by Trowbridge H. Ford
With President Ronald Reagan's re-election in November 1984, the militant anti-communists in Washington and London decided that the day had finally come for rolling back the Iron Curtain, and bringing down the Soviet Union. With the death of CPSU General Secretary Yuri Andropov, replaced by the caretaker government of chain-smoking Konstantin Chernenko, the Soviet bloc seemed to be reduced to a regime on auto-pilot, only going through the motions of protecting itself while expecting the apparent inevitable - its collapse - what Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government was already well advanced in achieving, and the Republican administration in Washington would now follow. With the policy of détente with Moscow well and truly buried, it was time to do all the dirty work to make it a reality.
Andropov's death seemed an augury of the system's own fate. Head of the KGB since 1967 - thanks to his belief after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution that only force could keep communist systems in power - he directed the suppression of all dissent against the established regimes in Czechoslovakia in 1968, in Afghanistan in 1979, and Warsaw in 1981. In these efforts, Andropov was assisted by Vladimir Kryuchkov, the head of his personal secretariat who later became head of the KGB's First Chief Directorate, and ultimately the chief of the foreign intelligence service itself. According to Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin in The Sword and the Shield, Andropov deliberately destroyed the Prague Spring on the pretext that the CIA and NATO were behind it - what he knew to be untrue. (pp. 256-7) In fact, Mitrokhin was inclined to become a mole for the West because of the fabrications Andropov engaged in justifying the overthrow of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin, a so-called "agent of American imperialism." (p. 11) For the Soviet defector, the process was completed when the KGB chief forced the Polish communists to adopt martial law in order to suppress Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement, its Polish intelligence counterpart fabricating a film claiming that it was in the pay of the West. (p. 522ff.)
Little wonder that after Andropov took over control from Leonid Brezhnev, he apparently let all his paranoid fears run wild after Reagan rejected his calls for reducing intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Euorpe, and for a summit to promote world peace by calling for the adoption of STAR WARS. Then, according to most reports, Moscow "went ape" when Korean Air Lines Flight 007 inadvertently strayed over Soviet air space in the Far East, resulting in its being shot down by a Soviet fighter with the loss of 269 lives, including 61 Americans - what resulted in West Germany approving the deployment of U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles. Kryuchkov, whose KGB had long been issuing instructions to counter alleged Western threats, and which Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky published later in two volumes, now used NATO's routine Able Archer Exercise as an excuse for instituting Operation RYAN (the Russian acronym for nuclear missile attack), calling for fortnightly reports from all residencies of evidence of Western plans for a first strike against the Soviets - what Andrew and Mitrokhin again dismissed as being totally without foundation. (p. 433) According to them, thanks to deliberate efforts by Washington and London, starting in 1984 to reassure Moscow of their peaceful intentions, cooler heads and plans soon prevailed in the Kremlin.
Actually, East-West relations were entering their most dangerous phase of the whole Cold War, London and Washington having finally patched up their dealings with one another after the Falklands War, and Reagan's invasion of Grenada. These disputes had been an expected result of tearing up détente with the Soviets, and putting the struggle with Moscow back on an east-west plane. As long as Alexander Haig was Secretary of State, the West would concentrate upon stopping apparent Soviet expansion in Latin and South America - what led to the Argentine invasion of the islands in return for services rendered in helping suppress Nicaragua's Sandinistas and their supporters, especially Cuba. The invasion cost SOD Lord Carrington his job, and Britain's reoccupation of the Falklands cost Haig his. The invasion of Grenada, the most outrageous one until the latest one into Iraq, was carried out to satisfy those in the White House still unhappy with the situation in Latin America, giving them an opportunity to carry out an integrated, preemptive operation against an unsuspecting target, though the failure of the military forces to quickly silence the lightly armed Cubans left much to be desired.
By this time, Reagan's people had instituted, and developed all the forces necessary for carrying out the real thing against Moscow itself while marginalizing all the agencies and individuals who might oppose it. The biggest changes had occurred at the National Security Council, and the Department of the Navy, and at the expense of Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon - what congressional denial of authority and funds, particularly the Boland amendments, had assisted. Of course, in any showdown with the Soviets, the Army and the Air Force had the most to lose, so their input had to be removed from any covert plans - what Navy Secretary John Lehman, Jr. effected by making himself the sole commander of its forces. (For details, see Gregory Vistica, Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, p. 87ff.) Lehman sidelined any officials, starting with Admiral Hyman Rickover and including Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Tom Hayward who opposed his plans, or threatened his having sole access to the President's ear when it came to operations.
They became increasingly provocative. In late summer 1981, 83 ships from the American, British and Norwegian navies under the command of Lehman crony Admiral James 'Ace' Lyons sailed silently through the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Gap to test Soviet responses when confronted with active measures jamming their radars, and transmitting false radar signals of their own. Its air cover simulated attacks on Soviet tracking planes when they sought to refuel. Then a carrier battle group, led by the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, sailed through the Norwegian Sea off the North Cape into the Barents Sea. "They then sailed near the militarily important Kola Peninsula," Benjamin Fischer has written in A Cold War Conundrum, "and remained there for nine days before rejoining the main group." (A conundrum is a puzzle historians shoud eschew, no matter how unfunny the solution.) To corroborate the success of the new Maritime Strategy, Secretary Lehman joined the task force by air transport just off Norway's Lofoten Peninsula, providing the precedent, in his flight suit and aviator's leather jacket, for President George W. Bush's victory junket after the second Iraq War, and celebrating the confrontation with Moscow in similar terms: "We're going to kick their ass. And you guys are here proving it." (Quoted from Vistica, p. 133.)
