Five get a rocket in Prime spy files probe (16.01.83)

News of the World, 16th January 1983

NOTW160183

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6 comments
  1. Troyhand said:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=3GnvlvefWGcC&pg=PA184&lpg=PA184&dq=%22geoffrey+prime%22+FBI&source=bl&ots=LhaxX2cm53&sig=Ujv7DDLMV6WFL2da0zwFMGK6MPc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=V09tU6P6Ku-vsQT2qYDICw&ved=0CFEQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=%22geoffrey%20prime%22%20FBI&f=false
    Informing Statecraft
    By Angelo Codevilla

    [Page 184-85]

    …But over the years, whenever the arrest of a spy or the compromise of a satellite has occurred, the foremost concern of senior U.S. intelligence officials has been to make sure that the satellite or human operation involved does not lose its share of the budget. The resulting damage assessments are slow, haughty, no more honest than they have to be, and classified so that virtually no one may read them.

    This was certainly the fate of the assessment of the damage done by Geoffrey Prime’s and Richard Burt’s disclosure of the Chalet satellite between 1977 and 1979. Geoffrey Prime walked in to the Soviets in Berlin in 1968. The Prime case finally broke in 1982. Not until a year later, and then only at the direct, repeated urging of virtually the entire U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, did the CIA commission a comprehensive damage assessment. It took a year. The results bearing on the degradation of the worth of Chalet were restricted to perhaps a dozen persons on an “eyes only” basis. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the chief concern of those who did the report was to protect the budget for Chalet. Regardless of what the Soviets had learned about Chalet, the intelligence community wanted to continue operating it as if they had learned nothing.
    ***

  2. Troyhand said:

    http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/1985/eirv12n36-19850913/eirv12n36-19850913_038-burt_linked_to_soviet_spy_ring.pdf
    Executive Intelligence Review – 13 September 1985

    Burt linked to Soviet spy ring
    by Criton Zoakos

    On Sept. 5, three days prior to his arrival in Bonn, the new U.S. ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, Richard Burt, was ordered by the State Department to remain silent on questions about his involvement with Soviet and East German spies now identified in the growing “espionage scandal” in West Germany.

    In the course of a pre-trial deposition of Ambassador Burt held at the State Department office of John Kornblum, Richard Burt was questioned by attorney James Lesar on his relation with Reinhard Liebetanz, an official of the counterintelligence section of the West German Bundesverfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for Defense of the Constitution. Reinhard Liebetanz is currently under investigation for being a spy for the Soviet Union. Liebetanz is known to have worked in the past both with Richard Burt as undersecretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, and with other State Department subordinates of Burt.

    When questioned about these relations, during his Sept. 5, 1985 pre-trial deposition, State Department attorney John Burch instructed Ambassador Burt to “not answer the question.” The State Department attorney further instructed Burt, who was testifying under oath, to not answer a whole series of other questions by the depositioning attorney which were relevant to numerous past Burt associations with Soviet intelligence activities.

    Richard Burt’s deposition was part of the pre-trial procedures of the Ogden vs. Powell lawsuit which will be tried in court later this year. Mr. Odgen, the plaintiff, is seeking $20,000 in damages he suffered as a result of a violent physical assault by Mr. Powell, a fervent admirer of Richard Burt who, in the course of a public speech by Burt, objected violently to Mr. Ogden’s characterization of Burt as a traitor to the United States. Ambassador Burt’s involvement in the trial is twofold: He was a principal witness to the assault suffered b y Mr. Ogden and his reputation was, obviously, the assailant’s bone of contention.

    Burt and the Soviet spies
    The State Department’s instruction to Burt to not answer questions about his relations and past cooperation with the now exposed East German and Soviet espionage network in Bonn will raise more questions than it lays to rest. From publicly available, unclassified information, the following facts are known about these of Burt’s relations:

    Reinhard Liebetanz, a spy for the Soviets rather than the East Germans, was in charge of surveilling “right-wing extremist” political organizations in West Germany. In this capacity, Liebetanz was in regular communication with Burt’s European Affairs Section of the State Department, and with the Office of Special Investigations of the Justice Department, the DOl’s so-called “Nazi-hunting unit.” Liebetanz would receive fake documents, doctored up by his KGB controllers, pertaining to the political past of persons living in the West for whom the KGB wished to create problems for one reason or another. Liebetanz would subsequently pass these documents on to Burt’s section of the U.S. State Department if the documents were about persons living in the United States. Burt’s section would then pass the KGB doctored documents to the Office of Special Investigations which would initiate action against the individuals targeted by the Soviet KGB.

    One well-known such case was that of the NASA physicist Dr. Arthur Rudolph. Dr. Rudolph was one of the German scientists who, during the war, had worked at the Peenemiinde ballistics center. After the war, he came to the United States, joined the American rocket program and made major scientific contributions to NASA. After PresidentReagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983, Dr. Rudolph moved to offer his contributions to our ballistic missile defense program.”

