Tags: Romanian | Spies | Under | Scrutiny

Romanian Spies Under Scrutiny

Friday, 13 February 2004 12:00 AM

In today's Romania, former spy chiefs for the late dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu are eulogized and honored while key defectors to the West during the Cold War remain in hiding because they are still under sentence of death.

Such is the case of Ion Mihai Pacepa, former deputy chief of Romania's CIA and FBI. He became the Cold War's most important defector in 1978. Mr. Ceaucescu ordered his execution, but he remained under deep cover in the U.S., protected by the federal government. Assassination teams were sent to the U.S. but never found him.

On Christmas Day 1989, Mr. Ceaucescu was executed at the end of a trial whose accusations came almost word for word out of Mr. Pacepa's book "Red Horizons." The execution of Ceaucescu and his wife during Romania's anti-communist revolution hastened the end of the Cold War, but not Mr. Pacepa's rehabilitation. Romania's new pro-American government, dominated as it still is by the dead hand of the reviled Securitate, declined to rescind Mr. Pacepa's death sentence.

Finally, in 1999, 10 years after the collapse of communism, the Romanian Supreme Court, bestirred itself and canceled Ceaucescu's orders. Mr. Pacepa's properties were to be returned, his rank of general (for pension purposes) restored, and the execution order canceled.

But the government ignored the Supreme Court — until Jan. 12, when UPI broke the story that Mr. Pacepa was still under cover in the U.S. with a new name.

The Romanian government then moved quickly. The Bucharest media picked up the UPI story and began asking the government the obvious question — why did the authorities wait for UPI's revelations 14 years after the West's victory over communism to implement a four-year-old Supreme Court decision?

On Jan. 15, three days after UPI published the Pacepa story, the Bucharest Military Tribunal (TMTB) received a letter from Romania's Supreme Court — presumably postmarked June 1999 — informing it about Decision 41/1999, which canceled Mr. Pacepa's two death sentences and ordered restoration of his rank of general and return of his properties confiscated by the Securitate.

On Jan. 20, 2004, the chairman of the TMTB, Gen. Constantin Panaitescu, signed three documents. The first ordered cancellation of the arrest and incarceration warrant should Mr. Pacepa return to Romania (which means the warrant was still in force up to then, despite the government's claim Mr. Pacepa could safely visit Romania). The other two documents asked that Mr. Pacepa's rank of general and his properties be restored (they have not been).

All this cleared the decks for the government's response to the UPI story in a letter signed by Sorin Ducaru, Romanian ambassador to the U.S. "The public decision of the [Supreme] Court reflects the current status of Mr. Pacepa with the Romanian authorities."

Three days later, the letter Mr. Ducaru was instructed to write was deemed inaccurate by an old communist hand, Gen. Ioan Talpes, now chief of staff to President Ion Iliescu, as well as the country's national security adviser. Any reconciliation with Mr. Pacepa "is difficult to imagine," he said. After all, he told the newspaper Evenimentul Zilei, prior to 1978, when he defected to the U.S., Mr. Pacepa "was fighting to bring about socialism, to impose communism and against democracy. He was collaborating with the KGB. Does he wish to vindicate that part of his life?"

By that convoluted standard, Gen. Talpes himself should be banished from holding public office. During the Cold War, Gen. Talpes was a ranking aide to Gen. Ilie Ceaucescu, the tyrant's brother. Between 1994 and 1997, Gen. Talpes headed Romania's foreign intelligence service from which Mr. Pacepa defected.

On Jan. 22, the same publication, quotes Ristea Priboi, a parliamentarian, saying Mr. Pacepa is a "traitor." Mr. Priboi is secretary of Romania's Parliamentary Commission for Defense, Public Order and National Security and a member of the Parliamentary Commission in charge of intelligence oversight. But he is the same Mr. Priboi who until 1989 had been in charge of "black bag" operations against Radio Free Europe for the Departamentul de Informatii Externe (DIE), the Department of Foreign Intelligence, when it was tasked with terrorist operations against RFE in Munich. One of them was the attempted assassination of Emil Georgescu, one of RFE's political editors, who survived 22 stab wounds.

When a Cold War hero like Mr. Pacepa is accused of treason by former communist spooks with blood on their hands, one can measure the acute schizophrenia that afflicts the body politic of a new member of NATO. Romania is also the country where the Bush administration plans to base U.S. troops for future operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The first chief of Romania's post-communist espionage service was another communist humdinger. Gen. Mihai Caraman was the only Securitate officer decorated by the Soviet KGB for "outstanding activity against NATO." In 1980, Gen. Nicolae Plesita, then the foreign intelligence service chief, brought the infamous Carlos the Jackal (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez) to Romania to organize a terrorist attack against RFE's Munich headquarters.

Carlos was given five videotapes, 60 pictures and numerous sketches of RFE's building, as well as 37 kilos of plastic explosive (EPH/88). On Feb. 21, 1981, Carlos' Romanian arsenal exploded at RFE in Munich, wounding eight. Gen. Plesita, according to laudatory narratives published in Romania, rewarded Carlos with $400,000 that was deposited in account 471 1210 3502 at the Romanian Bank for Foreign Trade under the name of Annalise Krammer, in reality Magdalena Kopp, Jackal's lover and partner. Carlos is now in jail in France for the rest of his life.

Following the fall of Romania's communist regime, Gen. Plesita was kept on the payroll of clandestine services. Now retired, he lives in the elegant villa Ceaucescu gave him in perpetuity, and conducts frequent interviews that incite former subordinates to assassinate the "traitors who defected to the enemy." That's Mr. Pacepa and America.

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In today's Romania, former spy chiefs for the late dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu are eulogized and honored while key defectors to the West during the Cold War remain in hiding because they are still under sentence of death. Such is the case of Ion Mihai Pacepa, former deputy...
Friday, 13 February 2004 12:00 AM
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