Just when Andropov was throwing out feelers to ease the tension, Washington staged similar exercises involving three battle groups inside the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Sea of Okhotsk, and outside the vital base at Petropavlovsk in the Far East. Killer submarines and anti-submarine aircraft carried out simulated attacks on Soviet bastions - where Moscow intended to protect its nuclear submarines during any showdown with America. Planes from the carriers then simulated air attacks on the island of Zelenny in the Kuriles. After the exercise concluded, commanding Admiral, and now Hayward's replacement as CNO James Watkins concluded that the Soviets "...are as naked as a jaybird there, and they know it." His new appointment was confirmation that implementation of the Maritime Strategy in some way was just a matter of time.
All the while, US bombers and submarines continuously penetrated Soviet teritory to determine their responses to intrusions, and how they could best frustrate any counter measures. B-52s flew over the North Pole, and down towards the USSR to activate its radars. Fighter bombers were regularly violating Soviet air space on the periphery to see how quickly, and with what forces Moscow would respond. Then the Kremlin, under the leadership of hawk Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, ordered the shooting down of KAL Flight 007 while the Soviets were conducting a missile firing in the most militarized area on the globe, believing that the airliner and/or a US spy plane were violating Soviet teritory to see how the intrusion affected its telemetry, and firing. By this time, President Reagan had long signed off all control of the missions that US attack and intelligence gathering submarines were conducting in the Barents and Okhotsk Seas, intended to tap its vital lines of naval communication, to tag Soviet undersea and surface vessels as they carried out their missions, and to trap its nuclear submarines as they left port or hid in their underwater, arctic bastions.
With the Pentagon slimming so to carry out risky, covert operations against the Soviets, it was hardly surprising that the National Security Council followed suit. With the CIA greatly restricted because of congressional resolutions, NSA Robert McFarlane provided voluntarily for assistant Marine Major Oliver North what Navy Secretary Lehman arranged behind the back of SOD Caspar Weinberger. Actually, Lehman had seen to North's promotion to the NSC because of his interest in re-activating battleships to combat terrorism while serving as an instructor at the Naval War College, and while working on its Latin American desk, North soon had the drug barons helping the Contras, and David Walker's KMS and Saladin firms providing training and technical expertise. North had been introduced to the former SAS Major by Lehman, and the connection soon put the fight with the communists more on an East-West plane as the invasion of Grenada demonstrated. Ultimately, Walker's operations against the Sandinistas proved so succesfull that he was advertising in London for more mercenaries to help fulfill missions.
By this time, the Thatcher government was essentially prepared to take preemptive action against Moscow, though it had far less forces, and reason to do so than Washington. The Prime Minister, in establishing a ministry she could totally trust, had gotten rid of all potential troublemakers among her fellow politicians except Michael Heseltine, and the key intelligence posts were held by men she could rely upon to go along with whatever was planned. MI6's Director General Sir Colin Figures was totally committed to conducting covert operations to settle scores with the KGB for all the indignities that Kim Philby had inflicted upon SIS. Thatcher loyalist Anthony Duff, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), would now replace Sir John Jones as the Security Service's Director General because he had not been active enough in combatting terrorism at home and abroad - what was essential in staging almost any preemptive action. "One thing Duff had in abundance," Mark Urban explained in UK Eyes Alpha, "was nerve..." (p. 44) Duff's replacement at the JIC would be Sir Percy Craddock who still believed that Moscow was seeking world domination.
After Reagan's re-election, the White House instituted changes which could facilitate what the President had only joked about up until now - bombing Russia out of existence in the next five minutes. (Lou Cannon, President Reagan, p. 473) The plan called for Chief of Staff James Baker and Donald Regan switching jobs, and White House counsellor Ed Meese becoming the new Attorney General. Baker, tired of cleaning up everything the President wrongly put his foot in, was eager to go to the Treasury where he could get the necessary foreign policy experience which would make him a presidential candidate. "Under Regan," Cannon added, "the blunders would become more frequent and damage control would be lacking." (p. 494) Meese's addition to the mix was to extol the President's competence and control of things rather than admit he needed a vast education of what his job really entailed - what played completely into Nancy Reagan's little White House world of likes and premonitions.
While 1985 turned out to be the year of the spy, no one seems prepared to talk about its significance, and how it fitted into earlier Western operations and the Soviet RYAN response. By now, the KGB's Kryuchkov had learned that the West's toning down operations and rhetoric against Moscow were just the quiet before the storm. Any preemptive attack against the Soviet Union would not be advertised in advance, and lead to a nuclear conflagation - what Operation RYAN had originally planned to determine. The attack would come as a complete surprise - what rendered the spying about codes for the Soviets by John Walker's family, Ronald Pelton, and possibly Israel's Jonathan Pollard essentially valueless - and it was planned to avoid nuclear war - the Soviet underwater nuclear deterrent would be so degraded by Anglo-American attack submarine assaults that Moscow would admit defeat in the Cold War. For Washington and London, the big problem was finding an appropriate trigger, as with exploding an atomic bomb, for the action, once it proved feasible, and necessary.
