HOW WSI HELPED TO PLANT A "TRAPDOOR"
ON THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Poland's former military intelligence service, Wojskowe
Sluzby Informacjne, WSI, was involved with the KGB in
exploiting software stolen from the United States. It was
then sold back to the State Department after being fitted
with an electronic "trapdoor" which enabled all traffic
between the State Department and its Warsaw embassy, together with
its worldwide network of 170 other embassies and
consulates, to be used "for espionage against the United
The FBI investigation broadened to include a former
Russian diplomat, Stanislav Borisovich Grusev, accused of
spying on the State Department, and a company called
Synergy International Systems with its main office in
Moscow. Many of its programmers are from Armenia, a former
Soviet-bloc country. It also has an office outside
Washington, in Vienna, Virginia.
It has emerged the trapdoor was installed on Wang VS
computers that handle Sensitive Compartmented Information,
SCIF, under the supervision of the intelligence arm of the
State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
I was told there is credible evidence the Bureau was
"budgeting software like spreadsheets and that its
doctored software had been installed on unclassified
computer networks at the State Department for a decade".
Intelligence sources in London and Washington have both
independently confirmed to me that the doctored software
was operating undetected until 1996. It was a time when
the State Department was formulating critical decisions
about Poland and other Eastern European countries.
The FBI will not say if the investigation is on-going. But
its agents are known to have flown to Moscow and Poland
and other Eastern Block countries.
Synergy's president and founder, Ashot Hovanesian, has
insisted "our company has done nothing wrong. I have asked
the FBI to disclose their findings. But no one will tell
He claimed his company had been "harshly affected" by
being "unfairly accused because our employees come from
former Soviet countries, including Poland".
The company's software has similarity to a system
originally developed by the Washington computer firm,
Inslaw. That company is currently engaged in a
long-running legal battle with the US Department of Justice over
the allegation that Inslaw's software was given to Israel by
The revelations have surfaced in documents posted in a
Other documents - removed by MI6 from Stasi files in its
headquarters at Normannesstrasse, East Berlin, shortly
before the building was ransacked following the collapse
of East Germany's Communist system - identify three heads
of Polish Military Intelligence as being "directly
involved in espionage activities against Britain and the United
States after the end of the Polish Communist system".
They are named as General Boleslaw Izdorczyk, who was
director of WSI from 1992-1994 and General Konstanty
Malejczyk, who served as director from 1996-1997. His
successor, General Marek Dukaczewski, is also named in the
A senior intelligence officer in London said there was
"strong evidence" that WSI had been involved in the secret
sale of arms to Middle East terrorist organisations up to
1999 - "and possibly later".
A Mossad source told me that WSI is "in many ways the old
military intelligence service still waging war against the
West. Many of its senior officers are a hangover from the
former Communist time".
Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director of MI5, Britain's
internal security service, has sent a report to the
country's Home Office expressing concern that after May 1,
it will be easier for Eastern Bloc secret services to
infiltrate deep-cover agents into Britain.
A senior member of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorism Squad
told me: "we know that there are still close ties between
some Eastern Bloc intelligence services and terrorist
groups. Those services could make it easier to smuggle in
explosives to Britain. Our nightmare scenario is that they
could include the materials to make a nuclear 'dirty bomb'".
Meantime, the issue of how the KGB and WSI penetrated the
State Department's Wang computer systems could emerge as
yet another election embarrassment for President George
Bush to deal with as he struggles to deflect the mounting
criticism of how the much-vaunted US intelligence community
has operated for decades.
"The operation to sell the State Department the software
was simple - State just bought it. No questions asked. We
need to know who authorised the deal", said Bill Hamilton,
the Washington-based president of Inslaw, the specialist
computer firm which first created the software sold to the
The Inslaw software, called Promis, was originally stolen
by Mossad in one of the service's most audacious
operations. Its then director of operations, Rafi Eitan,
posed as a public prosecutor from Tel Aviv. After
receiving a demonstration of how the software could be used to
"follow a paper-trail" to catch criminals, Eitan persuaded
the US Justice Department to give him a copy.
"I told them I wanted it to catch Israeli crooks", Eitan
later recalled to me. "In fact, we deconstructed the
software and inserted the trapdoor. Then we sold it
The man entrusted with that task was British media magnate
Robert Maxwell. He sold it first to the KGB and then to
Now it has emerged in those documents lodged with the
Washington court on December 22 last year - and which the
mainstream US media has so far failed to realise their
significance - that the doctored Promis programme was
purchased by the State Department "on a one-source
contract and installed in posts throughout the world without the
proper security and vetting procedures".
