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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK

Christopher Andrew answers your spying questions

As co-author of the book The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Cambridge academic Professor Christopher Andrew is at the centre of the spy scandal that has shocked the country.

Click here to listen to Professor Christopher Andrew answer questions from BBC News Online users
Professor Andrew answered YOUR questions LIVE online, a full written transcription of his replies appears below.

Steven Gavrilovic, United Kingdom: How many British Soviet agents do you think there are left in the UK, and do you think they should be prosecuted for their crimes, even if they were committed 50 years ago?

Britain Betrayed
Christopher Andrew: Nobody has done a complete count, and remember that Mitrokhin despite the fact that he got the contents out of thousands of top secret files out of the KGB, couldn't get them all out.

I think there are a significant number of still unknown ones from the really golden age. The golden age goes from the years in which Melita Norwood and the magnificent five - the Cambridge spies- were recruited in the mid-1930s to 1951, when two of the Cambridge Spies defected to the Soviet Union the others came under suspicion. Then you've got the next 20 years, 1951-1971 and they're still doing pretty well, but not that well. And then from 1971, Britain at last gets the message and it expels over 100 Soviet foreign intelligence officers from Britain. That makes it impossible for them to run quite as many as they had before.

Then the next period, from 1971 to the present day, is the period when the major spies are getting scientific and technological secrets, quite often business secrets rather than government secrets. What Mitrokhin revealed are the code names of a dozen scientific and technological spies who we didn't know about before. But I rather doubt there are many more names still to be revealed from that last period.

News Online: So do you personally think that they should be prosecuted?

Christopher Andrew: Well it all depends on which one. First of all I'm not a lawyer, so I tend to judge all matters which have to do with human beings, with heart rather than with head. I look at someone who does something which is vile, for vile reasons, as being far far worse than someone who does something vile with good intentions, however mistaken they may be.

There's no reasonable doubt that when Melita Norwood started working for Stalin's Russia, she did so not because she particularly liked the idea of millions of people's lives being taken away from them by a brutal and sadistic dictator, but because she looked at it through red-tinted spectacles. This was the first state in world history, run by and for workers, who didn't have to suffer mass-unemployment as in Britain.

So if only she would now admit that she'd made an honest mistake. I would just wish her to spend the rest of her life at peace in her lovely garden. What sticks in my throat at the moment is not that she made an honest mistake over 50 years ago, but that she still refuses to admit that she did.

Liam Gray, UK: Why has it taken these revelations so long to surface when former KGB officers like Oleg Kalugin have been 'telling all' for years ?

Christopher Andrew: It took 20 years for my co-author to find a way of escaping with his whole extraordinary archive in 1992, from the recently collapsed Soviet Union. This is an extraordinary archive, there is a vast amount of work there and it requires a vast amount of research to make sense of it all.

It doesn't just deal with Britain. I mean supposing it just dealt with Britain. Well yes one could assume that in a few years people ought to have sorted it all out, but still it would've required more work. It covers virtually every country in the world. I don't want to exaggerate, there's nothing about Andora, there's nothing about Liechtenstein. Soviet spies in Andora and Liechtenstein can sleep safely in their beds. But there's even material about other pocket states like San Marillo. There's a lot of stuff about Luxembourg.

But coming to terms with all of this is a massive business, as I know from the number of sleepless nights I've spent over the last three years. So partly simply the fact that it took an awful lot of time to process. Partly the fact that it took myself and Vasili Mitrokhin three years to write the book, which I hope is reasonably rapid.

News Online: Why should it be you who releases all this information rather than the government? (Shouldn't it have been made available to the public records office instead of released in this way?)

Christopher Andrew: The information doesn't belong to the government, it belongs Vasili Mitrokhin and we don't yet live in a police state when author's houses can be invaded by the government and say, "aha I find these files interesting I think we will publish them". This is Vasili Mitrokhin's material. He decided, god bless him, that he needed somebody who knew about that sort of material to write the book with him and he took that decision. Nobody would even be asking the question if it was about any other sort of material.

Vladimir Dvoretzky, Bulgaria: Do you trust former police officer John Symonds's revelations that he was a "Romeo spy"?

Christopher Andrew: We are to understand from him that he was he was a sort of 'special needs Romeo Spy'. One of the indignities that British males have suffered under throughout the Cold War was that it was believed until he turned up that none of us had the requisite qualities that were required to make Romeo Spies. So the KGB chose people from other nationalities. Then the bent copper, John Simmons was chosen, but alas even after he was chosen it turned out he had to stay back after class and required further training. This leaves us heterosexual British males feeling pretty humiliated by the whole thing.

But there's a more serious side to it. He's an appalling individual. What he needs to do immediately is send off at the very least extremely severe apologies to all those women whose lives he wrecked. The account that he has given of his life, does overlap with the account in the KGB archive but there is more to it than he himself has said.

Thomas Mahoney, USA: Does the Mitrokhin archive give any details on Americans who spied for the Soviet Union ?