The process called for a race to recruit double agents from the other side, and to expose spies who had outlived their usefulness, but would give the other side a false sense of what was in the works - Washington and London wanting to learn more and more about what Moscow expected in any showdown, and how to frustrate it, while the Soviets tried to determine all its bad apples, and turn them around or off in any crisis. The agents Washington and London were relying upon to set up Moscow fatally were Sergei Motorin, Valeri Martynov, Victor Gundarev, Boris Yuzhin, Oleg Gordievsky, Gennady Varenik, and others. They would provide input about the Kremlin's culpability in any apparent first strike, and how its response could be exploited by one from the West. In the process, Britain and America would settle scores with Scandinavia's traitors too, the spies and agents of influence who had made Sweden with its flexible policy of neutrality such a center of concern, and whose remedy had been outlined by defector Anatoliy Golitsyn in New Lies for Old.
The countdown for the showdown really commenced in earnest when Prime Minister Olof Palme won reelection in September 1985, ensuring that he would be in power during the most difficult dealings with Mikhail Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader who promised to reform the Soviet Union. Of course, Washington and London were not interested in reforms but in its rejection. Thatcher played for time in dealing with Gorbachev at the Anglo-Soviet summit in December 1984 by acting as if he were someone she could do business with, provided he was solicitous of and responsive to her wishes. Gorbachev reciprocated in kind the following July by replacing Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko with close colleague Eduard Shevardnadze while double agent Gordievsky, the KGB resident in London who had now come under a cloud, was being allowed to make his escape from Moscow.
This was happening because Western intentions and plans had become so dangerous that Aldrich "Rick" Ames of the Agency had finally decided to spy for Moscow in order to avoid dangerous consequences Washington was threatening - a naming of double agents which soon put Gordievsky's career at risk, and apparently explaining his defection. The agents exposed prevented the West from learning that the Soviets had 82 nuclear-armed SS-23 missiles in East Germany and the USSR under hawk Ogarkov's command, where its ham radio operators were located who could detail Moscow's reaction to military surprises, what was the Red Banner Fleet's reaction, especially by its nuclear submarines, to them, how the Kremlin was linked to any triggering of the whole process, and the like. Once Vitaly Yurkenko defected, coughing up Pelton and Edward Lee Howard as Soviet spies to improve Ames's capabilities, the Bureau's Robert Hanssen joined him in disclosing Anglo-American secrets, now that it was clear that they were targeting Sweden. Palme, who for three years, starting with their underwater intrusions of Hårsfjärden once he returned as Prime Minister, had sealed his fate by denying transshipment of 82 HAWK missiles, and other Bofors armaments through Sweden on November 17, 1985, proving once again that he was no Soviet stooge.
Having stumbled across the mechanism for destroying the Soviet Union, the rhetoric against Palme, and the focus of the Soviet surprise changed focus. Shortly after the statsminister was returned to power, an MI6 agent, apparently Gordievsky, had come to Stockholm to inform the Swedish military commander-in-chief, General Lennart Ljung, that Palme was another Babrak Karmal - the KGB agent who had handed over Afghanistan to Moscow - warning him to be on the lookout for a similar move. Later in October, another SIS officer, who had helped capture in 1984 NATO spy Arne Treholt in Oslo, and whose handler had been double agent Yuzhin, reported that he had discovered Palme's agenda for his meeting in April with Gorbachev, indicating that he wanted to establish a Nordic Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone which, if adopted, would oblige Norway and Denmark to leave the organization. The statsminister was alleged to have discussed the development with Norwegian and Danish Social Democratic leaders.
After Palme stopped the HAWK missile shipment, though, all the talk turned to his being disposed of. Jennone Walker, CIA head in the Stockholm Embassy, even raised the possibility with Swedish officers at its Christmas Party, inducing them to blurt out that the statsminister was a traitor who had to be reckoned with. In January and February 1986, Bror Perä, a known mercenary who was apparently approached about the possibility of assassinating Palme, but turned it down because he would be an obvious suspect, devoted his talents to writing "Framtidsvision - Satir av Nikodemus P." for the first issue of Kulturnytt, claiming that the statsminister was a Soviet stooge, like Afghanistan's Amin, who had outlived his usefulness: "Lella Olle does not understand how anybody can shoot him, but the Party Police says that we can have dictatorship now." Seven years later, when the Swedish police finally got round to interviewing him about the assassination, he shot himself.
The importance of having something like an assassination to trigger the showdown with the Soviets had been discovered inadvertently when the US Navy went after the hijackers of the Italian liner Achille Lauro, and killers of invalid Leon Klinghofer, a Jew, in the process - the dry run for what Lehman, Vice Admiral Frank Kelso and North were planning for Northern Europe. It turns out, according to Ari Ben-Menashe's Profits of War, that the plot was an Israeli one that it had arranged with Abu Abbas's Palestinian faction through contacts with Abu Nidal in London. (For their trouble, they were killed in the lead-up, and execution of the latest Iraq war, as soon as the Mossad and CIA could respectively get their hands on them.) The killing of Klinghofer was a terrible mistake for which Abbas later apologized profusely, and to the satisfaction of Arafat and the Israelis. North pushed successfully the idea of using Navy Seals to storm the ship, aircraft from the Saratoga capturing the hijackers - the ship had actually already left port - while they were attempting to escape on an EgyptAir flight, and obtaining bugged intelligence from President Mubarak's phone about all its details. When the plane was forced to land in Italy, Reagan was ecstatic, uttering his famous counterterrorism slogan: "You can run, but you can't hide."