    At that point, the Soviet KGB, through Liebetanz, passed on to the State’ Department forged documents for the purpose of manufacturing a fake argument about Rudolph’s “Nazi past,” which subsequently gave rise to a campaign from Richard Burt’s office, to have Dr. Rudolph stripped of his U.S. citizenship. The matter ended sadly when Dr. Rudolph, rather than undergo the indignities of an OSI witchhunt, voluntarily gave up his U.S. citizenship and went back to Germany.”

    Another area of concern is Richard Burt’s probable collaboration with Hans Joachim Tiedge, the head of West Germany’s counterespionage section dealing with East Germany, who defected to East Germany on Aug. 19. It will be recalled that Richard Burt on June II, 1985, in his capacity as undersecretary of state for European affairs and nominee for U.S. ambassador to West Germany, presided, in an ostentatious manner, over a spectacular “spy exchange” over Berlin’s Glieniecker Bridge where all East-West spy exchanges take place. During the night of the exchange, where four East German spies imprisoned in West Germany were exchanged for 24 Westerners in East German prisons, Burt was presented on German television as the man who had, for months, masterminded the exchange. For this, his cooperation with the defector, Hans Joachim Tiedge, the counterespionage chief, should have been extensive indeed.
    ****

  3. Troyhand said:

    http://people.exeter.ac.uk/mm394/Richard%20James%20Aldrich%20GCHQ%20The%20Uncensored%20Story%20of%20Britains%20Most%20Secret%20Intelligence%20Agency%20%202010.pdf
    GCHQ – The Uncensored story of Britain’s most secret intelligence agency
    Richard J. Aldrich

    [Pages 367-386]
    Geoffrey Prime – The GCHQ Mole

    “… because of the nature of GCHQ ‘s work and their need for staff with esoteric specialisms they attracted many odd and eccentric characters. Prime did not stand out as he might have done elsewhere.”
    UK Security Commission, Report on Geoffrey Prime, May 1983

    The Thatcher era was partly defined by mole-mania. In the autumn of 1979 Margaret Thatcher made an announcement in the House of Commons identifying Sir Anthony Blunt as the ‘Fourth Man’, one of a ring of Cambridge spies that had included Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. Her hand had been forced because several newspapers had hinted strongly at Blunt’s KGB identity. Because of Blunt’s close associations with the royal family – he was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures – this was as much a social as a security scandal. It also confirmed the public perception of the Establishment as bungling toffs who were not to be trusted with security matters. Although the authorities had known about the Blunt case for more than a decade, his public exposure unleashed a worldwide media quest to uncover further traitors. A blizzard of unlikely names filled the pages of the newspapers, including three former senior members of MI5: Sir Roger Hollis, Graham Mitchell and Guy Liddell.

    Margaret Thatcher found these matters intensely vexing. She was also extremely agitated about what she called ‘hostile forces’ attempting to foment industrial unrest. These included a broad swathe of Trotskyites and militants, some of whom were in touch with foreign governments, who wished to use industrial action for political purposes. Strikes at British Leyland, Britain’s last large-scale car manufacturer, which were intended to disrupt a government recovery plan, had been organised with the cooperation of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which was in turn taking money from the Soviet Union. Although the miners’ strike of 1982 had genuinely domestic origins, the Soviet Communist Party nevertheless funded it to the tune of more than half a million pounds, albeit against the advice of the KGB. Such active intervention in British internal affairs generated a certain amount of paranoia in British government. This extended to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was also watched closely by MI5 for evidence of foreign influence. Several leading figures in CND were subjected to surveillance, including the future Cabinet Minister Harriet Harman. The Ministry of Defence was so worried about CND that it set up a special unit, DS.19, to counteract its activities, and wild rumours abounded that some of the protesters outside American bases were really Soviet special forces or ‘Spetnaz’ in disguise. In fact, during the 1980s the most dangerous KGB mole was in none of these places – instead he was at GCHQ.

    Security within GCHQ had always been a nightmare. Elsewhere in government, a person who was regarded as a possible security risk could be gradually transferred to a less sensitive area. This option did not exist within GCHQ, since everywhere was sensitive. Security problems overlapped with trade union worries. Even in the mid-1950s, some GCHQ managers were anxious about Communist influence in the Electrical Trades Union, which was prominent at Cheltenham. There was also the sheer scale of positive vetting required in such a large organisation: as we have seen, despite an increase in the numbers of investigating officers, a backlog had built up. Most of all there was the problem of document security. All of GCHQ’s basic ‘working material’ was highly secret, yet it was so super-abundant that it could not be catalogued. In other words it would be easy for a spy to smuggle out papers that his or her branch was working on. In the 1970s the Security Commission had called for the certified destruction of top-secret documents that were no longer required. However, this concept was completely unworkable within GCHQ, since there was just too much such material. One of GCHQ’s key customers, the Warsaw Pact order of battle cell within the Defence Intelligence Staff, handled ‘about 10,000 CODEWORD signals’ each week. It was impossible to record all of these signals, still less to certify their destruction.

