Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Sordid Past of Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski

When Poland's president and prime minister, the Kaczynski twins, visited Washington, D.C., in September 2006, they both voiced their support for former Polish chief of state, the post-Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, who aspired to be the new secretary general, or gensek, of the United Nations. The White House responded with an embarrassing silence. Although George W. Bush had earlier supported Kwasniewski, the United States resolved to back the Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon.

Many assumed that Bush discarded Kwasniewski because the Pole could no longer deliver for the United States, as he had by committing Polish troops to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. That was to be his stepping stone to the top post at the U.N. Now, however, Kwasniewski is old news. South Korea is more important, particularly in light of its northern neighbor's nuclear threats. Realpolitik thus derailed the chances of the Polish candidate.

At least that is the official story. Perhaps, however, there was another factor. Perhaps the American President knew more than he wanted to let on. Perhaps George W. Bush wanted to avoid a serious embarrassment.

After all, there have long been rumors about Kwasniewski's unsavory past. It may very well be then that the United States wanted to prevent a major scandal. Let's call it containment of the Kurt Waldheim syndrome. The Austrian served as general secretary of the United Nations between 1972 and 1981. In his case, wanton disregard for history resulted in explosive revelations about the U.N. gensek's Nazi activities before and during the Second World War. More seriously, this led to the allegations that the Soviets, privy to Waldheim's past, had been blackmailing him to assure the U.N.'s anti-U.S. and anti-Israel stance.

Kwasniewski's ugly secrets may have likewise rendered the politician open to the post-Soviet Russian blackmail and, hence, potentially, anti-American attitudes. After all, at least until 1989, the politician from Warsaw served Moscow as a secret agent.

The Vetting
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When, in 1995, Kwasniewski became Poland's post-Communist president, he had to fill out an affidavit stating that he had not served or been an agent of the secret police. He perjured himself.

According to the right-wing weekly Voice (Glos), the internal security service (Urzad Ochrony Panstwa (UOP) -- Office for the Defense of the State) under Poland's "Solidarity" government turned Kwasniewski's file over to the courts in August 2000. This was to be the post-Communist sitting president's lustration (vetting). In September 2000, the court determined that the material available indeed concerned Kwasniewski. The court further determined that Kwasniewski was registered as an agent of the secret police, the Security Service (SB, Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa). However, no records were found regarding his specific activities as an agent. All pertinent documents appeared to have been destroyed. Therefore the court decided that it could be claimed that Kwasniewski did not perjure himself in his affidavit. This was an innocent verdict by default. Thus, the post-Communist judges once again cleared one of their own, according to the Christian-nationalist Our Daily (Nasz Dziennik).

Documents Surface

Soon after the "trial", however, more documents regarding Kwasniewski were found. The UOP released a Communist secret police report from the Seoul Olympics (1988). According to the report, there were secret agents in "the strict leadership" of the Polish Olympic team. In fact, there were 5 agents listed out of 7 persons who constituted "the strict leadership." The head of the leadership was the then-Communist minister of sport, Aleksander Kwasniewski.

In fact, many more documents have been located to implicate the politician. To appreciate the Benedictine effort of the researchers and archivists, a few words on methodology are warranted. Much of what follows is available in a very recently published monograph, edited by Dr. Filip Musial of the Institute of National Remembrance in Cracow, "Regarding the Secret Police Files: Methodological and Research Problems" (Wokól teczek bezpieki: Zagadnienia metodologiczno-zródloznawcze, Kraków: Instytut Pamieci Narodowej, Komisja Scigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2006).

The Security Service of Poland periodically purged its archives of certain categories of documents. But the greatest massacre of the records took place between January and April of 1990, well after the so-called "free" elections of June 1989 and the alleged "fall of communism." An estimated 70 percent of all Communist secret police reports were destroyed under the glazed eyes of the liberal Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a left-wing Solidarity appointee.

However, the remaining documents, which are stored by the Institute of National Remembrance, can sometimes suffice to establish some basic facts, and sometimes even the gory details, of the activities of the net of agents, the agentura. This is possible because of the Byzantine system of record keeping by the SB.

The only person who knew a Communist agent was his direct handler, his immediate superior, and the internal affairs vetting inspector, who checked periodically whether agent registration was real and whether all procedures were followed. Even the SB record keepers were not privy to information about an agent's identity (see below). After 1989 only a few Communist secret policemen decided to come clean and reveal their agent net. Nonetheless, few agents have been identified this way. Most were not. But they can't sleep in peace anymore.

Before 1989, each time a secret police officer received or wrote a report, he was obligated to identify each person and object (building or institution) mentioned in the report and insert a copy of the report into the separate files of each person or object referenced. This way not only the original of the report was kept but also its multiple copies.