To institutionalize the process North had used to achieve this success, Reagan was persuaded in January to issue National Security Decision Directive NSDD-207 which operationally strengthened North's Sub-Group of the Terrorist Incident Working Group (TIWG) which had been created in April 1984, "OSG-TIWG was authorized to bypass normal communications channels," Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall have written in Cocaine Politics, " and deal with counterterrorists directly; it was even given its own secure *FLASH' communication network to do so." (p. 140) North was appointed to the new Office to Combat Terrorism, and provided with two key members of Vice President Bush's Task Force staff, Robert Earl and Craig Coy, to assist him.
The new target of North's organization - what the HAWK missile fiasco caused, and CIA Deputy Director John McMahon obliged Reagan to sign an ex post facto, illegal finding to justify Agency participation in on December 5, 1985 - resulted in all kinds of changes, indicating just how dangerous plans were becoming. NSA Bud McFarlane resigned, being replaced by his deputy Vice Admiral John Poindexter, because he could not be a part of any covert operation which was going to take out a democratically elected head of government. The Consortium, the sweet, little arms operation that had been operating for the advantage of Tel Aviv, was now so committed to such elaborate schemes that Israeli David Kimche, and Rafael Eitan resigned, replaced by go-for-broke Amiran Nir and Major David Walker. In London, Thatcher forced the resignation of SOD Heseltine - the only Cabinet member likely to speak up because of any unexpected surprises, especially in his field of authority - by overruling his rescue plan for Westland helicopters. His replacement was George Younger, the MP for Ayr since 1964, and his first field experience with the MoD would be observing NATO's Anchor Express Exercise around Narvik in early March.
Thanks to the attacks that Abu Nidal's men made on the El Al check-in booths at the Rome and Vienna airports over the Christmas holidays - making individual security the highest priority in counterterrorism - NATO officials were obliged to step up countermeasures all over Europe. The Times warned readers that there could be "...an increase in Libyan-sponsored terrorism over the next few months." Then there were alerts that Jewish, Israeli, and American targets, especially in the Nordic countries, faced imminent attacks. 10,900 Americans in Holland were warned to be on their guard. "Swedish authorities said earlier that Interpol had warned Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian governments that terrorist commandos may be set to strike." England was not immune to the attacks either, as James Defence Weekly claimed that several KGB agents were always at the Greenham Common where the CND was protesting the installation of intermediate-range missiles, and its strength could be increased on short notice by airborne troops from the USSR. In fact, Michael Binyon soon had a regular column in The Times, entitled "Terrorism and America", calling for NATO to stand up to the increasing dangers, as Washington was doing.
As Europe seemed to be reeling under threats by the Soviets and their clients - what appeared to threaten the very survival of governments like that of Mrs.Thatcher - American authorities continued to indicate that Palme was the source of the problem. To demonstrate that all Scandinavians were not Soviet stooges, Mark Austad, a former CIA agent, and Washington's ambassador to Helsinki, successfully sued Private Eye for so claiming he said a few years before. Thanks to help from London, and American right-winger Lyndon LaRouche, the European Workers' Party started putting up posters around Stockholm, claiming that Palme was a traitor who should be eliminated. Little wonder that one of its members, Victor Gunnarsson, became the first suspect of Palme's assassination.
Given this environment, American security officials leaned on their Swedish counterparts to let them do whatever they wanted. Apparently, they wanted to recruit Soviet spy Stig Bergling, while still in prison for his crimes, as the fallguy for the assassination when he was on prison release to get married. "Rod" Carlson, who had been involved with Oleg Penkovsky during the Missile Crisis, and was now in Stockholm to remedy the shortcomings of its solution, hoped that he could persuade Bergling to flee to Moscow for his honeymoon when the statsminister's shooting was taking place. To make the most of possibilities, Ms. Walker had CIA experts, working with Säpo's (Sweden's Security Service) section for Company Defense (FSG), install a bug on the KGB's telephone in the Embassy, and a bug in its residency on the night of the shooting. Given the high level of activity by the Agency on the night, it was obvious it knew what was happening.
The only problems that had occurred in setting up Palme's murder were that Bergling was not willing to take the bait, and the conspiracy had the greatest difficulty in finding a hitman - what requires a bit more historical inquiry.
"The Kennedy assassination," Ken Connor has concluded in Ghost Force: The Secret History of the SAS, "has been the catalyst for the spread of British influence through SAS bodyguard training." (p. 354) Britain's expertise had been developed while fighting rearguard actions during the dismantling of the empire, starting in Malaya, and had come home to roost during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Unlike America's special forces and Secret Service, the Special Air Service (SAS) is neither a regular combat unit nor a cumbersome surveillance service. It is an elite corps of individuals who can melt into a crowd with deadly precision if the situation warrants or can do a stake out to protect a threatened target. "The contrast between the Delta Force at Desert One (during the Iranian hostage rescue mission) and the SAS at the Iranian Embassy could not have been more marked," Connor added. The contrast became even more marked when the 14 Intelligence Company, male and female operatives who could blend even more successfully into the surroundings, was formed.
