Uncovering the Hidden



September 16 2000

A SPY working for the East German intelligence agency, the Stasi, penetrated to the heart of one of the British Establishment's most venerated institutions, newly decoded files in Berlin have revealed.

The mole worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs for at least six years during the 1980s, coming into contact with Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, and countless other statesmen.

Operating under the codename Eckart, he supplied the Communist leadership in East Germany with a stream of sensitive information from the influential think-tank, which is often known as Chatham House after its premises in London's St James's Square.

The files show that Eckart also secretly supplied intelligence briefings on forthcoming Royal Navy manoeuvres and Nato planning, and handed over a number of documents apparently stolen from Chatham House. In November 1987 the mole contacted his handler at the former East German Embassy in London's Belgrave Square to say he feared that he was under surveillance by MI5.

The files do not disclose Eckart's real name, and offer few clues to his identity. Last night pressure was mounting on Jack Straw to act against British citizens who betrayed their country's secrets to the former East German regime.

The Home Secretary has told MPs that more than 100 people have been investigated by MI5, but there is no sign that any will face prosecution. Conservative MPs pointed out that Americans caught spying for the Stasi were publicly exposed and are now serving prison sentences of between 12 and 22 years.

Ann Widdecombe, Shadow Home Affairs spokeswoman, said: "It appears more than a little odd that no action has been seen to be taken against people working for the Stasi in this country. Questions need to be asked about what is being done, and Jack Straw needs to give some answers."

Julian Lewis, a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said: "It doesn't surprise me that no action is being taken. MI5 has an appalling record for suppressing evidence of the guilt of agents."

The recently decoded files show that Dr Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, was the target of Stasi espionage because of his opposition to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament during the early 1980s. He is anxious to learn who targeted him. "I demand that the British authorities release these names," he said.

The disclosure that a spy penetrated the Royal Institute of International Affairs has dismayed members of the organisation, whose research projects and debates have long had influence over British policy-makers and helped to shape their thinking.

The revelation will also provoke widespread speculation about the identity of the spy. MI5 is continuing to investigate British citizens suspected of working for the Stasi, but its officers are not thought to know the identity of Eckart.

The discovery of the Chatham House mole was made after German government officials managed to unscramble the code which protected the index to the Stasi's Cold War files in Berlin. Most of the files were hurriedly destroyed as the Berlin Wall was coming down. However, the index survived, along with its lists of the titles of reports submitted by British moles.

They provide a disturbing glimpse into the Stasi's covert activities at a time of mounting superpower tensions over long-range missiles, growing popular support for unilateral disarmament, and a major fissure in the Labour Party.

Details of the index have been made available to one of Britain's leading experts on the East German intelligence agency, Anthony Glees, Reader in Politics and Director of European Studies at Brunel University. They show that on October 15, 1981, Eckart handed over two documents. The first was entitled by the Stasi "Chatham House on armaments industry", while the second was filed simply as "On a Chatham House study". A few weeks later, on November 27, he gave his handler a report called: "On the evaluation of the international position of Chatham House".

Eckart was one of the most energetic of the Stasi network of British agents. Between August 1981 and April 1986 he submitted 27 reports with titles as diverse as "Planned Manoeuvres of the British Navy", and "On Burden Sharing in Nato - Problems".

Royal Institute launches hunt for informer


CHATHAM HOUSE last night launched an investigation to identify the mole who spied for the Stasi at a critical moment of the Cold War.

Members of staff expressed their surprise and dismay that a colleague was working for the intelligence agency of a hostile power for so many years.

Admiral Sir James Eberle, who was director of the think-tank between 1983 and 1990, denied that he was the mole.

He is one of the country's most decorated living seamen: as Commander-in-Chief Fleet he was in command of the Royal Navy and second only to the First Sea Lord, while as Commander-in-Chief Channel and East Atlantic, he was also one of Nato's most senior naval officers.

Sir James conceded that some observers might "put two and two together" and conclude that he was Eckart, the codename for the mole who provided the Stasi with intelligence briefings on Chatham House, the Navy and Nato, among other matters.

However, speaking at his retirement home in Devon, Sir James, 73, pointed out that Eckart's first secret report for the Stasi was prepared long before he joined Chatham House. "It certainly is not me," he said.

