What I found in the American Secret Archives
What I found in the American Secret Archives
In 1998, Alexenia Dimitrova made a decision to ask for documents from the American secret archives about Bulgarians, collected during the Cold War Era. She published the series in 8 numbers of 24 Hours Daily between April and July 2002. All of them were published with copies of original documents. Ms. Dimitrrova still continue to send letters to the American Secret Archives asking documents from the Cold War Era. Obviously the American Freedom of Information act works.
By Alexenia Dimitrova24 Hours DailySofia, BulgariaWhen I sent my first letter asking files from the American Secret Archives to be declassified, I was still not particularly enthusiastic about what the whole process would achieve.
But result was encouraging – 3 kilos of documents with former stamps “secret” or “confidential”! Also drawings, diagrams and reports proved the fierce competition between East and West. Real treasurer although 99 percents of the declassified documents were before 1970’s.
The Americans’ most loyal and active agents were those who had decided to renounce communism forever. Most of them were defectors, looking for asylum in Western refugee camps, usually in Germany and Austria. Their dates of defection had been blacked out so as to protect their identities, but enough interesting material remained. The informers were as willing to speak as their interviewers were to listen, knowing that their information was effectively buying them their passports to the free world.
The second category of informers consisted of those who had gone to work or study in the West, but would later remain to the other side of the Iron Curtain. These people would often tell their Western hosts all that they knew about the Security Services back home, so as to avoid any suspicion that they were Bulgarian agents.
Those who made up the third category had in fact started off as State Security agents, travelling to the West under cover as tourists or businessmen. But once there, they had decided that they actually preferred life outside Bulgaria, and so bought their freedom and right to stay, paying with precious information about their work and colleagues.
One of the American reports contained a description of how, during a routine investigation of a US-run refugee camp in Nuremberg, agents met a Bulgarian who claimed to have worked for the secret services. He told them he had been a non-uniformed employee of the State Security passport department, where he had held the rank of Major. He has been described as born around 1920, tall, with a fairly long face and a straight nose. He was in good physical shape, and his straight, black hair was combed back from his forehead. He had no distinguishing features, but did wear glasses. The man was desperate to obtain a passport, and poured out a constant stream of information to his interviewers. But the Americans did not believe all of what he told them, and graded the informer F-6.
This number and letter referred to the scale by which American agents judged the reliability and usefulness of sources and their information, as they tried particularly to spot those who might have been sent through the system by East European secret services. The scale ran as follows:
For sources:A – Completely reliableB – Usually reliableC – Fairly reliableD – Usually unreliableE – UnreliableF – Reliability unknown
And for information:1 – Confirmed by other sources2 – Probably true3 – Possibly true4 – Truth doubtful5 – Improbable6 – Truth cannot be judged
I - An Emigrant reveals The Secret meeting places Of State Security in Sofia
The Secret services in Bulgaria were build on Soviet manner reported a Bulgarian defector
As I could see from the first declassified documents the American Secret Services have been interested in to find out all that they could about the location of the secret meeting places in Sofia. Three of the State Security safe houses were in downtown within a few hundred metres of the block I was born and raised, and where I still live today - at the junction of Venelin Street and Toulbuhin (now Vassil Levski) Street.
The information about the safe houses was obtained between 12th and 15th June 1959 from a Bulgarian who had ended up in the American sector of the Marienfelde refugee camp in Germany. His name had been blacked out, but the file still contained a description of him as a moustachioed redhead, married in 1952 and divorced in 1956.
He gave also the locations of two other meeting places, both in the centre of Sofia - one on the corner of Denkoglu Street and Asen Street, and one at the junction of Neofit Rilski Street and Parchevic Street..
The informer told the Americans that one day in 1951, on his way home from work, he was approached by a man, who introduced himself as someone from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was taken to the police station, where he was interviewed, and recruited on the spot. He had to sign an official document in his own, real name, but was then given a pseudonym (which had also been blacked out in the file), and telephone numbers to call when he needed to make contact.
Between 1951 and 1959, it was his job to provide information about the French and Swiss diplomats he knew, who worked in Sofia. He insisted that he had told these people about his recruitment straight after it had happened, and never passed anything on to State Security without first checking it with them.
At first, he met his supervisory agents 3 times a week, but later on this changed to every Saturday. They would meet one another in the street, before moving on separately to one of the main Sofia safe houses. They would never go in together. He always went first, and would take his reports with him.
He first decided to defect to the West in 1955, and even though he knew that his chances of success were slim, he began saving up, buying US dollars through his French and Swiss contacts. He told his interviewers in the refugee camp that he had entrusted $800 to his most reliable friend, who had promised to bring it to him once he got safely to the West.