While British expertise in training bodyguards was in much demand, MI6 only provided it in areas where national interests were involved. The protection of rulers in the Gulf states come most readily to mind, but Britain also supplied, it seems, bodyguard training and reassessment to Sweden (Connor, p. 154ff.), the neutral country in Scandinavia becoming increasingly important as the Cold War became an institutionalized stalemate in Central Europe. The Soviet position on the North Cape, and in the Barents and Baltic Seas could permit an end run by its land, air and naval forces which could threaten the whole security of Europe. These concerns became all the more real when Olof Palme returned to power in 1982, the Social Democratic leader long suspected by Western intelligence agencies of being a Soviet stooge. (Golitsyn, p.55ff.) To help compensate for this potential weakness, the Foreign Office agreed to supply Stockholm with bodyguard training assistance to see that the King, Justice Minister, and Statsminister were not assassinated.
About the most secret training and reassessment of bodyguards that Britain supplied on site in Sweden, Connor was a bit too candid about the armed policemen and civilians involved, and what they were capable of when queried about their expertise for the job:
Just to be on the safe side, however, we carried out a simple test on the first day on the live firing range. The results were indescribable. The safest place for any attacker would have been in front of the target, for that was the only part of the range they seemed unable to hit. (p. 158)
To make up for their inexperience, they were given two weeks close-quarter battle (CBQ) training in the Swedish equivalent of Hereford's SAS Killing House during which they each fired at least 1,500 rounds. Periodically, a reassessment team in mufti would return unannounced to Stockholm to assess how they were performing, and to correct any deficiency with more training.
Connor, however, was surprisingly silent about many developments, and some sources, especially Geraghty, in his explanation. With there being such a demand for British-trained bodyguards, the Crown was hard pressed to supply them even for its own people, much less important foreign officials. While the Royal Military Police was created to protect senior British officers, and high-risk diplomats from assassination, private security companies, especially David Walker's KMS, Ltd, continued to perform functions despite Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's preferences otherwise after Naeve's assassination because of the demands on manpower, particularly during and after the Falklands War. (Tony Geraghty, The Bullet Catchers, pp. 217-8) KMS could supply just the right kind of bodyguard, whether it be to accompany an important guest to a diplomatic dinner, to stop a seeming assassin from crashing the party, or to protect a guest afterwards who wanted to thank the hostess with a gift from a specialty shop in a crowded part of town.
All bodyguard missions, though, did not work out as well as their promoters, and publicists planned. With trained bodyguards becoming such an impediment to potential assassins, it was hardly surprising that terrorists started concentrating on infiltrating, or rendering useless security, especially in Third World countries, and around guerrilla leaders. Israel's Mossad took the lead in such operations, sometimes using subverted bodyguards within the target's entourage. While the exploits of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, especially those of the Abu Nidal faction, readily come to mind in this regard - e.g., the assassination of moderate PLO negotiator Said Hammami in his London office in 1978 - the Israelis were also spreading the technique to the Contras in Central America. The network was centered around senior Israeli intelligence officer Mike Harari who had been transferred to Mexico City after he had assassinated the wrong man while murdering alleged Palestinian terrorists. (Scott and Marshall, p. 73)
There, Harari's modus operandi fell upon fertile ground, once the NSC's Oliver North hired in December 1984 KMS to carry out covert operations, and to train terrorists in the wake of the failed attempt to assassinate contrary Contra leader Eden Pastora the previous spring. Thanks to Harari's connections to Panama's Manuel Noreiga, and David Walker's to Navy Secretary John Lehman, Jr., North's Contras were soon killing Sandinistas and their Soviet supporters with efficient abandon, part of the ever-widening Operation Condor that the Argentine military junta, and Chile's General Augusto Pinochet had put together in the aftermath of Allende's overthrow. (Mary Helen Spooner, Soldiers in a Narrow Land, p. 122) In the process, the leader of the attempts to assassinate Pastora, Felipe Vidal Sanitago aka Charles Morgan was left without a mission. According to Cocaine Politics, Vidal was a Cuban-born CIA contract agent who advocated international terrorism against pro-Castro targets while he conducted drug trafficking, activities for which he was arrested at least seven times. (p. 17)
The trouble with Vidal was that he was even more dangerous when he was without a mission. When the Kennedy administration decided to close down all domestic operations by the anti-Castro Cubans in April 1963, Vidal started plotting in Dallas with the cashiered, rabidly anti-communist Major General Edwin Walker to kill the President at Soviet expense. (Noel Twyman, Bloody Treason,pp. 636-8) Vidal, a key member of Alpha 66, then worked with John Martino, a CIA-Mafia operative, and William Pawley, co-founder of the Flying Tigers, to exfiltrate Soviet officers from Cuba who would claim that their superiors had never removed all missiles from the island as the settlement of the Missile Crisis required. When CIA officially decided in June that William Harvey would run things, Vidal and his people were reduced to building up the credentials of decoys LHO, Giancana himself, and the Corsican Mafia as JFK's killers.