While Sir James's loyalty is hard to doubt, his critics claim that his judgment was shown to be open to question when a tabloid newspaper reported two years ago that he had given a laptop computer registered to Chatham House to a prostitute with whom he was conducting a relationship.

He said that he had had contact with a number of East European diplomats while director of Chatham House, but added: "Nothing I ever said was not something I wouldn't have written in an article for The Times."

Sir James said that the Chatham House mole could have given his Stasi handler a clear insight into British political thinking during the 1980s. He said that he had no idea about the possible identity of the spy.

The files report Margaret Thatcher,
the SDP and the progress of
the Falklands conflict

Decoded files reveal the enemy within


Espionage glossary

EVIDENCE that the East Germans had a spy at Chatham House comes from two sources within the files of the Stasi's foreign intelligence division, the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (Main Administration Reconnaissance) or HVA.

After the Berlin Wall came down, most of the files were destroyed on the orders of the head of the HVA, Markus Wolf. A few fragments survived, including the archives of its Leipzig outstation.

Those papers led to the exposure last year of three British Stasi agents: the Hull university lecturer Robin Pearson, Fiona Houlding, now a 37-year-old mother, and Vic Allen, a former leading member of CND.

Also among the documents were memos outlining the activities of full-time Stasi officers based at the Embassy of the German Democratic Republic in London.

One memo shows how the Chatham House mole contacted his Stasi handler because he was worried that the British security service was bugging his telephone.

Even more revealing is a coded index known as Sira, short for System for Information Research of the HVA, intended as a guide to the mountains of paper files.

Stasi librarians encrypted the Sira index and transferred it to magnetic tape shortly before the collapse of the communist regime and no effort was made to destroy the tape, possibly because Herr Wolf was confident the code could never be broken.

After six years of effort, however, the code has now been cracked by a former telephone engineer working for the German Government Commission for the Stasi Archive, the organisation responsible for collating the data gathered by the intelligence agency.

The Sira index is being unscrambled and is seen to list the titles of intelligence reports from countless Stasi agents around the world, including those that British moles submitted to their handlers at the London embassy.

Intelligence reports and documents submitted by Eckart cover the work of Chatham House, Nato management problems and British evaluations of the Falklands War.

He also apparently spied on the leadership of the Social Democratic Party, which had just formed, splitting the Labour Opposition.

The reports themselves were destroyed on Herr Wolf's orders, but a handful of intelligence briefing papers prepared for the East German political leadership survived and reveal how spies such as Eckart gave the Stasi an intimate understanding of British political and strategic thinking.

One briefing paper, dated January 19, 1987 and entitled The British Evaluation of British Relations with the USA, discussed private tensions between Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan.

Written at a time when their special relationship was said, in public, to be flourishing, it suggests the author was extraordinarily well-informed.

"Leading British Government circles are disturbed that Great Britain is finally losing its status as a privileged ally of the USA," it says. "They are also deeply disappointed on the American failure to honour the unconditional support given by the UK for the Strategic Defence Initiative project. The British Prime Minister herself was displeased about Reagan's refusal to take account of her ideas . . . despite this, Margaret Thatcher aims to de-escalate the disagreements with the USA and to construct the relationship with the USA as tightly as possible."

By 1987 the Chatham House spy was clearly anxious that he could be under surveillance by MI5. An internal Stasi memo shows that he spoke to his handler at the embassy, an officer codenamed Harke, who appears to have called in a representative from the agency's Section IX, responsible for counter-intelligence measures.

The memo appears to conclude that the Stasi mole would be unaware that he was being bugged unless MI5 wanted him to know.

Before it was released from the archives in Berlin, the name of the spy was blacked out in line with regulations governing the work of the Government Commission for the Stasi Archive. A reference to MI5 was also blacked out.

The memo reads: "On 23.11.87 Harke mentioned that a conversation with the member of Chatham House (name blacked out) was being monitored. IX knows of no such fact. IX believes it cannot be concluded that this was the case.

"But as has already been noted, the British are masters of technical matters. If (name blacked out) is under surveillance, the question arises as to why this is being done in a way in which he knows about it. We need to examine . . . why the conversation with (name blacked out) was being recorded by (name blacked out).

"But even here it is not clear what the purpose of this recording might be. IX thinks we should have another word with Harke to discuss his evaluation of such matters."

According to the German authorities, the spies' real names were revealed in a separate archive that was acquired by the CIA shortly before the Berlin Wall came down in an intelligence coup known as Operation Rosewood.

