Of questionable intelligence
From The Economist print edition
Poland leaks spooky secrets but fails to prove a conspiracy
PUBLISHING the names of serving spies is a huge taboo in the intelligence world. It endangers not only them, but anyone they have met. You might do it to your enemies on occasion, but never to your own side.
Yet Poland's official report on the recently disbanded WSI (military intelligence service), has named dozens of current and former agents including some in highly sensitive places such as Afghanistan. That has provoked derision and alarm in equal measure, for at first sight the gains seem elusive and the costs high. Serving diplomats, their cover blown, have hurried home. They include the ambassadors to Austria, China, Kuwait and Turkey. At least ten of the names, including the military attaché in Moscow, are fiercely contested.
The aim was to highlight the WSI's role in the cosy business and political arrangements that took root in Poland following the collapse of communism. The report does raise disturbing questions about both Russian penetration of the WSI, and its involvement—perhaps with Kremlin help—in the energy industry among others. It strongly suggests a past failure of political oversight. But the seemingly muddled and inconclusive material published so far falls far short of the “atom bomb”, proving conspiracy and subversion, promised by its author, Antoni Macierewicz. It is puzzling too that some scandals of past years are treated so sketchily.
Mr Macierewicz is undaunted, as are his sponsors, Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twins who are respectively Poland's president and prime minister. “This was one of our most important goals and it was worth it,” said the prime minister. Government defenders say the criticism comes from those with a vested interest in maintaining the old order. No real secrets have been leaked, as the Russians already knew the WSI inside out.
Mr Macierewicz, who—remarkably for a political appointee—runs the new military counter-intelligence service, insists the best is yet to come. Many leads remain to be chased; missing and destroyed documents have slowed things down. Maybe so—though it is hard to argue that Polish political life will benefit from yet more months of leaks, innuendo and suspicion.
(see the print edition for the magnificent picture of Macierewicz)