When Palme marked his re-election, with communist support, as statsminister in the fall of 1985 by reasserting Swedish armed neutrality against any incursions, even from the West (Quoted in Ola Tunander, Cold Water Politics, p. 118, though n. b. Milton Leitenberg's editorial addition to make it seem as Palme still only suspected the Soviets.), and by making good on the promise on November 17th when he stopped the illegal transshipment of 80 HAWK missiles through the country that North had arranged, Vidal, who had escaped apparently a Castro firing squad in April 1964 because of his cooperation with his chief of personal security General Fabian Escalante, was given at least the task of providing cover for Palme's assassination.
A few days later in Stockholm's Continental Bistro, Vidal now aka Charles Morgan, alias Peter Brown, asked a colleague from the civil war in Robert Mugabe's Rhodesia, Jovan von Birchan, if he would be willing to carry out an assassination. Morgan then explained that he was willing to pay him $2,000,0000 for shooting the statsminister. In January, Morgan persisted with the offer, much to von Birchan's surprise, adding that the operation was going ahead without the worry of any police interference. (Swedish military intelligence officer Joel Haukka's report, "Samtal med Jovan von Birchan, 4 april 1986") At the same time, another CIA agent, "Milan", tried to recruit Kenneth Neilberg, a narcotics informant for Säpo, to perform the hit under similar conditions.
When Neilberg backed out of the plan, Morgan and "Milan" then apparently went to London to look for assassins, as Duncan Campbell explained long after the assassination:
I was told by three independent sources that recruiters for the killing - variously described as a group of Swedish businessmen, with Finns and Germans also involved, possibly financed by a South African group - had approached mercenaries and arms dealers in London in order to find a suitable "hit man". ("MI6, Whistleblowers in Baltic Battle," New Statesman,June 17, 1988, p. 7)
The group was the arms cartel, YGGDRASIL, which would consider at its January 1986 meeting in a Wiltshire country house what to do about Palme, what would depend upon what the statsminister was attempting in the Middle East. "All the sources agreed," Campbell added, "that the former SAS and other possible killers approached had turned down the contract, and had then passed details of the approaches to Special Branch or MI6 contacts. MI6 had passed a warning to Sapo, the Swedish secret police." The source who was most sure that no one had been recruited was former SB commander Rollo Watts who now worked for Saladin Security, the cover company for KMS.
Sapö was completely reassured of British trustworthiness by SIS's message since it had long been told by MI5's Peter Wright that since the Suez fiasco it was no longer in the assassination business. In fact, right when Wright was telling the CIA's operational leadership in 1959 of what was now its responsibility (Spycatcher, p. 154), he came to Stockholm, despite its neutrality policy, to conduct an ENGULF operation for the Swedish Signals Intelligence Service on the visiting Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze to read its cipher communications. (pp. 113-4) This was a most dangerous mission for MI6 to promote since it had just been caught trying to determine the cruiser's propellers when it had visited Portsmouth, resulting in the death of frogman Buster Crabbe. The new mission was to determine what the Soviets were secretly planning when they talked to the Swedes. When it passed without either incident, or new insight, Stockholm was most relieved, though for the wrong reasons. Moscow had more important plans with Castro to exploit.
The cartel's planning had been triggered by the defection of the KGB's Oleg Gordievsky, and the feedback US Navy Commander John Bothwell, civilian intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, and former NSA analyst Ronald Pelton had supplied to Moscow, much of it via Israel. While the KGB had known since the appearance of Golitsyn's book that the West was plotting Palme's assassination, it just being a question of timing, the decision by CIA's Ames, a key player in Operation Courtship which was to catch Moscow in the fatal deception, in the spring of 1985 to start spying for the Soviets indicated that the time was growing near. To get a better fix on the precise moment, FCD Vladimir Kryuchkov arranged Gordievsky's "miraculous defection" which Cambridge's Professor Christopher Andrew has made a career of exploiting. (For the latest, see The Sword and the Shield, pp. 434-6.) Of course, Moscow went all out to make him the worst traitor, adding his name to Golitsyn's of those under sentence of death, and Gordievsky was spilling his guts to anyone who would listen, especially MI6 agents at 'The Fort', about what Moscow's agents of influence, starting with the Swedish statsminister, were attempting. (For more on this, see David Leppard, "The Spy Who Panics the Left," The Sunday Times, February 26, 1995, Focus, pp. 12-3.)
Once Gordivesky had saturated the English market with the alleged treachery of Palme, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Willy Brandt, and others, he went to Stockholm, warning General Ljung that the statsminister was indeed a Soviet spy. This confirmed what the Navy's leading brass had long claimed, setting off moves, especially by Commodore von Hofsten, to limit Palme's treachery until he could be unseated. Then Gordievsky went to Washington to brief DCI Casey for President Reagan's benefit about Soviet intentions on the eve of the Geneva Conference, what led to such a chilling of relations that Michael Gorbachev was warning of a revanchist war by the West at the February 1986 CPSU Congress. By this time, Vitali Yurchenko, another "defector", had come, and gone back to Moscow after encouraging Washington and London about the security of their plotting by informing them of Pelton's and Pollard's spying, by returning with sleeper double agent Valeri Martynov as part of his entourage, and by checking with Ames about the latest details. (For a description of this, except for CIA self-serving denials about false defectors, see David Wise, Nightmover, p. 135ff.) The losses of these assets was more than made up by reviving the spying of the FBI's Robert Hanssen in Operation Courtship.