Last night it appeared that MI5 did not know who Eckart was. A Home Office spokesman could not say whether MI5 was still investigating suspected Stasi spies or whether they had recommended any prosecutions. The Crown Prosecution Service said it had not been passed any files from the investigation.

Some members of the network of British-based agents exposed by the Sira index may have been East German "illegals" living in this country under assumed identities.

However, Dr Anthony Glees, director of European Studies at Brunel University and an authority on the Stasi, believes most, if not all of them, were British agents known to their handlers as "unofficial colleagues".

"These reports were clearly the work of long-term penetration agents, who are likely to have been UK citizens," he said. "Germans, even West Germans, would not have had the sort of access these people enjoyed or ask the sorts of questions they were clearly asking."

None of the Sira codenames refer to full-time Stasi officers at the former East German embassy as another document from the archives reveals pseudonyms that include Harke, Hammer, Tommy and Luis. Even the East German Ambassador at the time, Gerhard Lindner, had a Stasi codename, Hans Reichert.

Espionage glossary

The files are littered with abbreviations and acronyms commonly used by East German agents in Britain. Here is a brief glossary:


Top secret: files at the Stasi's headquarters in Berlin

Eckart's grade A report

THE spy codenamed Eckart was the most prolific Stasi mole during the 1980s, supplying his handlers with 27 intelligence reports and stolen documents during a four-year period.

Stasi librarians carefully listed each report along with the "residency" to which it was passed - in each case Residency Number 201, the former East German Embassy in Belgrave Square.

The index also contained the handlers' assessment of Eckart's reliability, usually a top-rated A although the spy was demoted briefly to B during April 1982.

These are Eckart's reports:

Agents met moles at the match

ONE of the most surprising discoveries from the Stasi files is the role that Saturday afternoon football matches played in its operations.

In the days before all-seat stadiums in the Premiership and First Division, intelligence officers from the East German Embassy often met their moles on the terraces. They knew that it was was all but impossible for British security service officers to follow them around the crowded grounds and eavesdrop on their conversations. So much did East German spies favour football grounds for clandestine meetings that in 1988 they were deeply alarmed by Margaret Thatcher's proposal to introduce football identity cards to tackle hooliganism.

One memo written that year by a Stasi officer based at the East German embassy in London says: "The strengthening of controls in public life (football identity cards, traffic checks, border controls) will result in more burdens.

"Those recognised as being representatives of the Socialist states will be targeted and more strongly controlled at border crossings. Operations in football stadiums must be avoided."

The memo says that Stasi officers must scrupulously observe traffic regulations and orders: "Driving after taking alcohol is to be decisively rejected." It adds that if the British Government introduced identity cards, "originals are to be obtained".

The author notes that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Stasi to make contact with its moles within the British Government and says that officers must "act with alertness, secrecy and conspiracy" whenever they did meet.

He or she writes: "Contact [with] colleagues in the state apparatus will become more complicated . . . this is especially true for the Foreign Office and the MoD."

Another document orders that Stasi officers must avoid renting homes in areas where Neighbourhood Watch committees were established. The best places for them to live were "suburbs with numerous tower blocks".

Admiral Sir James Eberle, director of Chatham House from 1983 to
1990, admits he might fall under suspicion but insists:
"It certainly is not me"

Home of 'great and good' begins hunt for mole


CHATHAM House managers embarked yesterday on their own investigation to unmask the spy who had been in their midst. "We will be conducting our own internal inquiry," a spokesman said. "Obviously, this comes as a surprise to us." Staff members of Chatham House said they had no idea who the mole might have been.

For 80 years the think-tank has been the unofficial nursery of British foreign policy, a research centre where the "good and the great" drew back the veils of official secrecy and briefed journalists, academics and senior civil servants. Until now they had always felt secure in the knowledge that under the now famous "Chatham House rules" their remarks would not later be identified.

During the 1980s, when the agent Eckart was spying on Chatham House debates and research on behalf of his Stasi handlers, Margaret Thatcher and Douglas Hurd, then Foreign Secretary, were regulars visitors. Caspar Weinerger also went there while he was the US Defence Secretary, as did the then Vice-President, George Bush, and Lawrence Eagleburger, an Assistant Secretary of State.

