Vasili Mitrokhin, a top KGB archivist, defected to Great Britain in 1992 with thousands of pages of KGB documents he had hand-copied and hidden for decades. British intelligence organized the material, and gave copies to all the allied countries in which the documents showed KGB activity, including descriptions of recruited agents and some of their names. As you can imagine, this was quite an explosive story, and countries like Italy and India made the material public.
The release of the Mitrokhin documents had some interesting consequences. In Italy, for example, several journalists wrote “confessions” in advance of the release, saying “yes, I spent lots of time with Soviet spies, and they may have claimed I was working for them, but I really wasn’t.” Funnily, most of those journalists were not named by the KGB officers in Italy, but the evidence of guilt was suggestive.
The CIA got the Mitrokhin files on Americans, which interested me and other writers, and I filed a joint FOIA request along with Steven Engelberg, now running ProPublica and then a reporter at the New York Times. The CIA refused to release the material, claiming it belonged to a “third party” (presumably the Brits). And they haven’t budged in the past twenty years. The Brits are now publishing translations, but our guys are still stiffing those of us who think the Mitrokhin documents should be in the public arena.
Maybe the CIA is still ashamed that they sent Mitrokhin away when he tried to give us the file.
So that’s why I’m totally on Mr. Scudder’s side. And yet another reason why I take a dim view of our so-called intelligence community.