New Forest East



By Ian Cobain

The Times – 16 September 2000 [Extract]

A spy working for the East German intelligence agency, the Stasi, penetrated to the heart of one of the British Establishment's most venerated institutions, newly decoded files in Berlin have revealed. The mole worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs for at least six years during the 1980s, coming into contact with Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, and countless other statesmen.

Operating under the code-name Eckart, he supplied the Communist leadership in East Germany with a stream of sensitive information from the influential think-tank, which is often known as Chatham House after its premises in London's St James's Square. The files show that Eckart also secretly supplied intelligence briefings on forthcoming Royal Navy manoeuvres and Nato planning, and handed over a number of documents apparently stolen from Chatham House. In November 1987 the mole contacted his handler at the former East German Embassy in London's Belgrave Square to say he feared that he was under surveillance by MI5.

The files do not disclose Eckart's real name, and offer few clues to his identity. Last night pressure was mounting on Jack Straw to act against British citizens who betrayed their country's secrets to the former East German regime.

The Home Secretary has told MPs that more than 100 people have been investigated by MI5, but there is no sign that any will face prosecution. Conservative MPs pointed out that Americans caught spying for the Stasi were publicly exposed and are now serving prison sentences of between 12 and 22 years. Ann Widdecombe, Shadow Home Affairs spokeswoman, said:

"It appears more than a little odd that no action has been seen to be taken against people working for the Stasi in this country. Questions need to be asked about what is being done, and Jack Straw needs to give some answers."

Julian Lewis, a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said:

"It doesn't surprise me that no action is being taken. MI5 has an appalling record for suppressing evidence of the guilt of agents."

The recently decoded files show that Dr Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, was the target of Stasi espionage because of his opposition to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament during the early 1980s. He is anxious to learn who targeted him.

"I demand that the British authorities release these names,"

he said.

The disclosure that a spy penetrated the Royal Institute of International Affairs has dismayed members of the organisation, whose research projects and debates have long had influence over British policy-makers and helped to shape their thinking. The revelation will also provoke widespread speculation about the identity of the spy. MI5 is continuing to investigate British citizens suspected of working for the Stasi, but its officers are not thought to know the identity of Eckart.

The discovery of the Chatham House mole was made after German government officials managed to unscramble the code which protected the index to the Stasi's Cold War files in Berlin. Most of the files were hurriedly destroyed as the Berlin Wall was coming down. However, the index survived, along with its lists of the titles of reports submitted by British moles.

They provide a disturbing glimpse into the Stasi's covert activities at a time of mounting superpower tensions over long-range missiles, growing popular support for unilateral disarmament, and a major fissure in the Labour Party.

Details of the index have been made available to one of Britain's leading experts on the East German intelligence agency, Anthony Glees, Reader in Politics and Director of European Studies at Brunel University. They show that on October 15, 1981, Eckart handed over two documents. The first was entitled by the Stasi "Chatham House on armaments industry", while the second was filed simply as "On a Chatham House study". A few weeks later, on November 27, he gave his handler a report called: "On the evaluation of the international position of Chatham House".

Eckart was one of the most energetic of the Stasi network of British agents. Between August 1981 and April 1986 he submitted 27 reports with titles as diverse as "Planned Manoeuvres of the British Navy", and "On Burden Sharing in Nato – Problems".