Intelligence sources in London and Washington believe the
software installed in the US embassy in Warsaw provided
the WSI with a "clear window into the thinking of the
United States" in such key areas as the emergence of the
Solidarity government, the reliability of Lech Walesa, and
President George Bush's belief that initial aid to post-Communist-era
Poland should be modest.
The effects of that initial Washington caution continue to
reverberate. The documents posted in the Washington court
will add fuel to the suspicion that the WSI and the other
arms of Polish intelligence, the SB, were able to position
themselves in their relationship with the West.
The renegade FBI agent, Robert Hanssen, who pleaded guilty
in 2001 to spying for the Soviet Union during the
preceding 20-year period, also gave his KGB handlers
copies of the Promis software that were used within the
FBI and other US intelligence agencies.
The same version of that software was bought by Germany's
BND. But after Hanssen's arrest, the BND removed it from
all its computers at Pullach in Bavaria.
The German security service has publicly refused to reveal
who they purchased it from or how much damage the software
could have done to its own operations.
It also emerged last year that "rogue elements" in the KGB
had sold Osama bin Laden a copy of the software for US $2
"There have been persistent reports that bin Laden has
been able to use his Promis software to stay one step
ahead of those chasing him", confirmed Hamilton.
The documents filed with the Washington court are part of
a case that a former federal prosecutor, Charles Twist, is
bringing against the US Department of Justice, claiming he
was fired by the Department's Anti-Trust Division because
he had exposed corruption within the division.
While it will be at least another year before Twist's
allegations will be tested in court, they have already
cast a light on the activities of Polish intelligence
which will undoubtedly cause concern in Washington and
They also raise the question of the "spy and be spied
upon" mentality in the relationship between the WSI and
East Germany's Stasi.
What are described as "a small library" of Stasi
documents, now in the possession of MI6, reveal that the
Stasi also had its version of Promis - again sold by
But Marcus Wolf, who had run the Stasi from 1958 until
1985 - and now lives in quiet retirement in East Berlin -
had ordered his own computer experts to further doctor its
Israeli version to give it access to WSI computers. It
enabled the Stasi Robotron computers to double-check on
what the WSI were telling the KGB.
"It was the classic case of tracking the trackers", Wolf
With its 90,000 staff and 120,000 informers - some in
other Communist intelligence services - the Stasi was the
most powerful intelligence-gathering machine in the
Eastern Bloc. For instance, it employed 1,000 people to
bug telephones and 2,000 just to steam open private mail.
Another glimpse into the secret world of Polish
intelligence has emerged through the Stasi documents, now
in the MI6 registry at its headquarters overlooking the
River Thames in London. It details not only how Robert
Maxwell sold Promis to both the SB and WSI - but how in return Mossad
was allowed to steal a Russian MIG.
Ari Ben-Menashe - the former Israeli National Security
Adviser to the Shamir government who later worked for
Maxwell - had established a "good working relationship
with Polish intelligence". He later claimed that a Polish
general "close to the head of the WSI" received US $1
million after agreeing to write-off the MIG as no longer airworthy.
"The money was paid into a Citibank account in New York.
The plane had only recently arrived at Gdansk from its
Russian aircraft factory. The fighter was dismantled,
placed in crates marked "agricultural machinery" and flown
to Tel Aviv. There the plane was reassembled and
test-flown by the Israeli air force so that its pilots could know
how to counter the MIG-29s in service with Syria", Ben-Menashe
The Stasi files reveal how a routine inventory of aircraft
supplied by Moscow to Warsaw Pact countries uncovered the
theft some weeks after the plane had reached Israel.
The Stasi files describe how, after the theft was
discovered, a strong protest was made by the Kremlin to
the Israeli government.
"It was supported by a threat to stop the exodus of Jews
from the Soviet Union", one Stasi file records.
The Israeli government, its air force having fully tested
the MIG-29, apologised profusely for the "mistaken zeal of
officers acting unofficially".
The aircraft was once more disassembled and returned to
Gdansk in its original packing cases.
By then the WSI general was living in America, his US
£1 million securely lodged. Before the plane was
returned by Israel, its government had agreed that an
American air force inspection team could check-out the MIG
before it was returned to Gdansk.
In an observation on the incident, one of the MI6 analysts
had noted on the files that the Stasi had reported the
details of the incident to Moscow "some time before the
WSI filed their report".
The view of the KGB about this is not known.
(c) Copyright Gordon Thomas 2004