He also revealed the names of three other State Security agents. The first had been born between 1917 and 1921, and was tall and blonde, with bright eyes. He had a long, thin face, a small nose, sticking-out ears and a pale complexion. He always wore a beret and horn-rimmed glasses, and looked tired. He was not very communicative, and spoke only a little French. His job was watching the French and Swiss embassies.
The next was tall, with thick, black hair and a fairly long, thin face. He had a straight, bulbous nose, thin lips and big ears. He was rude and aggressive. The two of them had met in 1951, and had seen each other for the last time in 1954, just before this other agent had gone off to work for the border patrol.
The third man was stocky, with thick, greying hair and a round face. He had a small nose and a big forehead. He did not take much care over his appearance, but had a watch on a metal chain. He was loud, and stupid. He did not like women. He had the job of supervising the others’ work around the embassies.
Another informer also revealed details of the layout of the Ministry of Internal Affairs building on 6th September Street. He had been there only once, but was able to recall roughly how the different floors, the yard and the car park were arranged, and what the entry procedure was. According to his account, the custody cells were on the 4th floor.
Further information, about the position and layout of the offices of the Ministry of the Interior and the State Security Services, came on 24th June 1958, from another Bulgarian, this time in the Valka refugee camp. He had drawn a diagram of the State Security building on Moscowska Street, including its four entrances, and gave a detailed description of how they all were guarded. He said that as a visitor, you had to leave your ID to the men on the door as you went in, but did not know if other officials accompanied you once you were inside the building. All the people he saw going in and out were civilians, and in the evenings, as it got dark, the guard was not reinforced.
The Americans also elicited information from defectors about the structure of the secret services in Bulgaria, and on 1st July 1966, the Defence Intelligence Agency filed a detailed report, in which they collated all their information on the subject. At the very top was the KGB, acting as close advisor to the State Security Services, the military, the security forces and the border police. And in terms of the wider Bulgarian political hierarchy, this report put the State Security Committee in third place, behind only the Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Politburo. It described the committee as being modelled on the KGB, and divided its work into three essential roles. The first was to control, on behalf of the Party, the activities of the Ministry of the Interior; the second was to do the same for the Government, and lesser Party bodies; and the third was to monitor foreign diplomats, as well as those Bulgarians who travelled to non-communist countries.
The report revealed that the State Security Committee had assigned a special task to bug the Minister of Internal Affairs’ phone and keep an eye on the Bulgarian Communist Party. It also described in great detail the internal workings of the Ministry of National Defence, particularly its Counterintelligence Division, which had collected information about military sites in France, West Germany, Austria and Italy, but was most interested in Greece and Turkey.
According to the report, State Security went to great lengths to protect the communist regime from any potentially undermining activity by domestic or foreign enemies. This was achieved through “organizing and supporting a network of agents and informers right across Bulgaria; arresting, interrogating and detaining suspects; monitoring the activities of all organisations and minority groups; and maintaining surveillance on all Western embassies and their employees.”
The report conceded that State Security’s level of competence had increased immensely since 1944. It described their counterintelligence operations as exceptionally efficient, a fact which showed in their “systematic and complex control over the population”. Their spying operations in the West were less successful, because many agents had “little experience and poor training”.
The Americans had collected a great deal of intelligence on the various military groups in Bulgaria. The People’s Militia and its system of organisation were described in detail, including the fact that a Soviet advisor was assigned to each district. There was a description of the power structure within the Directorate of Interior Troops, a relatively responsible and well-informed body, part of the Ministry of internal Affairs. The report also dealt with the so-called Voluntary Militia, which included members of Dimitrov’s Union of Communist Youth and the Workers’ Militia, and had been founded as a response to the events in Hungary of 1956. As “quasi-official Agencies” were mentioned, among them the Bulgarian Civil Airline, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, and Balkantourist, the national travel agency.
A list of 14 key figures inside the Bulgarian intelligence community was attached to the report, before 119 copies were made and sent to various American government departments, embassies and other official agencies. Five went to the CIA, twelve to the Defence Agency, and one to each of the US military attaches in East Germany, Greece, Turkey, Romania, the USSR and Yugoslavia.
With the help of these sorts of detailed accounts of particular sites and organisations, the Americans had pieced together a much broader picture of the Bulgarian secret services and their workings. There were diagrams attached to the report which made it clear that there had been State Security departments throughout the country, in all of the major cities, such as Burgas, Plovdiv, Pleven, Russe, Vratsa, Shumen and Lovech. One of the most active departments was situated by the Black Sea.