    There had been countless security reviews during the 1960s and 1970s, yet all had missed the most important chink in GCHQ’s armour: the armed services personnel who worked for the sigint arms of the military. Somehow, because they wore a uniform, these individuals were thought to be more reliable than civilian staff. Yet they were harder to vet because of their itinerant backgrounds, undertook the most repetitive and demoralising work, and were often posted to inhospitable locations. At these far-flung military outstations morale was often low, and operators were vulnerable to KGB recruiters. Berlin and Cyprus were subject to frequent KGB predation, and it is unlikely that all the Soviet recruitment successes have yet come to light. Brian Patchett and Douglas Britten were examples of this, and there were others yet to be uncovered.

    Growing up in Staffordshire, Geoffrey Prime suffered a difficult childhood. His mother and father had an unhappy relationship, and Prime had problems making friends at school. He was sexually assaulted by an adult relative, which probably left lasting effects upon him. After securing good ‘O’ levels, mostly in languages, Prime left St Joseph’s Catholic College, Stoke-onTrent, and began dull work at a factory as a junior wages clerk. Two years later, in 1956, National Service in the RAF offered him a happy escape from this existence. He nurtured ambitions to train as flight crew, hoping perhaps to serve as a Radio Operator, but due to colour blindness he was relegated to duties as a storesman. Eventually his talent for languages was spotted, and he was sent to RAF Crail in Scotland to begin the Russian Language course. The fact that he was required to sign up for regular service was of no consequence to him, since he hoped to gain professional qualifications. Excelling at Russian, he was soon an acting sergeant. He was then sent to London University on an advanced Russian course, but he did not fit in well and failed the course after three months. His rank and privileges were taken from him, and he returned to a mundane life in the stores.

    Still only twenty-one, Prime secured a posting to Kenya, and was promoted back to corporal. He filled his spare time by learning Swahili, becoming fluent and speaking with the native labour force at his airbase. He was shocked by the poverty and what he saw as the colonial exploitation of Kenya. He also disliked the racist attitudes of the long-term European settlers, and on one occasion reported an officer for treating a Kenyan badly. It was at this point in his life that Prime began to take an interest in Communist radio broadcasts and to read the magazine Soviet Weekly. By the time he returned to Britain in April 1962 he was more mature, and confident enough to apply for training in languages again. He spent a year at the Joint Technical Services Language School at Tangmere in Surrey, and in May 1964 was posted to the large sigint unit at RAF Gatow in Berlin, although he was not vetted until May 1966. He carried out his function as a wireless operator on the monitoring of Russian voice transmissions well enough to resume the rank of sergeant in May 1968.

    West Berlin was in effect a rather small, inhospitable island surrounded by East Germany. Most Allied troops arrived by sealed train, and this was how Prime came to the notice of the Soviets. As his train moved slowly through a checkpoint, he threw a message offering his services as a spy at the feet of a nearby Soviet sentry. The KGB followed it up, and eventually placed a mysterious magnetic cylinder under the handle of the door of Prime’s car. Hidden inside were instructions telling him to travel on the underground train to Friedrichstrasse station in East Berlin. After several meetings he persuaded the KGB that he was sincere in his desire to work for them. Prime insisted that he was ideologically motivated, but the KGB pressed money upon him, a standard gambit designed to entrap a new agent. Knowing that Prime’s enlistment was about to run out after twelve years in the RAF, the Soviets encouraged him to apply for a post with GCHQ at Cheltenham. To his surprise he was successful, and returned to Britain.

    The KGB now began work in earnest. Prime was invited to make a secret visit back to Germany, and was instructed to change planes in Amsterdam to cover his tracks. On arrival in East Berlin he was installed in a flat at Karlshorst, the main KGB centre, where he was given a full training in spycraft. All the time he was watched, and each night he was locked in. The KGB also made clumsy attempts to explore his sexual preferences, and presumed he was gay. Prime was angered by this, protesting continually that he was offering to assist the KGB for ideological reasons. Although this was true, the money he was offered seems to have become more important to him over time. His KGB case officers went by the cover names ‘Igor’ and ‘Valya’, and instructed him in the exotic paraphernalia of espionage, including invisible inks, one-time pads and microdots. He was supplied with a Minox camera which he later used to photograph sensitive documents, and was also given £400 which he hid, along with the equipment, in a briefcase with a concealed compartment. His handlers told him that all further meetings had to be in either Finland or Austria, and Prime chose Austria. The last thing they did was tell him his code name, which was ‘Rowlands’.

    The meetings abroad were an odd aspect of KGB tradecraft. As we have seen, other KGB agents such as Douglas Britten had local KGB officers assigned to them as handlers wherever they went. Prime’s different arrangements reflect the circumstances of his recruitment. His initial message, thrown from a troop train, had been taken by a Soviet soldier to his security officer. From there it had naturally reached the Third Directorate of the KGB, which looked after military security within Soviet Army units. Running agents in the West was not its main responsibility, but having found Prime by accident, it was not about to let him go. Just like Western intelligence, the KGB was driven by interdepartmental jealousies. Ideally, Prime should have been run by a KGB officer based in Britain, which would have offered him the support and companionship that is critical to the successful development of a spy. However, these activities were controlled by the First Directorate of the KGB, which undertook espionage. Arguably, had Prime been handled by the First Directorate he might well have lasted longer and done much more damage.

