WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- In today's Romania, former spy chiefs for the late dictator Nikolae Ceaucescu are eulogized and honored while key defectors to the West during the Cold War remain in hiding because they are still under sentence of death.
Such is the case of Ion Mihai Pacepa, former deputy chief of Romania's CIA and FBI. He became the Cold War's most important defector in 1978. Ceaucescu ordered his execution, but he remained under deep cover in the United Statea, protected by the federal government. Assassination teams were sent to the U.S. but never found him.
On Christmas day in 1989, Ceaucescu was executed at the end of a trial whose accusations came almost word for word out of Pacepa's book "Red Horizons." The execution of Ceaucescu and his wife during Romania's anti-communist revolution hastened the end of the Cold War, but not Pacepa's rehabilitation. Romania's new pro-American government, dominated as it still is by the dead hand of the reviled Securitate, declined to rescind Pacepa's death sentence.
Finally, in 1999, 10 years after the collapse of communism, the Romanian Supreme Court, bestirred itself and canceled Ceaucescu's orders. Pacepa's properties were to be returned, his rank of general (for pension purposes) restored, and the execution order canceled. But the government ignored the Supreme Court -- until Jan. 12 when UPI broke the story that Pacepa was still under cover in the U.S. with a new name.
The Romanian government then moved quickly. The Bucharest media picked up the UPI story and began asking the government the obvious question -- why did the authorities wait for UPI's revelations 14 years after the West's victory over communism to implement a four-year-old Supreme Court decision?
On Jan. 15, three days after UPI published the Pacepa story, the Bucharest Military Tribunal -- known as the TMTB -- received a letter from Romania's Supreme Court -- presumably post-marked June 1999 -- informing it about Decision 41/1999, which canceled Pacepa's two death sentences and ordered that his rank of general be restored and his properties confiscated by the Securitate be returned.
On Jan. 20, 2004, the chairman of the TMTB, Gen. Constantin Panaitescu, signed three documents. The first one ordered the cancellation of the arrest and incarceration warrant should Pacepa return to Romania (which means the warrant was still in force up to then, despite the government's claim Pacepa could safely visit Romania). The other two documents asked that Pacepa's rank of general and his properties be restored (they have not been).
All this cleared the decks for the government's response to the UPI story in a letter signed by Sorin Ducaru, the Romanian ambassador to the U.S. "The public decision of the (Supreme) Court reflects the current status of Mr. Pacepa with the Romanian authorities."
Three days later, the letter Ambassador Ducaru was instructed to write was deemed inaccurate by an old communist hand, Gen. Ioan Talpes, now chief of staff to President Iliescu, as well as the country's National Security Adviser. Any reconciliation with Pacepa "is difficult to imagine," he said. After all, he told the newspaper Evenimentul Zilei, prior to 1978, when he defected to the U.S., Pacepa "was fighting to bring about socialism, to impose communism, and against democracy. He was collaborating with the KGB. Does he wish to vindicate that part of his life?"
By that convoluted standard, Talpes himself should be banished from holding public office. During the Cold War, Gen. Talpes was a ranking aide to Gen. Ilie Ceaucescu, the tyrant's brother. Between 1994 and 1997, Talpes headed Romania's foreign intelligence service from which Pacepa defected.
On Jan. 22, the same publication, quotes Ristea Priboi, a parliamentarian, saying that Pacepa is a "traitor." Priboi is Secretary of Romania's Parliamentary Commission for Defense, Public Order and National Security and a member of the Parliamentary Commission in charge of intelligence oversight. But he is the same Priboi who until 1989 had been in charge of "black bag" operations against Radio Free Europe for the Departamentul de Informatii Externe (DIE), the Department of Foreign Intelligence, when it was tasked with terrorist operations against RFE in Munich. One of them was the attempted assassination of Emil Georgescu, one of RFE's political editors, who survived 22 stab wounds.
When a Cold War hero like Pacepa is accused of treason by former communist spooks with blood on their hands, one can measure the acute schizophrenia that afflicts the body politic of a new member of NATO. Romania is also the country where the Bush administration is planning to base U.S. troops for future operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
On Jan. 15, the newspaper ZIUA published a letter to the editor signed anonymously "Retail," which said, "all the current officers in management positions of the Romanian foreign intelligence service... were trained under the cult of hating Pacepa and everything connected with the United States. They have this hate in their blood. They pretend to be promoting a policy of cooperating with the U.S., but in fact they are blocking the promotion of pro-Western officers. Even worse, they try to prevent any kind of intelligence operations against Russia."
"Retaining these (Cold War) 'children' in the intelligence service constitutes a great danger for our NATO allies... these things are not known to your readers, but they are dangerous. Please send this information to people you know who have influence with our allies, especially the United States."
In 1999, the Romanian government published a booklet in English about Romania's espionage services, which portrayed the communist DIE as simply an innocuous continuation of Romania's foreign intelligence organizations going back to 1929. That was when the Westernized King Ferdinand Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen added the areas of Transylvania, Banat, Bukovina and Bessarabia to his kingdom and created Great Romania. The booklet also included, in chronological order, a page for each of Romania's foreign intelligence chiefs and deputy chiefs since 1929 -- including Pacepa's positions in the organization. So in post-communist Romania, Pacepa is honored for being a spy for Ceaucescu, but he is branded a "traitor" for defecting to the U.S. -- and fighting on the ramparts of freedom to bring down communism.
The first chief of Romania's post-Communist espionage service was another communist humdinger. Gen. Mihai Caraman was the only Securitate officer decorated by the Soviet KGB for "outstanding activity against NATO." In 1980, Gen. Nicolae Plesita, then the foreign intelligence service chief, brought the infamous Carlos the Jackal (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez) to Romania to organize a terrorist attack against RFE's Munich headquarters.
Carlos was given five videotapes, 60 pictures and numerous sketches of RFE's building, as well as 37 kilos of plastic explosive (EPH/88). On Feb. 21, 1981, Carlos' Romanian arsenal exploded at RFE in Munich, wounding eight. Plesita, according to laudatory narratives published in Romania, rewarded Carlos with $400,000 that was deposited in account 471 1210 3502 at the Romanian Bank for Foreign Trade under the name of Annalise Krammer, in reality Magdalena Kopp, Jackal's lover and partner. Carlos is now in jail in France for the rest of his life.
Following the fall of Romania's communist regime, Plesita was kept on the payroll of clandestine services. Now retired, he lives in the elegant villa Ceaucescu gave him in perpetuity, and conducts frequent interviews that incite former subordinates to assassinate the "traitors who defected to the enemy." That's Pacepa and America.