service was a natural partner for the CIA.
The CIA was eager to capitalize on Poland’s enduring
reputation as a Communist nation to cloak its espionage. Time was of the
essence. The CIA subsidized Poland’s intelligence operations ever since
1990, when the CIA began joint operations with Poland’s communist-era foreign
On 28 June, five CIA officers arrived in Warsaw on two
flights, one from Frankfurt and Vienna.
The station chief at the US Embassy was Bill Norville. What I loved about the Poles was Norville said, “You could be on opposite sides but still be
friends.” The Poles gave Norville a codename:
Norville and his wife, Maggi, who later became a CIA officer
herself, cemented a family bond with Poland when they became the first American
diplomats granted permission to adopt a child, a son they named Matthew.
Smuggling six US officers out of Iraq
On August 2, 1990, at about 2 a.m. local time, Iraqi
forces invaded Kuwait, Iraq’s tiny, oil-rich neighbor. Kuwait’s defense
forces were rapidly overwhelmed, and those not destroyed retreated to Saudi
Iraqi forces also placed more than one hundred
Americans and seven hundred British, European, Australian, Japanese, and Kuwaiti
men at scores of strategic sites in Iraq and Kuwait as a hedge against military
On the morning of Sunday, 5 August, three days
after the invasion of Kuwait, Krzysztof Smoleński had
just finished breakfast at home in Warsaw when he received a call from the duty
officer at the UOP. “There’s an urgent message for you, Major,” the clerk said.
Polish firms had been working in Baghdad since 1965,
and cartographers had been drawing such a map for years. The map, which had
already been presented to the Iraqis, was a treasure trove of strategic
military intelligence. It showed Baghdad’s sewage system, its electrical grid,
the locations of Saddam’s palaces, the headquarters of the army and secret
services, other ministries, factories, and sensitive facilities. The
cartographers had retained their notes, early mock-ups, and drafts, which
filled three large bags and weighed more than 120 pounds. The challenge was to
get the materials out of Iraq.
Poland’s resident in Baghdad was Colonel Andrzej Maronde, a veteran spy, fluent in Arabic and English, with
postings in Cairo and New York. Since February, Maronde
had been serving undercover as the head of the consular section. Because Poland
was between ambassadors, Maronde was the
highest-ranking official in the embassy. Maronde was
one of the first foreigners to learn of Saddam’s “human shield” policy during a
dinner with a high-ranking member of Saddam’s Baath Party shortly after the
invasion of Kuwait.
In an attempt to get the map materials to Warsaw, Maronde reached out to his contacts in the Baath Party and
requested that LOT Airlines be permitted to fly into Baghdad to evacuate
several Polish workers. He claimed they were deathly ill and needed immediate
medical attention. The Iraqis turned him down. Then in early September, a
deputy minister of foreign affairs approached Maronde
and said Iraq would let a plane land if it could take an extra passenger out of
Baghdad. A relative of Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, had been a
medical student in Kraków and was desperate to get back to Poland. As the chief
consular officer, Maronde issued him a visa; Maronde’s wife stamped his passport herself. In passing, Maronde informed the Iraqi official that the embassy would
be sending its “archives” to Warsaw in three large sacks. The official agreed.
A few days later, the sacks arrived in Warsaw with a
few Poles and one relieved Iraqi. The map brought cooperation between the
United States and Poland to a new level. The Poles presented the three sacks
with full knowledge that US Air Force and Navy pilots would be using the
intelligence to target
Baghdad. As Minister of Interior Krzysztof Kozłowski
told friends later: “The Americans would’ve traded Florida for those bags.”
Just a few months earlier, cooperation between the CIA and Polish Intelligence
had been nice in theory. Here it was in practice.
What I loved about the Poles,” Norville
recalled. “You could be on opposite sides but still be friends.” The Poles gave
Norville a codename: Naughty. Norville
and his wife, Maggi, who later became a CIA officer herself, cemented a family
bond with Poland when they became the first American diplomats granted
permission to adopt a child, a son they named Matthew.
On 16 January 1991, the United States
military launched its first major war in the Middle East: Operation Desert
On September 20, shortly after noon, Norville said to Krzysztof he’d been instructed by CIA
headquarters to ask Poland to sneak - the technical term was “exfiltrate” - six
US officers out of Iraq. He said the officers were in bad psychological
condition and were in danger of being arrested by Iraqi forces at any time.
This was Poland in 1990. There was “shock therapy”
measures being taken to salvage Poland’s economy. There were negotiations on
the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The Communists had lost control of the old
world but the new world had yet to take hold. The stakes were high everywhere
and everyone was making big bets.
Milczanowski knew firsthand how much the CIA had helped the
Solidarity movement, with cash, printing presses, and intelligence during the
struggle in the 1980s. In Szczecin, his own work had directly benefited from
CIA support. “The Cold War was won by the Americans,” Milczanowski
said. “We owed them.” Plus saving American officers would provide a solid
foundation for future cooperation between the UOP and the CIA.
As Milczanowski saw it, it’d
give Poland the opportunity to show that it was loyal to the United States. And
as Norville saw it, it’d give the CIA the opportunity
to confirm the wisdom of its decision to collaborate with its former
Milczanowski however worried that either might nix the mission.
The presence of thousands of Polish workers in Iraq coupled with Saddam’s
apparent willingness to take revenge on civilians raised the risk of negative
consequences in case of failure. Among those consequences, Milczanowski
considered, was the collapse of the new Polish government. “I made the decision
so I could take all of the blame if we flopped,” Milczanowski
said. “The downside was so huge that only a deputy minister like me was stupid
enough to try.”
