by News WeeklyNews Weekly
Britain: Whitewash over East German espionage in UK
, October 7, 2000
The long tradition of the British "Establishment" protecting its own - even when they betrayed their own country - has been confirmed with revelations in the London Times that a spy working for the East German communist intelligence agency, the Stasi, supplied information from the Royal Institute of International Affairs, where he worked for at least six years in the 1980s.
The information comes from recently decoded files in Berlin. But there is no sign that the British Government was taking the issue seriously, despite the press revelations.
In contrast to the United States, where Stasi spies have been tried and sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment, there has been not one case in which Stasi agents in Britain have been prosecuted.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs is located at Chatham House, former home of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and William Ewart Gladstone, British Prime Ministers in the 18th and 19th Centuries respectively.
For decades, it has been regarded as an unofficial club of the British foreign policy establishment, where members would get access to off-the-record foreign policy briefings, access detailed research on British and Allied foreign policy, and glean what was happening inside the British government.
The evidence implicating a trusted member of Chatham House with East German espionage included memos from Stasi officers based at the East German Embassy in London, to the effect that the Chatham House spy was worried that Britain's counter-intelligence service, MI5, was bugging his telephone.
It also included an index to intelligence reports compiled by Stasi agents, and sent to the Stasi HQ in East Germany.
This index, recently decoded, includes a large number of documents prepared by an agent code-named "Eckart", discussing the work of Chatham House, NATO, the formation of the British Social Democratic Party (a breakaway from Labour) and the Falklands War.
The actual reports were destroyed at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. However, the index shows that in September 1981, Eckart handed over a document called "British Ideas on the Creation of NATO Contingents for Operations outside Europe", and a month later, he gave them a document entitled, "Chatham House on Armaments Industry". A month later, he handed over a report called, "On the Evaluation of the International Position of Chatham House".
Among the other documents he handed over was one called "Planned Manoeuvres of the British Navy", and another called "On the Position of Leading British Military Figures on Waging Nuclear War".
Previously, a number of agents for the East German spy agency in Britain have been unmasked, including Dick Clements, former editor of the left-wing Tribune newspaper, Dr Robin Person, a Hull University lecturer, and Vic Allen, an academic and former leader of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). None have been prosecuted.
The response of the British government to the latest revelations has been extraordinary. MI5 told The Times that it knew nothing of the Stasi agent named "Eckart". The Home Office was unable to say whether MI5 is still investigating any suspected Stasi spies; and the Crown Prosecution Service said it had not received any files on which to base legal action.
Staff members at Chatham House were similarly unable to cast any light on the affair, saying they had "no idea" who the mole might have been.
One person whom The Times considered might fall under suspicion was the director of Chatham House from 1983 to 1990, Admiral Sir James Eberle.
Although conceding that he might be under suspicion because of several coincidental facts, Admiral Eberle insisted that he was not the spy.
During his naval career, Admiral Eberle rose to become the second most senior officer in the Royal Navy and a senior NATO commander. He was aide-de-camp to the Queen during the Falklands War, and provided her with regular briefings on the progress of the conflict.
An Opposition spokesman, Julian Lewis, told The Times, "It doesn't surprise me that no action is being taken. MI5 has an appalling record for suppressing evidence of the guilt of agents."
One would have thought that the British Government would have rigorously pursued cases of betrayal of Britain's national interest to communist East Germany, if only to protect the innocent.
The Government's lack of enthusiasm about unmasking those who sold out their country to communist East Germany strongly suggests that there are skeletons in the closet which it does not want to disturb.
Inevitably, this will raise suspicions that the evidence is not being pursued to protect the guilty.