In this context, the American and UK representatives apparently hijacked the January 1986 meeting of NATO's Special Operations Planning Staff (SOPS), the secret organization to coordinate covert operations by Stay-behind-Forces in case of a Soviet attack, to make it look as if it and YGGDRASIL had already agreed to Operation Tree, the cutting down of the "Palm Tree". This claim depends upon documents that Oswald Le Winter, apparently Duane "Dewey" Clarridge's Deputy of CIA operations in Europe, and the Chief of NATO's Intelligence Tactical Assessment Centre (ITAC) at the time, has supplied, and Le Winter's reputation does not inspire confidence, as is borne out surprisingly in this case, unless one makes the necessary clairfications. Le Winter is best known for his changing tales about the so-called October Surprise by the newly-elected Reagan administration (Vankin and Whelan, pp. 170-2), and the death of Princess Diana. And these documents do not support Le Winter's claims either, only showing ITAC's chief setting up the cartel group as the fall guy for the Stockholm shooting, once SOPS had agreed to send him to the Wiltshire meeting.
Then the American and British representatives told the meeting that Operation Tree had to proceed because their joint intelligence efforts had discovered Palme's agenda with Gorbachev on April 1st, what threatened to open up all of Scandinavia to a Soviet takeover. "SOPS has been assured that arms length will be maintained to ensure deniability," the document added. "Project management is local, technicians imported. SOPS requires details to be kept fully compartmented on need to know basis." Of course, the other representatives were completely taken aback by what Washington, and London were demanding, reaffirming that the relationship between the two groups was completely informal, but the American and British representatives kept hammering away about the need to take action. Despite Palme's stopping of the HAWK missiles to Teheran, what the American representative called "his dubious role in the Iran conflict," the statsminister was allegedly supplying weapons grade uranium to New Dehli, what he had long denied despite the claims of Chris Mosey in The Observer, and Christer Larsson in Ny Teknik. (Chris Mosey, "Secret nuclear weapons row breaks in Sweden," April 28, 1985, p. 17) The British representative thought that agent of influence Palme's actions, and the Vatican's aid to the IRA were threatening the UK's very sphere of influence, what Le Winter was assigned to stop by getting the revelant intelligence services engaged.
Under the circumstances, Rollo Watts' assurances seemed most problematical, but they had the desired effect. When MI6 informed Stockholm of the unsuccessful attempts to recruit Palme's killer, Säpo was most eager to have KMS conduct another reassessment of the statsminister's bodyguards to make sure they were up to the task. Watts apparently had no idea that Operation Tree had moved to the top of Anthony Duff's agenda as he reorganized MI5 in the wake of the Brighton bombing, and the Anglo-Irish Agreement. (Peter Taylor, The Brits: The War against the IRA, p. 248ff.) Ever since the Hyde Park bombings in the summer of 1982, for which Captain Simon Hayward of the Life Guards had been recruited to carry out reprisal killings against the IRA in South Armagh, resulting in the so-called Shoot-to-Kill murders, pressure had been mounting on Downing Street to take even more reckless action to stem the criticism. Hayward's efforts had been most indiscriminate, as the European Court of Human Rights established recently in the case of Gervaise McKerr, and even Britain had been obliged to appoint John Stalker, Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police Force, to investigate the shootings after a 'Diplock' court, Judge McDermott sitting alone, had found RUC constable John Robinson innocent of murdering Seamus Grew in another incident in which Hayward was apparently driving the car.
While the trail of Hayward's direction of the shootings had grown cold, Stalker's pursuit of his role, especially the tapes of the shooting of Michael Tighe in a Lurgan hayshed, was so persistent that MI5 was obliged to join the stonewalling of their release, forcing Stalker to prepare only an Interim Report about the shootings. In the meantime, Hayward had started training for the 14 Intelligence Company despite the shortened middle and ring fingers on his injured right hand, adopting the name Captain James Rennie as part of his new persona. (For typical disinformation about the new code name, and the clumsy control he had allegedly adopted by choice with weapons in his right hand, see his Operators, frontispiece and ff.) By the time Stalker started preparing his Interim Report, Rennie was already working as the South Detachment's Operations Officer in Northern Ireland.
When the West started planning Palme's assassination in late November, Rennie's mission took a dramatic turn from trying to stop the East Tyrone IRA from blowing up rural, undermanned police stations to reviving Stalker's Shoot-to-Kill inquiry, what would give him an alibi for the Stockholm shooting. After the Castledawson Police Station was shot up on December 9th, young, innocent Francis Bradley, who, according to Father Raymond Murray in The SAS in Ireland, the RUC had attempted to recruit as an informer in order to catch reservist R. J. Evans' assassin (p. 348ff.), suddenly became the object of most threatening police action during which he was told he would not live to see his 21st birthday in February. A young Protestant man warned him "... that a certain named person was out to get him with the help of a well-known policeman in Magherafelt." (p. 350) About who that person might be, Seamus O'Connor, a friend of his, said in a statement after his murder: "I met Francis Bradley in McVeys' Cafe. When I was in the shop playing a poker machine, an individual was staring at us. He was 5'10'' tall, well built, 30-35 years of age." (Quoted from p. 351.)
