CHAPTER TEN 113
QUESTIONS OF INTELLIGENCE
How could a massive global Soviet Bloc intelligence operation, such as the Soviet narcotics offensive, have been underway for so long without the United States knowing what was happening? This is a most important and potentially explosive question. Implicit in it are a number of additional questions; for example, what else are we unaware of and how else might we have been misled?
To a degree, the question, 'Why haven't we known'? is answered in the previous chapter. Part of the answer involves the political and private interests that have stood in the way of comprehension. A second element of the answer concerns the inner workings of US intelligence. Two aspects are particularly relevant. The first involves the collection and evaluation of intelligence; specifically, in this case, the detailed handling of General Major Jan Sejna's debriefing. The second aspect concerns understanding how Soviet Bloc
intelligence operations work and the communication of this understanding. Let us con-
sider, first of all, the debriefing.
General Sejna defected to the United States in Trieste on February 25,1968. The usual procedure is that preliminary debriefings of defectors in Europe are conducted at a special debriefing facility near Frankfurt, Germany1. In Sejna's case, this was not done. Rather, he was immediately flown to Washington. This might have been because of Sejna's rank or unusual importance - if it were not for the fact that his subsequent debriefing and handling was more a propos a low-level defector of inconsequential importance. Nevertheless, his rapid transportation to Washington does suggest that someone somewhere may have wanted to exercise strict and immediate control over his debriefing.
The news of Sejna's defection to the United States, along with a brief description of the circumstances, were published in the Washington Post and the New York Times in the week following his defection. The description of Sejna in the articles was rather vague. He was described as the chief of the Communist Party at the Ministry of Defence, a member of the General Staff and of the Presidium of the National Assembly. Those were the only particulars to be published. While acknowledging that Sejna was 'one of the highest-ranking Communists ever to defect', the Washington Post instantly played down his importance by noting that Sejna was simply of higher rank than either of the previous year's defectors, Svetlana Stalin and Lt. Col. Renge. The only hints of his importance were statements that he had top secret information on his country's defence and on Warsaw Pact operations.
Aside from the foregoing, there was no information or even speculation in the Wash- ington Post or the New York Times concerning the full spectrum of Sejna's positions, respon- sibilities, or knowledge. Rather, both papers focused attention on material designed to defame Sejna which had been published in the Communist press. There was no indication of any attempt to learn more or in any respect to challenge the descriptions of Sejna that had appeared in the Communist press specifically in order to discredit him2.
General Sejna was certainly not presented as an official of even moderate importance - notwithstanding the fact that he was probably one of the five most knowledgeable Czechoslovak officials as regards Soviet and Soviet Bloc political, military and intelligence strategy and objectives3. Rather, he was described as an embezzler, a Stalinist, a public school dropout, an individual who had been promoted through favours and against the recommendations of his peers, one who had organised an abortive coup against the new liberal Czechoslovak leadership, and who had defected with his son and a young woman
'who', as the Washington Post wrote, 'is being described officially here [Washington] as the General's 22 year-old mistress'. The young woman was, in fact, his son's fiancee; they were later married in the United States. These characterisations of Sejna are all false4 and constitute a pertinent example of a Communist character assassination and disinformation being picked up and echoed by leading US newspapers.
The importance of this type of shallow reporting, and the failure of the US Govern- ment to correct the record, should not be underestimated. These reports, in effect, told people that Sejna was not a credible source nor an individual of any value. The reports materially damaged his opportunities to use his background as the basis for a new career; for example, teaching, speaking engagements, writing and consulting. They also, in effect, discouraged anyone in the intelligence or national security communities from seeking him out or from listening to what he had to say. How could anyone trust an individual with such a reputation? It should also not go unnoticed that when the charges were made, Sejna did not speak or read English and was not aware of how his credibility, and thus his future, were being undermined. He was unable to defend himself.
The image of Sejna portrayed in the Washington Post and the New York Times was perhaps best summarised by the description published in Newsweek a week and a half later. 'Up until now Americans could always fall back on one sure test: if an East European defected to the West, he was ipso facto a good guy. Last week, however, Washington unveiled its latest defector - only to discover that he was the heavy [that is, villain] in the case'5. To make certain the message had been adequately communicated, Newsweek printed a picture of Sejna with the caption, 'Sejna: The heavy in the case'.