    Once back in England, Prime began his employment with GCHQ. By night he received radio messages, and was told about a dead-letter drop location at Esher in Surrey. There he found a note of congratulations and another payment of £400. Energised, he now went to work with his Minox, copying GCHQ documents at home and initially sending them on to his control in East Berlin in the form of microdots. He communicated with his handlers through a short-wave radio, encyphering his messages using one-time pads. More dead-letter boxes were developed in the Abbey Wood area of south-east London and at Banstead railway station in Surrey. His meetings with controllers were rare and almost always abroad, reflecting Prime’s rather awkward Third Directorate ownership. He seems to have rendezvoused with them in Vienna in 1969, Ireland in 1970, Rome in 1970 and Cyprus in 1972. He preferred these personal meetings, since the dead-letter boxes could not accommodate the large number of films his espionage was producing. Nevertheless, he made some use of dead-letter boxes in Britain. MI5’s Stella Rimington recalls that he used classic tradecraft, including an empty Coca-Cola can, to convey messages, as well as chalk marks on telegraph poles and trees.

    Although Prime now worked for GCHQ, he was not based in Cheltenham. Instead, he was part of a translator pool called the London Processing Group (LPG), a curious leftover from the MI6 Y Section which had run the Berlin tunnel operation in the 1950s. A large and varied group of translators had been assembled at the LPG offices in Carlton Gardens. Some of them were Baltic emigres, chosen both for their excellent Russian and their hatred of the Soviet Union; some were former Indian Army officers; some were new graduates. When the Berlin tunnel was uncovered in 1956 there was still an enormous backlog of intelligence material, but by 1958 it was judged to be out of date. SIS handed its translator team on to GCHQ, where it processed the increasing flow of material from telephone intercepts and aggressive bugging by all the secret agencies. Realising that the arrival of dozens of Baltic emigres in the Cotswolds would raise awkward questions, GCHQ decided to keep this unit separate. An office was found at St Dunstan’s Hill in the City of London, where it formed an ‘isolated cell’

    Starting work there on 9 September 1968, Prime initially spent several months in the Control Unit, where all the various transcripts were checked for quality before being forwarded to Cheltenham. This gave him a wonderful overview of everything being produced at LPG. IS He was part of a new wave of staff. The wartime Baltic emigres were ageing, and could not be replenished. Their replacements were ex-services sigint people like himself, and university Russian graduates. This prompted a culture change at LPG. The work was often tiring, tedious and difficult, but the emigres had been content to carry it out ‘in a void’, knowing nothing of its context or importance. This was not true of the younger British intake, who were bored and dissatisfied, leading to a high resignation rate. In order to motivate them they were informed about the importance and context of their work, encouraged to ask questions about the whole intelligence framework, and deliberately told more than they needed to know. Prime thrived in this new atmosphere.

    In 1975 he returned to Vienna for one of his periodic meetings with his handlers. He had important news. Most of the Baltic staff had now retired, so LPG was in the process of being moved to Cheltenham. The KGB officers were very pleased, smelling the possibility of wider espionage within GCHQ. Their delight was expressed in a gift of £800 before Prime’s departure. On 22 March 1976 he arrived at Cheltenham and joined 130, part of J Division ‘Special Sigint’, which handled Soviet traffic. J30 was in a security-compartmentalised spur in B Block. Like many divisions it had its own vault, and Prime was one of the three senior officers in his section with access to it. It was easy for him to remove documents at will, take them home and photograph them, returning them the next day. He was also able to photocopy documents during his lunch break, since the amount of paper being used in the copiers was never checked.

    On 30 June 1976, only three months after arriving at Cheltenham, Prime was promoted to Higher Linguist Specialist, and became the leader of a small group of transcribers in J25, a different part of J Division. In November he was transferred to another unit that was more focused on the intelligence analysis of transcribed material. He also became Personal Security Supervisor for his section. Prime was moving onwards and upwards. One of his duties in his newly elevated post was delivering occasional lectures. As a nervous and intensely introverted man he loathed this part of his job, and would become agitated about the prospect some days in advance. On 22 September 1977 he failed to show up for a lecture, and resigned shortly afterwards. GCHQ’s Security Division believed that his decision to leave was partly caused by having to manage office staff, which he was bad at, and the lectures, ‘which terrified him’. However, it also reflected changes in his personal life.

    Back in August 1969, while still working for LPG in London, Prime had met a woman called Helena Organ through a marriage bureau, and they eventually married. The union was not successful, perhaps due to Prime’s introverted nature and peculiar sexual proclivities, which included an interest in young girls. Helena Prime found a large sum of money in their home in April 1973, and it is now thought that Prime confessed to her in outline that he was helping the Soviets, and that this was how he had accrued the money. She panicked, and not knowing where to turn, confided in a close friend, a Mrs Barsby. Remarkably, Mrs Barsby was one of Prime’s referees for his security clearance, and in time a routine positive vetting check became due. However, the security officer who visited Mrs Barsby was so abrupt, and asked her questions of such a personal nature, that she took an instant dislike to him. As a result she did not reveal anything about Helena Prime’s suspicions. Geoffrey and Helena Prime agreed to a divorce the following year.

