Feb 20


While you are considering Mueller’s Friday indictments of 13 Russian Nationals and 3 Russian Companies, and today’s charges against Alex van der Zwaan, attorney to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, former employee of prominent U.S. law firm Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, and son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest Oligarchs, German Khan, founder of the privately-owned Alfa Bank, you might find it interesting to know that last Thursday Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the British Labour Party was accused by The Sun, a Murdoch owned tabloid, of being a “Commie Spy”. This story was based on allegations by Ján Sarkocy, a former agent of the Státní Bezpečnost

(A) plainclothes secret (political) police force in former Czechoslovakia from 1945 to its dissolution in 1990. Serving as an intelligence and counter-intelligence agency, it dealt with any activity that could possibly be considered anti-state or western influence.

The basis of Sarkocy’s claim is that he met with Corbyn in the House of Commons during the 80s and it’s reinforced by the fact Sarkocy listed him as an “Intelligence Contact” in some of his reports. In reality “Intelligence Contact” means about as much as one of Tom Friedman’s mythical cab drivers, just some guy you met and talked to. Sarkocy says he paid Corbyn and other Labour figures sums between £1,000 and £15,000 for information.

Unfortunately there’s no evidence of that at all.

No evidence Corbyn was a communist spy, say intelligence experts
by Robert Tait, Luke Harding, and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Tue 20 Feb 2018

Communist-era files from the intelligence agency of Czechoslovakia provide no evidence that Jeremy Corbyn was ever a spy or agent of influence, experts and academic researchers who have reviewed the papers said on Tuesday.

Radek Schovánek, an analyst with the defence ministry of the Czech Republic – which emerged, along with Slovakia, from the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 – has spent 25 years researching documents filed by the now-defunct spy service. He told the Guardian the suspicions against Corbyn were unfounded, and the claims of Ján Sarkocy, a former intelligence officer expelled from Britain in 1989, to have signed the Labour leader up were false.

Schovánek also poured scorn on Sarkocy’s boast that he used 10 to 15 other Labour politicians in the 1980s as sources, including the current shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London.

Schovánek said Sarkocy’s assertions were at odds with the security files, which represented the definitive record on agents and contacts, and made no reference to Corbyn as a recruited agent, or to McDonnell or Livingstone.

Asked if he was calling the ex-intelligence officer, now living near the Slovakian capital Bratislava, a liar, Schovánek said: “When you compare the documents which he had written and signed himself with what he is saying today, based on that he is a liar. He signed a list of documents in the UK which said Corbyn was an intelligence contact, not an agent.”

The term “intelligence contact” in reality meant little, Schovánek said. Czechoslovakian intelligence officers could have many such contacts, who provided little, if any information.

Schovánek, 54, who secretly smuggled banned books from the west into Czechoslovakia during the cold war, said he felt compelled to speak out on Corbyn’s behalf, despite strongly disagreeing with the Labour leader’s leftwing politics. “I personally don’t like Corbyn. I’m Roman Catholic and conservative, but I think we have to defend people against a lie,” he said.

Daniela Richterová, a politics and international studies researcher at the University of Warwick, said the files showed the Labour leader was never a “witting source”. “We know how the process of arranging a collaboration works,” she said. There was “no evidence” Corbyn was recruited during four meetings with Sarcozy, she added.

For recruited agents, Prague’s intelligence services would include how a contact was recruited, handled and developed as a spy. None of this is described in the Corbyn records. The archive indicates that when meeting Corbyn, Sarkocy – who posed as a diplomat – was instructed “not to raise suspicion” and to keep his true identity secret.

Corbyn first appeared in state security records in August 1977, after he toured Czechoslovakia on a motorbike holiday. Fellow MP Diane Abbott, who accompanied him on a similar holiday to East Germany, was not with him on that trip.

Labour party members active in the 1980s who knew Corbyn at the time said his political leanings were not towards the Soviet Union.

Richterová said the Corbyn records were in contrast to the files on British MPs from an earlier generation, whom Czechoslovakian intelligence actually recruited. In the 1950s and 1960s, the StB succeeded in co-opting two Labour MPs – John Stonehouse and William Owen – and one Tory MP, Raymond Mawby. The relationship lasted a decade, and in Owen’s case, for nearly 15 years.

All three MPs were fully recruited StB agents, with their file category marked up as “Agent” or “A”. Their files comprise thousands of pages of documents. These feature strategies for recruitment and development, minutes of meetings with agents, assessments of their performance, and tasking plans, Richterová said, plus details of communications and counter-surveillance.

To begin with, Mawby and Owen believed they were passing information to Prague’s foreign affairs ministry. Gradually, however, they were made explicitly aware that they were indeed collaborating with communist intelligence, Richterová said. Prague paid Owen about £5,000. His nickname inside the StB was “Greedy Bastard”.

Running high-profile British agents was a complicated and often frustrating endeavour, she added. Stonehouse turned out to be evasive and overly cautious, Owen not well-suited to be a spy, and Mawby notoriously unreliable. Remarkably, the files reveal that MI5 were aware of Stonehouse and Mawby’s repeated contacts with Czechoslovakian “diplomats”.

You may ask how we know all this in such excruciating detail. Well, when the Warsaw Pact fell apart in the early 90s all the Secret Intelligence files got turned over to the non-Communist successor regimes, most of whom made them available to Historians like Radek Schovánek and Daniela Richterová.

It’s really not news that those on the Right would accuse those on the Left of being Communist spys, more a dog bites man kind of thing. It is sort of unusual to have it refuted so thoroughly so quickly.

Still, I think the contrast to our current situation is instructive and I encourage you to read the works of John le Carré.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.