It was during that period - from 1983 to 1990 - that the director of Chatham House was Admiral Sir James Eberle, who admits that he might fall under suspicion because of several coincidental facts, but insists: "It certainly is not me." Sir James, now 73 and living in retirement near Dartmouth, added that the revelations were likely to trigger a molehunt, and that several people who had been associated with Chatham House were likely to fall under the microscope.

During a 40-year career, Sir James rose to become the second most senior officer in the Royal Navy and was also one of Nato's senior naval commanders. He was knighted in 1979 and appointed GCB (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath) two years later. During the Falklands war he was aide-de-camp to the Queen and provided her with regular briefings on the progress of the conflict.

In its heyday, from 1945 to 1975, Chatham House became almost the club of the foreign policy establishment. Anyone doing research there or dropping in regularly would pick up more than just ambassadorial gossip: he or she would get prior intelligence of what advice the Government was being given, what issues were preoccupying ministers and what allied governments were saying to Britain.

All this would make Chatham House a prime target for anyone trying to glean a sophisticated picture of the main goals of British foreign policy.

Few real secrets would be revealed: intelligence agencies and British military leaders do not normally frequent the lecture rooms of the historic house in St James's Square. However, few places would be more useful in building up a background picture of how and what government decisions were likely to be taken. As assiduous intelligence officers know, that is usually of far more use than the crude theft of secret documents.

The influence of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, as Chatham House is officially called, began to decline with the arrival in power of Mrs Thatcher. Although its researchers and directors of studies are officially non-partisan, a liberal consensus has long dominated the institute's thinking, just as it did the post-colonial mindset of the Foreign Office. None of this found favour in Mrs Thatcher's circle. She scorned and resented the "wets" and academics who, she believed, were selling Britain short. Suddenly academics who had had easy access to the corridors of Downing Street found themselves out in the cold, propounding views that were derided as dreary and defeatist. Anyone working in Chatham House at the time might have resented that loss of influence, and the disaffected might have been tempted to express their alarm to opponents - British and foreign - of Thatcherism. Chatham House was founded in 1920 and has set up an American link through the Chatham House foundation in the US. Centred in the building that was home to three Prime Ministers, including Pitt the Elder, it holds regular meetings and conferences that are open only to members, has a large library and issues regular publications. Its funding comes from grants, membership subscriptions and a trading subsidiary. Individual membership costs £130 a year; corporate members include embassies, government departments and media. More than 80 nationalities are represented. The past year has been one of crisis, largely provoked by the debt run up by Chatham House and outside criticism that it had lost its edge and influence in Government. A new director, Chris Gamble, was appointed last year, and amid public quarrels several senior figures resigned in protest at budget cuts. The institute is governed by a 23-member council chaired by Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge.

Stasi spies in Britain escaped prosecution


THE exposure of former Stasi agents in Britain, whose codenames were included in thousands of East German secret police files obtained by the CIA and handed to the British authorities, led to MI5 investigations but no prosecutions.

Unlike the Stasi agents uncovered in the US, those identified in Britain were considered relatively unimportant and government lawyers decided against prosecution.

Of those named, the security services decided that none had been in a position to hand over classified documents that could have endangered national security. Those alleged to be former Stasi agents included Robin Pearson, a Hull University lecturer, Vic Allen, a left-wing academic and former leading member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and Dick Clements, former editor of the left-wing Tribune newspaper.

The investigation of the suspected Stasi agents in Britain coincided with the more dramatic disclosure that Melita Norwood, 87, a great-grandmother, had spied for the Russians over a long period while working as secretary to the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association which was connected to Britain's atomic bomb programme.

Although the disclosures about Mrs Norwood and the Stasi agents emanated from two different sources, the former from the files of Vasili Mitrokhin, the former KGB archivist, and the latter from the East German secret police records, they became inextricably linked. After the decision by MI5 not to pursue the case against Mrs Norwood, partly because of her age, and the decision by Jack Straw, Home Secretary, that no action was being taken against Dr Pearson and the other former Stasi "agents of influence", the Government was criticised for failing to prosecute. Mr Straw also confirmed, after a review of MI5's original decision, that Mrs Norwood would not be prosecuted.

The US authorities took a tougher line. Two important agents investigated were Theresa Maria Squillacote, a former Pentagon lawyer, and her husband, Kurt Alan Stand, a former union official. Squillacote was jailed for 21 years and 10 months and her husband for 17 years and six months.


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