    When Prime moved to Cheltenham in 1976 he found lodgings at Laburnum Cottage in Pittville Crescent Lane, owned by a thirty-three-year-old divorcee, Rhona Ratcliffe. They got on well, and on 18 June 1977 they married. Apart from a wife, Prime also gained three young children. By all accounts he was respected by the children, took an interest in their lives and provided for them well. The changes in his personal life seemed to feed into his decision to resign from GCHQ in September of that year, and after a disastrous attempt at selling quality wines he became a taxi driver. Prime was now at something of a crossroads in his life. He later told his interrogators that at this point he twice resolved to defect to the Soviets, but did not go through with it. He no longer listened to the KGB messages, and ceased to operate as an agent. Because he was run at a distance by the Third Directorate, there was no local KGB case officer to try to dissuade him from this decision. Ken Sly, his manager at Cheltenham, was puzzled by his resignation, recalling, ‘He certainly wasn’t pushed out by the Head of his Branch and there seemed to be no reason why he should leave a very lucrative post at GCHQ.’

    ***In April 1980, nearly three years after he had left GCHQ, Prime was contacted again by the KGB. He travelled to see them in Vienna, and spent three pleasant days with his handlers on a river cruise to Hungary and back. The Soviets hoped to persuade him to rejoin GCHQ. In fact, some believe that he was still working for GCHQ on a casual basis, since it used taxi drivers to take certain kinds of sigint product to RAF Brize Norton airbase for despatch to the United States, and preferred ex-GCHQ employees with live security clearances to transport especially sensitive material. Although Prime refused to rejoin GCHQ, he had been canny. Prior to his resignation he had had the foresight to take copies of five hundred secret documents, which he was then able to hand over in segments. On 16 May 1980 he delivered fifteen reels of film to the KGB in Vienna, for which he was paid £600. More than a year later, on 16 November 1981, he travelled to East Berlin, where his stock of espionage equipment was replenished. He still refused to rejoin GCHQ, but now handed over his last haul of stored material. This was top-grade stuff, signified by the fact that he now received £4,000 from the delighted Soviets. The head of GCHQ’s Security Division would later conclude that while all of Prime’s espionage was ‘very grave’, the ‘most damaging of all’ was the material he handed over in Berlin in 1981.***

    Britain’s security authorities have always maintained that ‘The damage inflicted by Prime was of a very high order.’ NSA has concurred, concluding that ‘Prime’s case was of major importance for cryptology.’ What exactly had he handed over to his KGB masters? When he moved from London to GCHQ Cheltenham he had become a Higher Linguist in J Division, and was given a ‘Byeman’ clearance to work on material from the new American sigint satellites. The key satellites were codenamed ‘Ryolite’ and ‘Canyon’, and had first been launched in 1969. They had been designed primarily to pick up Soviet missile launches and collect telemetry from missiles, which the Soviets were not bothering to encrypt. Surprisingly, they also proved capable of collecting huge amounts of communications in the VHF and UHF wavebands that were spilling into space, and microwave telephone traffic. Space was an undiscovered sigint goldmine. By the mid-1970s there were more than a dozen of these satellites in orbit, producing a fantastic amount of intelligence on Russia, China, Vietnam and the Middle East, much of it from telephone calls. Because the ‘take’ was so enormous, NSA had been forced to ask its UKUSA allies to help process it. It was for this reason that Prime was pressed into service on ‘Canyon’ intercepts.

    Prime’s material dovetailed nicely with intelligence provided by John Walker, a US Navy Warrant Officer working on top-secret communications who had been recruited by the KGB at about the same time as him. It was also supplemented by material that the KGB was receiving from yet another spy, called Ed Boyce, who was working for TRW Inc., the American company that made some of the most secret spy satellites, and who told the Soviets about the latest ‘Argus’ and ‘Pyramider’ satellites. Argus formed part of a project that had the capability to listen in on the microwave links used in Russia’s phone network. Together, Prime, Walker and Boyce inflicted horrific damage upon Western sigint and comsec operations. In the late 1970s, after thirty years of effort, the Americans had begun to make some headway with high-grade Soviet diplomatic traffic, and this was one of the many secrets that was given away. Indeed, Prime, Walker and Boyce were so productive that they spurred a major reorganisation within the KGB. Hitherto all sigint and comsec had been handled by the KGB’s Eighth Directorate. In 1969 a new Sixteenth Directorate was established to deal with the increased flow of sigint, leaving the Eighth Directorate to focus exclusively on the defensive challenge posed by Western sigint, about which it now knew a great deal.