From the news reports, one can infer that US officials confirmed the Communist reports on Sejna's defection and acknowledged that Sejna was now in the United States. They apparently did not provide any information beyond that contained in the Communist press, or any elaboration or clarification. Moreover, according to the news reports, as illustrated in the preceding excerpt from the Washington Post, US officials evidently directly supported at least one of the slanderous statements printed in the Communist press to discredit Sejna; namely, that Sejna was running away with his 22 year-old mistress, which was a lie, as indicated above.
To a degree, the official US handling of Sejna was understandable. It does not seem that even within the CIA or the US State Department, there was anyone equipped to clarify the record who had possessed any real appreciation of how important a defector Sejna actually was. For example, Sejna was a political officer, a commissar. Political com-
CHAPTER 10: Questions of Intelligence 115
missars are generally regarded in the United States as thugs or watchdogs who report on their friends and acquaintances to authorities. They are not held in high regard or seriously considered, in any sense of the word6. Accordingly just this one aspect of Sejna's background is sufficient to have caused most people to discount his value.
Additionally, there was little knowledge of (and thus, little attention focused on) the organisations that Sejna was a member of, or of the positions he held. US officials throughout the intelligence and diplomatic communities are not known to have appreci- ated the role of the Kolegium, which functioned almost as a mini-Defence Council and served, within the Ministry of Defence, to review and critique plans and issues prior to their being sent forward to the Defence Council; or of the Party Group at the Presidium, which exercised Party control over the National Assembly (parliament); or of the bureau which provided direction to the Main Political Administration, which in turn was respon- sible for maintaining ideological watch over the military; or of the powerful Administra- tive Organs Department, which ruled over the military, civilian intelligence and justice7. These were just some of the organisations in which Sejna had held leadership positions.
US officials evidently did not know what it meant to be the chief of the Communist Party (that is, First Secretary) at the Ministry of Defence, in which capacity Sejna monitored all top-level Czechoslovak decisions and communications to and from other countries, including the Soviet Union, and exercised nomenklatura (position appointment power) over all mid-level military officers. Most Soviet Bloc intelligence experts did not even know a Defence Council existed, let alone what its function8 was or what it meant for Sejna to be its secretary and in charge of the Defence Council agenda, the preparation of decisions, and the dissemination of implementing directives.
Thus, it is entirely possible that there was no US official in a position to know and take appropriate action, who understood how truly important a defector General Sejna was. At the same time, there were several glaring inconsistencies and departures from normal practice, such as: (1) The lack of an initial debriefing in Europe; (2) the manner in which Sejna's CIA debriefing was terminated, which will be described later; (3) what appears to have been an immediate decision to exercise strict control over his debriefings, keeping them focused on tactical military matters and away from topics of possible strategic significance; and, (4) at the same time, a decision to discredit Sejna so that no-one would actively seek him out or listen to what he had to say.
While these decisions were made within the US Government, it seems more probable than not that the decisions were not based upon bureaucratic self-interest or policy considerations, but were orchestrated, on the contrary, by Soviet intelligence or agents of influence. The logic behind this hypothesis will become more evident during the following description of what happened, and, more particularly, what did not happen.
Sejna's debriefing began in the normal manner. First, the debriefings focused on questions of tactical warning: the possibility of an imminent attack, security codes, alert measures and conditions - items of immediate military significance. Following these potentially time-sensitive questions, the debriefings shifted to questions of a personal and professional nature. This was the establishment of the bona fides phase, which had its
problems because the people conducting the CIA debriefings did not understand the Communist system9, had many misperceptions, and hence often did not like Sejna's responses to their questions.
After General Sejna's bona fides had been established, the debriefings finally settled down to probe his knowledge of Czechoslovak and Warsaw Pact military organisation
and operations. This is where serious questions about the nature of General Sejna's debriefings arise. The debriefings, which lasted for roughly ten months, were confined to questions relating to matters of tactical military significance10. And, while Sejna's knowledge in these matters was unquestionably extensive, these subjects were at the same time the least important ones of which Sejna had detailed knowledge. Moreover, some of these debriefings were so trivial that they properly should be regarded as strictly ways to pass the time and maintain the image of being busy. (Sejna was asked, for example, to sketch the different
Czechoslovak military insignia, which, as he told his debriefers, were freely available in the library across the street from the US Embassy in Prague)11.
