Circa December, 2008, I just got back from a seminar at CIA HQ in Langley, Va. Along came another invitation that I couldn’t pass up, but unfortunately, a flu attack prevented me from attending. The Association For Intelligence Officers (AFIO) symposium was again at CIA HQ in Langley, Va. and entitled “Preparing for Martial Law: Through the Eyes of Col. Ryszard Kuklinski.”
Still, I found out about the content, which covered the Cold War tensions, risks, and heroism involved in ‘running Kuklinski’ and of the continuing mysteries surrounding this case. Kuklinski conducted nine years of nerve-wracking espionage; first, for Poland’s independence and, second, for victory of the West over the USSR. A world where the daily routine of espionage demanded flawless counter-surveillance, dead drops, surreptitious hand-offs, L-pills, invisible ink and miniature transmitters, and still resulted in moments of panic and constant subterfuge, knowing that detection meant death.
Program features were impressive: Michael Hayden, Director of CIA; Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor 1977-81; and many other high-ranking officials. Several Agency case experts, Polish dignitaries, and academic subject specialists were present, including a new Documentary on the Kuklinski case. Attendees received a DVD containing all of the released material, along with a booklet that will feature samples of key documents from the DVD, background material on Kuklinski, photographs, and a detailed index. The AFIO was considerate enough to send me all these documents.
The symposium included interviews of Agency, Polish and Soviet personnel on the Warsaw Pact, Martial Law and the Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski case.
Here are four excellent Websites on Ryszard Kuklinski:
Col. Ryszard Kuklinski was the Polish army officer who supplied the CIA with over 40,000 pages of Soviet secret military documents from 1972 until his defection in 1981. Over nine years of secret cooperation, Col. Kuklinski made 63 clandestine exchanges with the CIA inside Poland. The documents detailed Soviet operational plans for surprise attacks on Western Europe, scenarios for a nuclear launch, specifications for more than 200 advanced Soviet weapons systems, and details of Soviet plans to impose Marshal law on Poland.
Since President Reagan ordered that the Pope receive relevant American intelligence, Washington handed over to the Vatican reports and analysis from Col. Kuklinski. Colonel believed it was a STASI agent placed in Vatican, who found out about the reports from “a senior member of the Polish General Staff”. In the middle of the night of November 7, 1981 the CIA evacuated colonel, his wife and two sons from Warsaw and flew them to safety in the United States.
The colonel’s wife did not know about his cooperation with the US intelligence until that day. Three years later, on May 23, 1984 Col. Kuklinski was sentenced to death, in absentia, by a secret communist court in Warsaw.
In 1992 Kuklinski said “In the beginning I asked myself if I had a moral right to do this [supply military secrets to CIA]. I was a Pole. I understood that Poles should be free and that the United States was the only country that might support the fight for freedom for Poland.” Col. Kuklinski paid very high price for his cooperation with the West. In 1994, his younger son Bogdan and another man, both experienced sailors, disappeared from the sailboat 70 miles from the Florida coast. The weather was good. There was no SOS call from the boat. The diving suits remained not used on the boat. The bodies were never found. Half a year later, Col. Kuklinski’s other son, Waldemar, was hit by a car. The driver fled the scene, leaving no fingerprints inside the vehicle. Colonel Kuklinski lived in the United States as an American citizen. On February 5, 2004 Col. Kuklinski suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. He died at a military hospital in Tampa on February 11, 2004.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. writes about the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). Contact him privately on a secure line at the DECLASSIFIED SECRETS-2 site.