    Prime’s most damaging revelation concerned the vast, top-secret and highly expensive Anglo-American effort to track Soviet strategic submarines. The official line was that ballistic missile-carrying submarines were undetectable, since this reinforced the stability of deterrence for both sides in the Cold War. Secretly, however, the West was enjoying significant success in tracking these submarines. By the early 19705 this involved three technologies. The first was SOSUS, a line of undersea microphones that listened for the engines of Soviet submarines. A joint UK/US project team had identified RAF Brawdy on the coast of Wales as the ideal site for an additional SOSUS centre. Britain had provided the land and the capital costs, while the United States contributed the personnel and the equipment for the intelligence analysis. The second element was airborne maritime patrol aircraft with sonar. The third and most hidden element, code-named ‘Project Sambo’, was efforts to track the low-frequency radio transmissions of submarines when they rose closer to the surface to communicate with their headquarters in Moscow or with supply ships. This was an integrated UKUSA effort, with NSA running twenty-one listening stations and the allies running a further eight. Prime revealed this super-secret programme.

    Prime was not caught as a result of his spying, but because of his criminal paedophile activities. He had a long history of making obscene phone calls, and during 1981 he became more dangerous, and began to indulge his desire to perform sexual acts in front of young girls, carrying out attacks on two occasions and escaping undiscovered. However, later in the year he attacked a third girl, a fourteen-year-old gymnast, in her own home. When the girl screamed, Prime was frightened and ran off. He fled the scene in his car, which he had parked in a lane near a farm. One of the nearby farm workers knew a lot about cars, and was able to give a detailed description of the vehicle to the police, stating with certainty that it was an ‘S’ reg brown two-tone Mark IV Ford Cortina. Although there were 426 ‘S’ reg Cortinas in the immediate surrounding area, only a dozen were coloured ‘Roman Bronze’.

    The next day Geoffrey Prime opened the front door of his home to two detectives from Hereford CID. Detective Sergeant Wilkes and Detective Constable Miriam Rhodes asked him about the two-tone ‘S’ reg Cortina parked in the drive outside. Wilkes noticed that Prime bore an uncanny resemblance to the identikit photo of the suspect, and was wearing the same style of checked shirt. Prime must have realised that he was a prominent suspect, and became very agitated when Wilkes asked him for his fingerprints. Although he was not yet arrested, Prime knew it was only a matter of time. That evening, he took his wife Rhona out to Cleeve Hill, a local beauty spot, and after a heavy silence blurted out, ‘It’s me they want.’ He then told her the truth about his sexual activities. Only that evening, over a glass of brandy, did he finally confess that he had also been a KGB spy for over a decade. In fact Rhona already suspected the espionage, and initially decided to stand by her husband. The next day Prime was arrested, and his car and house were searched. Apart from 2,287 record cards, bearing notes about and photographs of young girls, which were bagged and taken away as evidence, a black leather briefcase was also seized. This was later opened by Prime, in the presence of police officers, to reveal the secret compartment filled with KGB equipment, including a camera and one-time pads. For now, the police remained quite unaware of his espionage activities.

    Rhona Prime was now having doubts. On 23 May 1982 she contacted the police and informed them about Prime’s work for the KGB. The trigger for this was her discovery of a mass of espionage equipment in the house, including many envelopes addressed to places in East Germany, two one-time pads with columns of five-figure numbers, and some manuals on microdot production. She also gave the police a wallet with a schedule of radio frequencies. Later a team of specialists combed Laburnum Cottage with minute thoroughness:

    *
    For two days they searched, leaving nothing to chance: wall cavities explored with cameras controlled by flexible cables; insulating material removed from the loft; chimney, drains and sewers examined; fitted furniture dismantled; soft furnishings X-rayed; carpets and floorboards lifted … The house gradually surrendered its secrets.
    *

    The police eventually uncovered a tape recorder and another list of radio frequencies and schedules, together with documents from GCHQ. On 25 June, Detective Inspector David Cole interviewed Prime and switched on the tape recorder. Coded messages in German filled the room – the unmistakable sound of espionage. Prime offered the reply that it was merely his hobby, listening to the radio and twiddling the tuning knob. However, the game was clearly up, and at 4.30 p.m. the next day he made a complete confession. On Wednesday, 10 November 1982, Geoffrey Arthur Prime, then aged forty-four, pleaded guilty to seven counts of espionage and three further sexual offences at the Old Bailey. For spying, he received a sentence of thirty-five years, plus a further three years for the sexual offences. The total of thirty-eight years meant that he would be eighty-two on his release in 2020 if he served the full term. He was paroled after serving half his sentence, and was released to a secret address in 2001.