General Sejna had also turned over to the CIA secret and top secret documentation he had brought with him, carefully selected by him for its wide-ranging importance12. He was never asked one question about these documents or the material they contained. While the documents were translated, the translations were never made available to the intelligence community13. It was also about this time that the decision was made to actively discredit Sejna, cast aspersions on his character and on the reliability of his testimony, and thus dampen any interest in what he had to say. As described by a former CIA official, the word was spread throughout the middle and upper echelons that Sejna was a 'heavy'. It was important to recognise that this was inconsistent with the distribution of the CIA intelligence reports on Sejna's debriefings, all of which identified the material as having come from a reliable source'.
The failure to debrief Sejna cannot be excused on the ground that the CIA debriefers did not know that Sejna possessed information of prime strategic significance. Often, following the sessions, he would chat with his debriefers and tell them that they were not asking the right questions. Also, one of the first things Sejna told his debriefers was that in his opinion the most important information he brought with him was his detailed knowledge of the Soviet 'Long-Range Plan for the Next Ten to Fifteen Years and Beyond';
but, that he would not discuss this plan, which detailed the Soviet Bloc's coordinated strategy and tactics around the world14, until the decision to grant him political asylum had been made. But, after that decision was made, and continuing to the present, there was no effort to debrief Sejna on the contents of the Soviet plan15 'to bury us'. This was, and continues to be, a most serious error.
In 1975 the importance of Sejna's knowledge of the Soviet long-range plan was made public by Lord Chalfont in a series of three articles in The Times of London16. Even so, no attempt to debrief Sejna was made, nor subsequently in 1983 after Walter Hahn, the editor of Strategic Review, wrote about Sejna's knowledge17. He has still  not been debriefed on the long-range plan; and, given the nature of Soviet intentions, goals and strategy18, which had not materially changed in over seventy years, most of the objectives, strategies and operational concepts set forth in the long-range plan probably remain valid.
In the late spring of 1968, General Sejna was made available to a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) debriefing team, which consisted of two warrant officers, a major and on a few occasions, two colonels, none of whom seemed to Sejna to have any background or interest in political, military, or intelligence strategy, policy or objectives. Their debriefings were also confined to matters of tactical military significance; for example, Tables of Organisation and Equipment (TOE) for small units, such as companies and battalions and unit locations. As a further indication of the CIA's attitude towards Sejna, during the Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings the DIA officers always addressed Sejna as
'General Sejna' out of military courtesy and respect. Then one day, in Sejna's
presence, the CIA handler directed the DIA officers not to refer to Sejna as General Sejna any longer because the Czechoslovak Politburo had 'taken away his rank'19.
During Sejna's debriefing throughout 1968, and for many years thereafter, there was (and still is) no indication of any serious top-level US intelligence or national security interest in what he had to say20. He was not taken to meet any high CIA officials, such as Richard Helms, who was then the CIA director, or his deputies, or any key officials within the Operations Directorate, such as James Angleton, whose counter-intelligence office exercised cognisance over General Sejna from 1970 until the office was broken up in 1974. Nor, for that matter, was he taken to see any of Angleton's deputies, not even the one who was directly responsible for Sejna from 1970 to 1975. And while Sejna was scheduled to visit Congress on four or five different occasions, each time the visit was cancelled; why
and by whom has not been divulged, but these are important questions.
Perhaps the most important inconsistency during Sejna's debriefing occurred in May 1968, when the former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Llewellyn Thompson, then a senior State Department adviser on Soviet affairs, came to visit him. Why such a high-ranking US State Department official would want to visit Sejna, given the way in which he was described and officially debriefed, is curious, to say the least. Did he visit Sejna on his own initiative, or in response to another person's request or suggestion? Thompson began the conversation by asking Sejna if he thought Communism was changing21. Sejna answered no. The strategy, the objectives remain as set forth by Lenin. There had been no change in these objectives, and neither was any change likely, Sejna said. Thompson responded sharply, advising Sejna that he, Sejna, was wrong. The conversation went downhill and soon ended.
Thompson was the only high-ranking official whom Sejna recalls came to see him. At the mid-level, things were no better. Only two individuals of moderate rank visited Sejna, the deputy head and the Czechoslovak desk officer of the CIA's Soviet Bloc division. Presumably, Sejna's debriefings would have been controlled by this division. But these two people apparently did not come to question Sejna, they came only to visit informally. Both spoke Czech, one having emigrated22 from Czechoslovakia prior to World War II, the other having served as a military attache in the US Embassy in Prague. Both were introduced to Sejna under false names, which Sejna immediately recognised because both individuals were among those that Sejna and other Czechoslovak officials had been warned about on numerous occasions during KGB counter-intelligence briefings that were a regular part of Czechoslovak and Soviet internal security practices.