Further, sometimes secret police reports could be misfiled with regular court records. This was the case with the notorious Major Adam Humer, a chief Stalinist torturer, who destroyed all his records, save for a misplaced copy of his own report describing how he murdered an underground journalist. This bureaucratic mistake allowed for the secret policeman to be tried and sentenced to jail after 1989.

There are also secret police records in the regular criminal police archive. For example, abstractly speaking, if the vice squad of Warsaw was unable to catch a serial rapist, the criminal police would ask the secret police for assistance. The former usually would supply the latter with agent reports from the areas where the rapist was active. And so a secret police agent would share his insights about his neighborhood. At all times the agent's identity would remain anonymous to the criminal police. However, it was often possible to identify the agent because the report would contain his codename, his registration number, and even, albeit much less frequently, his general address (no apartment number).

Additionally, agent identity can be established by juxtaposing the contents of secret police card catalogues. There are two main types: a name catalogue and a call number catalogue. Secret police archivists who were assigned to service the former were not allowed access to the latter. However, they destroyed both catalogues partly. Some cards were individually removed. Most cards were dumped and mixed up. This meant that the individual records of the agentura and its handlers were freely combined with these of their victims. The secret police archivists also destroyed the key to the catalogue system and, essentially, refused to share the knowledge about it with their successors. However, the archivists of the Institute of National Remembrance have been able to restore the catalogues from scratch. Now, one can more easily try to match the names with the registration numbers.

It is now also less complicated to understand the numbers and symbols on unrelated documents without the agent registration records. Take the files regarding weapon permits.

Poland had a total ban on weapons under communism. More precisely, the military, secret police, and top party people were permitted weapons. Regular Poles were not. However, each weapons permit had to be issued individually based upon the decision of a local secret police commander. The permit sheet included the following rubrics: the name, date of birth, place of birth, address, weapon type, remarks, and legal basis (podstawa prawna) of the decision. Usually, the authority granting the permit would invoke an innocuous sounding paragraph of the Communist law. Occasionally, however, under the rubric "legal basis" there would be written, say, 72204, an agent registration number. It would then be possible to match the name in the weapons permit against the name catalogue in the agent registration section, and the registration number against the number catalogue or any of the many extant copies of agent reports containing the registration number and the codename, and the identity of the agent would quickly become clear.

Next, individual files have been recovered by the IPN and the new Polish secret services both by recovery from the former Communist secret policemen and by declassifying records kept elsewhere by related institutions, most notably military intelligence.

Also, there is a multi-level password-protected master computer list of the agentura. The endeavor to decipher it is well advanced.

Last but not least, a master copy of all registered agents is in Moscow. The official denials by the Kremlin notwithstanding, this can be argued by analogy with other Soviet Block services, the East German Stasi in particular. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a Stasi officer liaison delivered the master copy of the register to the Soviets but made another copy and sold it to the United States. It took a decade of begging for the German government to receive some records from the copy, which is deposited with the CIA.

Now that it has finally vetted its intelligence services, Warsaw should urgently approach Washington to ask for the secret police records from Poland. When it does, it can officially confirm what the researchers at the Institute of National Remembrance have found in disparate files.

Agent "Alek"

According to his file, Aleksander Zdzislaw Kwasniewski, codenamed "Alek," was first registered by the SB on June 23, 1982. This was a preliminary registration under the "secured" (zaba) category. That meant that the target was approached and investigated to determine whether he could be recruited. On June 29, 1983, Kwasniewski's registration was changed to secret collaborator/agent (TW, tajny wspólpracownik). His secret police registration number was 72204. His secret police card catalogue sequential registration number was 4645. Kwasniewski's case officer was Captain Wytrwal. The agent was originally registered by Section XIV (Wydzial XIV) of the II Department (counterintelligence) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MSW) in Warsaw. On December 3, 1983, the agent was shifted to Section VII of the III Department, which infiltrated and controlled the media. The agent was de-registered on September 9, 1989. This marks the official date of the termination of his relationship with the secret police of Communist Poland.

However, in the mid-1990s allegations surfaced that Kwasniewski was a Russian agent codenamed "Executioner" (Kat). It was further alleged that Executioner met with his handler, ex-KGB officer Vladimir Alganov, outside of Gdansk in August 1993. When the allegations became public, the post-Communist courts predictably cleared Kwasniewski of meeting with Alganov. The court however focused on this single occasion in August 1993. The crucial "evidence" of Kwasniewski's innocence was supplied in the form of credit card receipts and bank operation records which purported to show that Kwasniewski was in Ireland at the time of the alleged meeting. The bank records were made available by BIG (now Millenium) Bank, which is run by a post-communist kleptocrat, Boguslaw Kot.

In other words, this and other cases of alleged espionage remain open before the court of public opinion. It will remain so for a while. The attempts to allow the public access to the Kwasniewski secret police file have so far been defeated.
This article continues...