    The Gloucestershire police who investigated Prime had worked tirelessly on the case. They travelled the length and breadth of the country, combing RAF personnel archives and persuading travel agents to hunt through mountains of past receipts for evidence of Prime’s visits to meet his KGB controllers. Yet, to their surprise, the senior management of GCHQ were less than helpful. When Detective Inspector Cole, who led the case, visited GCHQ to confirm that items found in Prime’s possession had been unlawfully taken from its premises, he and a colleague received a ‘less than welcoming’ reception. He asked senior figures for formal evidential statements, but was met with a ‘point-blank refusal’ on the grounds that the material was ‘far too sensitive to be discussed’. Cole recalled that in twenty-five years of police investigations he had ‘rarely encountered such a distasteful reaction’. GCHQ gave him the impression that he was ‘a thorough bloody nuisance’ and that it believed these matters to be ‘way above his head’. Cole also detected the grade-consciousness and even class-consciousness that marked GCHQ at this time. The policemen were blanked by the code-breakers and sent on their way. As they left by Oakley’s main gate, they realised that GCHQ would have preferred to see the whole embarrassing matter buried, and had not even wanted Prime prosecuted.

    Geoffrey Prime was caught by accident, not by GCHQ’s standard security defences, and this posed some awkward questions for the authorities. General Sir Hugh Beach led the subsequent inquiry by the Security Commission. Both the Commission and GCHQ concluded that the security procedures had worked as well as they could. Some things could be tightened up, but nothing that was in place at the time would have stopped Prime for certain. Even random searches at the gates of GCHQ could have been evaded by a concealed camera in a bag. In any case, the most damaging information Prime had passed on concerned what streams of intelligence GCHQ had access to, and he could easily have committed this to memory, even though agent runners love to have documents to send their controllers. What the Security Commission was looking for were new kinds of procedures that would greatly improve security. Basic issues, such as access to photocopiers, were tightened up, not only at GCHQ but right across the UKUSA system, including at CSE in Ottawa, but ideally it wanted a new security system.

    In February 1983 Beach took his Commission on a visit to Washington, which they found to be ‘most valuable’. All the Americans and ‘particularly -the NSA and CIA made no secret of their belief that their personnel security procedures are more effective than our own’. What impressed them most was the routine use of the polygraph. They noted that in 1962 a secret and unpublished section of the Radcliffe Inquiry into security procedures in the Civil Service had recommended its use. The Security Commission thought it significant that during his interrogation Prime had conceded that if he had faced a polygraph test prior to joining GCHQ in 1968, he would not have applied to the organisation. Their strongest recommendation was a pilot scheme for the introduction of the polygraph at Cheltenham. They accepted that it would take time to build up expertise in its use, and that the political obstacles to its introduction would be ‘formidable’. Benson Buffham, a former Deputy Director of NSA who had recently served as the American Liaison Officer to GCHQ, or ‘SUSLO’, visited London to confer on security, and made it very clear that the Americans were keen to see the polygraph arrive at GCHQ. The Security Commission also recommended that vetting teams should be granted access to medical records in order to check for problems such as depression. However, this was shot down immediately by the BMA’s Civil Service Medical Officers Group as ‘neither necessary nor justified’.

    The Prime case left some loose ends. The Security Commission accepted that Prime might not have been the Soviets’ only source within GCHQ, and in May 1983, more than a year after Prime’s arrest, a team from MIS was probing the possibility of subagents. The Security Commission noted that the press had claimed that Prime had been blackmailing some of his colleagues, but it had no evidence either to substantiate this or to safely discount it. The biggest question that has lingered over Prime is whether he assisted the KGB in recruiting others by simply identifying unhappy or vulnerable colleagues. Arguably, one of the most valuable things that a spy in Prime’s position could offer the Soviets was not access to information, but tips on which colleagues had problems with drink or debt, or had patterns of sexual behaviour that might leave them open to blackmail. This was precisely the sort of information that the KGB had sought from Douglas Britten on Cyprus a decade before.

    In the wake of the Prime case there was extensive press speculation seeking to link a contemporaneous spate of suicides with possible KGB recruitment at Cheltenham and the ongoing inquiries by the security services. Interest was initially sparked by the death of George Franks, a Radio Operator who worked at the GCHQ’s Empress building near Earl’s Court, which monitored diplomatic and commercial traffic out of London. Franks died of a heart attack after drinking a large quantity of whisky, but had reportedly also tried to hang himself. However, colleagues insisted that his death was most likely to be due to stress. Drink had always been an issue amongst the Radio Operators, not least because many spent time at remote service bases such as Cyprus where the consumption of duty-free alcohol was considerable. The long shifts were also stressful, and down the years quite a few were treated at the Cooney Hill psychiatric hospital in GIoucester.

    A further spate of three deaths looked more suspicious. The first was Captain Timothy Fetherstone-Haugh, a twenty-nine-year-old officer who worked at the sigint station at Gatow in Berlin. In February 1982 he was found at the wheel of his car inside a garage filled with exhaust fumes. The second was Jack Wolfenden, a senior radio officer at GCHQ who died when his glider crashed into a Cotswold hillside in July 1982. Wolfenden’s girlfriend, Judith Pither, told the inquest that he had ‘acted oddly after returning from a trip abroad’. The third was Ernst Brockway, a GCHQ radio officer who was found dead at his home in October 1982. However, in reality many of the suicides that aroused the interest of the press were by people who worked at other scientific establishments, and the number of GCHQ staff who committed suicide in this period was not statistically significant. Moreover, given that Prime was handled by the Third Directorate of the KGB, it would have been hard for them to employ the information he supplied to recruit more agents.