Sejna, who had an extremely well-disciplined memory, recalled with ease their pic-
tures, correct names and backgrounds as previously provided by the KGB. What these CIA officials were after or why they did not show any apparent interest in what Sejna really had to say, is not known. However, it is almost inconceivable that anyone in such a position would fail to recognise that Sejna was no ordinary defector and that his main value lay not in what he had to contribute to our understanding of Warsaw Pact tactical military matters but, rather, in his first-hand knowledge of matters of strategic importance; for example, Soviet political, military, and intelligence strategy and decision-making.
Indeed, that this was recognised by someone, would seem to explain a second visit by Ambassador Thompson. When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in late August
1968, Sejna asked that he be allowed to speak out and explain to the American public and to statesmen around the globe what was happening in Czechoslovakia, including detailed
background information on Soviet preparations for the invasion, which Sejna had recog-
nised well in advance would probably take place. Sejna was most insistent, which was the reason behind Thompson's second visit. In this case, Thompson's visit was certainly not self-initiated. Thompson was summoned to discourage Sejna from telling his story to the public. He quickly explained to Sejna that it was not in the interests of the US Government to publish and describe what was happening. Sejna disagreed. Then Thompson commu- nicated a clear threat. He told Sejna that Czechoslovakia had requested Sejna's return and that Prague's request might be honoured if Sejna were to make trouble. Sejna told Thomp- son that this was not possible because under the United Nations charter, the United States could not return him to Czechoslovakia or any other Soviet Bloc country. Again, the con- versation deteriorated rapidly. When it was clear that he was not about to change Sejna's mind, Thompson advised Sejna that he should not tell the United States what we can do and abruptly terminated the meeting.
At this point, additional questions arise. Who called Thompson and requested his assistance, and why? Why was it not in the US interest to have the invasion explained to the US public and the rest of the world? Most importantly, who was pulling the strings?
In deference to Sejna's request, he was placed in contact with a reporter from the New York Times, Richard Eder, and offered the opportunity to go up to New York, at his (Sejna's) own expense and tell what he wanted to say. This he did, and then was shocked at the manner in which the interview was written up23. As Sejna described the articles, Eder did not use any of the most important facts behind the invasion, for example the seven months' advance preparation, twisted much of what Sejna had to say to compromise him, and lied about the interview in a manner that made Sejna look like a 'primitive'. He called Eder in New York and complained bitterly. Eder's reply was that it was not his fault. His editors were responsible for the final form of the article, he told Sejna.
Notwithstanding the nature of the reporting, a moderately informed reader would still have to wonder what else Sejna had to say about politically important events in which the Soviets had participated. Nor were the Eder articles the sole reason that some one should have reached (or clearly did reach) this conclusion. Neither does it seem credible that Sejna's information on the Long-Range Plan was overlooked merely by accident.
In the summer of 1968, one of Sejna's CIA handlers advised him to write his story, which could be published and provide him with a good income. Sejna set to work in the evenings writing his story. His son's fiancee typed the manuscript, which the CIA had translated into English as it was being produced. The manuscript, which ran to over 300
pages, was completed shortly before Christmas that year.
It did not deal with tactical military matters. It set forth Sejna's background, including the various positions he held, his steady interaction with the highest level Communist leaders from all countries, and, of special importance, the nature and dimensionality of Soviet long-range strategy and the world revolutionary process. Again, it is inconsistent with the nature of the intelligence process to believe that this material was not reviewed within the CIA division responsible for Sejna24. Nor does it seem likely that anyone with responsibilities for intelligence on Soviet Bloc operations could have read the document and not understood that here was a source of immense value (or danger, depending on one's perspective), and a defector who was being totally mis-debriefed.
When Sejna's first draft had been completed, in mid-December 1968, he gave a copy to the Readers Digest. Earlier, the CIA had allowed a Readers Digest editor to meet and interview
Sejna. During their conversation, Sejna mentioned the book he was writing. The editor had asked to see a copy when it was finished25. Evidently they liked what they saw, because they
prepared a contract to publish the book and five short articles, which Sejna signed.