On October 12, 1990, a LOT Airlines plane with 180
seats took off from Warsaw, bound for Baghdad. Only two passengers were on
board: Krzysztof Płomiński, the newly appointed
ambassador to Iraq, and a second secretary assigned to the embassy named
Meanwhile, in Warsaw, Smoleński
directed his team to count the checkpoints around Baghdad and on the major
routes leading out of the city.
Since then known as Operation Simoom, on
October 14, the colonel managing security at the embassy went over the
prisoner-of-war code of conduct with the six men. The six also learned the
technique of using their fingers to pass a message if they were photographed in
The order was that they were going to pretend that
they were Polish engineers. They were given names, fake bios, and a Polish
phrasebook and were ordered to start memorizing. They were told they’d be
provided with Polish passports and that they’d leave Iraq with some other
Delegations of American and Polish intelligence
officers began crisscrossing the Atlantic. American CIA officers, masquerading
as employees of private contractors, came to Poland to lecture at Poland’s
Intelligence Training Center at Stare Kiejkuty, in
the scenic Mazurian Lakes region northeast of Warsaw.
Polish spies went to the United States for training in counterterrorism,
counterintelligence, recruitment, and other skills. The US government began
providing Polish Intelligence with millions of dollars in cash and equipment. Rozbicki and others helped Poland establish an analysis
section in the UOP.
It was six twenty in the evening on October 25, 1990.
The group, of six Americans along with two polish officers, squeezed into a VW
Passat station wagon.
The Polish embassy in Ankara had provided
the Polish officers with a one-pound sack of Turkish lira to feed the
phone. Thye immediately called international
long-distance to Warsaw.
Spy chief Henryk Jasik was
at his desk. Just received the package in good shape, they reported. No
damages. we are shipping it further up the road. That was at seven in Turkey
and six in Warsaw. Almost immediately, a cable winged its way from the US embassy
to Langley, Virginia, where it was noon. There, the roomful of CIA officers
who’d been monitoring the situation erupted in cheers. Milczanowski
told Prime Minister Mazowiecki a day later. After hearing the story, Mazowiecki
paused to let the news sink in. Then a look of relief spread over his
In Warsaw, as the men deplaned polish intelligence
officers took them to a dacha where Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had stayed
during a state visit in 1988.
The US government wanted to reimburse Poland for its
expenses in conducting the operation. But the Poles refused any kind
of payment. Poland did the operation, Milczanowski
told the Americans, NOT for money, but because US officers were in danger.
That’s what partners are for.
The Poles did their best to make sure that no one knew
about the operation. Word of the mission didn’t leak
to the Western media until 1995.
Joining with CIA operations
Next senior CIA officers came to Poland to advise Milczanowski on how to reform the agency to cope with the
challenges of the new world. A veteran operations officer who’d managed the
CIA’s liaison with the rest of the US intelligence community spent hours with Milczanowski helping him understand how the CIA fit into
the US system.
Poland was in an unusual position. It had embassies in
countries that Americans couldn’t access. Many of those embassies sat on large
plots of land, a legacy of the Cold War, where, as a socialist brother, Poland
had been offered choice swaths of real estate in central locations. This was
true in Beijing; it was also true in Pyongyang, where Poland’s embassy occupied
a veritable campus near the much smaller British mission.
For a while, Poland considered selling its embassy
campuses in Pyongyang and in other cities around the world so it could downsize
to cheaper diplomatic digs. Washington opposed this plan and the Poles didn’t
sell. Pretty soon, Polish diplomatic couriers began bringing American-made
intelligence equipment to the embassy in North Korea to fill up the otherwise
empty space. Even as trade evaporated between North Korea and Poland, the
traffic between Warsaw and Pyongyang picked up. So did CIA financial contributions
to the coffers of the UOP.
In April 1990 also, the Soviet Union also finally
acknowledged what everybody had known. Fifty years earlier, Soviet forces had
Katyn Massacre, murdering twenty-two thousand Polish military officers,
government officials, and leading intellectuals from April to May 1940. On a
trip to Moscow in 1991, UOP director Milczanowski was
summoned to KGB headquarters at Lubyanka Square. A Soviet official met him
outside, handed him a list, and walked away. On the list was his father’s name,
Stanisław Jozéfowicz Milczanowski, and that of thirty other Poles. The list
confirmed that all of them had been shot in the forests of western Russia.
Milczanowski had never entertained any fantasies that his father
was still alive in Siberia or elsewhere in the Soviet gulag. But seeing his
father’s name on a piece of paper in front of the headquarters of the Soviet
secret police brought a grim finality to the story of a man who, in Milczanowski’s estimation, had watched over him all his
life. It also underscored the otherworldly compassion evinced by Milczanowski and the rest of his comrades in the Solidarity
movement who refrained from exacting revenge on the Communists in their midst.
Intelligence cooperation was strengthened and
formalized by the visit of the next CIA director, Robert Gates, to
Poland in October 1992. This time it wasn’t secret. Gates’s trip
inaugurated permanent top-level contacts between the CIA, the FBI, the UOP, and
Poland’s military intelligence service. Subsequent CIA directors were eager to
put Poland on their itineraries: the Poles didn’t criticize the CIA (or the
FBI) like some other allied services did.
North Korea was just one place where Poland had access
and the United States did not. Cuba was another.