    Nevertheless, further KGB recruitment efforts against British sigint were already under way. While the Security Commission was flying off to America to look at polygraph machines, and the British newspapers were worrying about people mysteriously crashing their gliders, Soviet intelligence officers had simply returned to their tried and trusted source: vulnerable young men employed on sigint duties in the armed services who were based far from home. In 1984 eight servicemen serving with 9 Signals Regiment at the Ayios Nikolaos sigint base on Cyprus were charged with espionage for the KGB under Section One of the Official Secrets Act. This’ Army unit’ was in fact a mixed outfit of soldiers, airmen and civilians working for GCHQ. All those arrested had confessed, however they later retracted their confessions, citing the grim circumstances of their interrogation. On this basis all eight were acquitted. The prosecution had alleged that a vast amount of highly classified information had been passed to the Soviets when one of the accused was blackmailed by an Arab called ‘John’ after becoming involved in homosexual acts. The government claimed that a KGB officer code-named ‘Alex’ had then worked with ‘John’ and one of the defendants to exert pressure on the other defendants. Much of the material was reportedly handed over at the Chiquito nightclub at Larnaca on Cyprus, and several exotic cabaret singers were flown to London to give evidence. However, the prosecution failed due to the incompetent and coercive interrogations.

    The Security Commission was rolled out yet again. This time it could not miss the elementary clues. In October 1986 it reported that it had discovered that there were security difficulties with the employment of young and fairly immature people on top-secret activities in obscure locations. Officers had taken little interest in their off-duty activities, and document security at 9 Signals Regiment at Ayios Nikolaos had been poor. The Commission reported this as if it was a revelation, but in fact it had been obvious since the Patchett and Britten cases in the 1960s. There were further parallels in the British clerical and support staff who the Soviets had managed to recruit at Britain’s Moscow Embassy, most of whom have not yet been publicly named.

    Meanwhile, GCHQ rejoiced at the uncovering of American spies like Edward Howard in the CIA and Ronald Pelton in NSA. They joined a growing throng of KGB spies inside the United States, including John Walker and his family, that helpfully put the Geoffrey Prime case in the shade. Ronald Pelton was especially damaging. He had pursued a career path almost identical to that of Prime, learning Russian while serving in a front-line Air Force sigint unit doing voice intercept at Peshawar in Pakistan in the mid -1960s. He then transferred to NSA, and worked there until 1980. In 1984 he ran into financial difficulty, and decided to travel to Austria, where he sold his knowledge of NSA activities to the KGB. One important programme he compromised was ‘Ivy Bells’, a joint NSA-US Navy operation which tapped Soviet undersea communication cables using submarines. Pelton confessed under interrogation in 1986, and was given three consecutive life sentences. In 1985 William Odom, Director of NSA, worried that there might be other agents. He was also concerned that some of the defending lawyers were ‘radical’, and would deliberately try to use the trials to expose more sigint
    secrets, especially NSA’s very successful programmes of covert comint collection from embassies in the Middle East.

    In the 1980s the American intelligence community uncovered many KGB spies within its ranks, and was entering a period of mole-mania, not dissimilar to the one previously endured by the British. The American equivalent of Kim Philby, a senior CIA officer named Aldrich Ames, was yet to be unmasked. By contrast, the British were at last winning the spy war against the Soviets. SIS had recruited a senior KGB officer, Oleg Gordievsky, a prolific source who bravely stayed in place and
    provided vital intelligence during the last decade of the Cold War. It is widely thought that his information led to the ‘Cyprus Eight’ prosecution in 1984. More importantly, by 1985 GCHQ had managed to decode some of the messages of the agents working for the East German intelligence service in Britain, which led to charges being made against them. For the first time, after anxious deliberation, GCHQ presented intercepts as evidence during closed court sessions.

    MI5 continued to debrief Geoffrey Prime regularly, long after he reached Wormwood Scrubs Prison. ‘They come up once or twice a week,’ said Prime, ‘and ask an awful lot of questions.’ Prime was the first KGB agent to be held in a British prison for some years. Dave Wait, one of his fellow inmates at Wormwood Scrubs, explains that the authorities still remembered the spectacular escape of George Blake, who in 1966 had leapt to freedom from a window in D Wing of the same prison. As a result, Prime was accompanied everywhere by two warders, and had his own specially designed, escape-proof exercise area: ‘Two sides are brick walls, the other two are honeycombed concrete and thick unbreakable glass, a box twenty feet high for Prime to walk around on his own.’ At this time Wait, who was serving a life sentence for murder, was passing his time serving as the prison librarian. He recalls Prime’s first visit to the library. Prime asked how many books he was allowed to borrow at one time, and Wait replied with a grin that officially he could have six, but he would stretch the allowance a bit, as long as he didn’t ‘run off with them’ to Russia. Prime chose six books including a
    volume of advanced mathematics, Plato’s The Republic and Chapman Pincher’s recent book about the KGB penetration of the West, Their Trade is Treachery.
    ***

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