The reason for the delay was so that the Palme assassination could be connected with NATO's biennal Anchor Express Exercise, starting in March in Norway's far north, what Navy Secretary would use to trigger a first strike against the Soviets (Operation Armageddon), once its attack submarines in the Barents and Baltic Seas, and the battle groups of Task Force Eagle along the North Cape had moved into position. In the meantime, Rennie had been obliged to improve his credentials as a hitman by permitting the premature arrest, despite assurances, of IRA informer Frank Hegarty, who knew the locations of the latest arms shipments from Libya in the Republic, in order to show that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was working, what led to Hegarty's murder by the IRA, and Rennie losing effectiveness as a Ops Officer. (pp. 374-6)
The delay, though, did improve apparently Rennie's ability to carry out the statsminister's shooting, as by then Teheran had gotten feedback from North's people about why the HAWK missiles and other weapons never arrived, as Richard Reeves explained afterwards in "The Palme Obsession": "An Iranian military delegation came to Stockholm to protest the stopping of deliveries. That was on Feb. 4, 1986, three weeks before Palme's murder." (The New York Times Magazine, March 1, 1987, p. 56) For good measure, 12 days later, Commander Bothwell was arrested in Britain for allegedly leaking information to Israel about SOPS efforts from Athens to cause economic unrest in Poland, East Germany, and the USSR, operations which both the Pentagon, and Yurchenko, now safely back at work in Moscow, were most aware of, causing the defection of the latter's subordinate, Colonel Viktor Gundarev, and his family for their safety. (Ronald Ostrow and Tyler Marshall, "Defection of KGB official linked to arrest of American in Britain," The Boston Globe, Feb. 22, 1986, p. 3) The arrest was to fool Soviet counterintelligence that SOPS was completely involved throughout the Mediterreanean when it was going all out in the North.
Two days later, Rennie apparently led the squad which so coldly executed Bradley in order to help give him an alibi for the Stockholm shooting ten days later, what they even had to lie about more than a year later when the statsminister's assassin still remained at large. While the tale of horrors need not be repeated here (For those who still want to know almost everything, see Mark Urban, Big Boys' Rules, pp. 214-6), his execution was a deliberately aggressive action authorized by the security chiefs, requiring a two-week stakeout of the target area, and carried out with withering fire, once Bradley, with his back to his assassins, knelt down to pick up the weapons he had been instructed apparently by the IRA to move.
Of course, nationalist people, and press were livid over the incident, as Father Murray has duly recorded in his notes (note 123, p. 470), just after the one he has on Hayward's later difficulties in Sweden. The newspapers were still harping on Bradley's execution when the Stockholm shooting occurred, and Jo Thomas, The New York Times correspondent, revived the controversy under most dishonest claims when Palme's assassin was not quickly caught. (See "In Ulster the 'Shoot-to-Kill' rumors will not die," The New York Times, March 17, 1986, and "Bloody Ireland: a reporter chronicles her attempt to investigate in Northern Ireland - and describes the forces that conceal the secrets of a dirty war," Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 1988.) Instead of being discharged from her position for refusing to follow official censorship, what even threw Father Murray off of what Thomas was up to (pp. 319-20), she was promoted by The Times for spreading its disinformation at critical junctures.
By the time Rennie's bodyguard reassessors reached Stockholm, the place was awash with potential assassins, and rumors of Palme's assassination, what Edinburgh's Professor John Erickson had increased the previous month by claiming that the statsminister's was still offering the Soviets sanctuary for their intrusions into Swedish waters. While Palme was on a visit to Sweden's north, the reassessment team, using walkie-talkies, set up shop on the morning of February 26 near where the Palmes' apartment in the Old Town was located, obviously having been informed of its whereabouts beforehand - what few Swedes actually knew. Witness Jarl N told the Granskning Kommission investigating the crime years later that he had seen a dangerous-looking ("farlig ut") man near the Pharmacy, speaking a kind of Swiss-German to his colleague, and they were both carrying walkie-talkies. "He was 185-190 cm tall, and had pale-coloured hair."
Actually, it would be SOP for the reassessment team to use a kind of German rather than English so as not to tip off Palme's bodyguards that they were under scrutiny, and the team would certainly need walkie-talkies to keep track of what they were attempting. Another witness, Marie R, added to the credibility of Jarl's testimony by stating that she had seen a man with a walkie-talkie too, standing right outside the Palmes' apartment the same day, though she, like other witnesses, did not know so at the time. She described him as tall, a security guard type of possibly German or Austrian origin, and who had blond, straw-colored hair. Another witness saw a sitting man with a walkie-talkie right outside the apartment about an hour before the Palmes left for Grand Cinema, wondering if he were part of some security contingent. "Leif C described the man as a Swede, a light-haired, closely cropped man 20-30 years old and 180 cm tall."
Of course, it was when the Palmes were returning home after having seen the movie 'Mozart' that the Prime Minister was fatally assassinated, and his wife merely scratched by the bullet shot her way, an attempt apparently to confuse people about the shooting having been a professional job. When Mrs. Palme was calm enough to talk to the press, she said that her husband's assassin was one of the men she had seen snooping around the apartment the last few days.
While Palme had been easily killed, it would take some doing to prevent things from spining out of control, much less cover it up.