Christopher Andrew: Absolutely. The United States is a far bigger country and it was also the KGB's number one target. Even though we were an important target, we weren't the number one target. So there is actually really rather more information on the United States than there is on Britain.

Same sort of general picture however, that so far as political intelligence, not scientific and technological intelligence, is concerned the great period is during the Second World War.

Just one example. Every branch of the Wartime administration of Franklin D Roosevelt was actually penetrated by the KGB. Now it's a wonder that Roosevelt made it almost to the end of the war, he was in desperately poor health in 1944. If he'd died in 1944 he would have been succeeded by his Vice President who was then Henry Wallace. Henry Wallace had chosen who his Secretary of State would be if he took over who was Larry Dougan. He'd chosen his Secretary of the Treasury who was Harry Dexter White.

We now know that Larry Dougan was Agent Frank of the KGB, and that Harry Dexter White was Agent Jurist of the KGB. So only the fact that the poor terminally ill Roosevelt lived into 1945 prevented the KGB from actually having its agents in the top positions in the American administration.

Pamela Arnold, USA: How much damage has the US inflicted on Russia with its own spies?

Christopher Andrew:I think it is not a question of damage. Let me take one example: one of the things that the Soviet Union was most out to get from the US were scientific and technological secrets which would enable it to prevent its appallingly ramshackle industry from falling much further behind.

The only reason why the Soviet Union was able to remain a military superpower while staying backward in so many ways was that it had so many western secrets. But I can't think of a single secret in Soviet industry that anybody in the West would have been interested in.

I mean it's a bit like somebody with a computer stealing somebody else's abacus.

Damage - well - the Soviet Union fell in the end because it was a rotten system, which simply had outlived its usefulness. I think in the end it collapsed because of the damage it had done itself rather than the damage anyone else had done it.

J Hankinson, Canada: Is this scandal going to extend into Canada?

Christopher Andrew: Oh absolutely, the scandal extends into Canada and let me just give one example. What the KGB did around the world - but particularly in Nato countries such as Canada was not simply to collect but to prepare to sabotage targets all over the place.

Now we now know in Operation Cedar it took over 10 years to reconnoitre every Canadian oil installation from sea to shining sea. It had worked out the best place to attack every one of them, how it was going to done where the where the explosives were going to be hidden and where the radio sets were going to be hidden.

The other thing is that the Canadian communist party, which is a pretty wretched organisation anyway, emerges from the Mitrokhin archive looking even more wretched than we supposed.

Graeme Mitchell, Canada: Is there any mention of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson in any of Mr Mitrokhin's files

Christopher Andrew:There is a file on Harold Wilson and his KGB codename was "Olding". That doesn_t however mean that he was a KGB spy, it simply means that like a lot of other people who weren't KGB spies, he did have a KGB codename.

What there was however was an attempt to recruit Harold Wilson. Now, I don_t think this was because there was ever any prospect of recruiting Harold Wilson, it was simply because the KGB always lived in the past.

It remembered the great days immediately before and during the Second World War when it had the most astonishing recruitment and it could never bear to tell the leadership: 'Look the great days are gone. We can't do that anymore.'

So it kept producing the names of people it never had any serious chance of recruiting, from Harold Wilson in this country to Zbigniew Brzezinski in the United States to Oscar la Fontaine in the German Federal Republic.

Where it hoped to find Wilson's weak spot was that after the Second World War he was one of the very few Western ministers who because he was interested in Soviet trade made a whole series of visits to the Soviet Union. So they hoped that he would prove vulnerable during one of those.

They never did quite get to him but they were still hoping to recruit him even after he resigned as prime minister in 1976.

Somebody - as my book explains - whose cover was that of a diplomat from the Soviet Embassy and who Harold Wilson was seeing quite properly - tried to recruit him, even then. So the fantasy lasted for over 30 years.

Semkae Kilonzo, Tanzania: Why in your opinion is Britain so outraged about the KGB spying scandal? After all Britain regularly spies on other countries?

Christopher Andrew:I don't think that there was ever a moral equivalent between the two sides in the Cold War. For example if one takes the Second World War, I don_t think it was morally the same to spy on Hitler as it was on Winston Churchill. Indeed, if we had not done our best to spy on Adolf Hitler then I think that governments would have been guilty of a dereliction of duty.

The Soviet regime, throughout its history, but particularly during the Stalin period, was a very dangerous organisation. It was also a very closed organisation. A lot of the reason why their secrets had to be found out was that they refused to make available normal information in the normal way.

Now in the mid 1950s President Eisenhower, then president of the US, suggested to the Soviet Union a so-called 'open skies policy'. In other words each side could over fly the other have a look at where its nuclear bases were have a look at its missile force and be reassured that it knew what the other side was up to.

That's a perfectly reasonable request. If the Soviet Union had agreed to that, it would have been unnecessary to have spy planes and spy satellites - but it refused.

Now what could we do then? Decide 'Oh well, even though there is a serious risk of a Third World War - we actually won't try and find out what these people are doing with their nuclear weapons?' Or actually go and do it secretly? It would have been an abnegation of duty not to spy on the Soviet Union. And fortunately - we did.

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