Saturday, June 7, 2014

Trapping Woolsey: How to Hoodwink a CIA Director Part 2

The Pacepa team seeks to shift discussion away from his relationship with the KGB and from the cessation of Romanian intelligence cooperation with – and subordination to – the Soviet Union, and to draw US institutions and officials on their side against Larry Watts and his book With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania. Pacepa goes so far as to claim (with emphasis) that the aim of Larry Watts is “to discredit the CIA by discrediting me.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 339).
            In this manner they set up former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, provoking him with their artificial version of “Larry Watts.” Along with the entirely fictitious biography described in Part I, Pacepa, Bädin and Tismaneanu provide Mr. Woolsey with gross misrepresentations of my work to compel his negative comment.
            Let me be clear. Mr. Woolsey is persuaded as to the central theses of Disinformation: that the Kremlin conducted an anti-Vatican campaign; that it proliferated anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, especially in the Middle East; and that it sponsored terrorism. I also consider that the available documentation on Soviet operations bears out such conclusions.
However, Pacepa’s (and Tismaneanu’s) allegations concerning alleged Romanian involvement in those operations after 1963 is so ludicrously at odds with the documentary record of more than seven countries that they would be laughable if they were not so damaging to Romanian-American relations.
            Exploiting Mr. Woolsey’s support for the central theses of Disinformation and, in Pacepa’s case, older relationships of trust that may have been based on accurate information regarding Soviet operations, Pacepa, Bădin and Tismaneanu now manage to persuade the former CIA director not to examine my book, my other publications, or my TV or radio broadcasts, but rather to believe what they say Larry Watts says about him.
Using this technique they elicit responses from Mr. Woolsey to statements misattributed by them to Larry Watts, again careful to avoid any citation or quotation that would allow Mr. Woolsey to verify their misrepresentations. None of my previous publications attribute any statement or action to former CIA Director Woolsey (beyond noting his presence in a publicly-reported symposium). Mr. Woolsey is not mentioned even once in With Friends Like These.
            According to Pacepa in his “whisper-down-the-line” scenario, Larry Watts claims that former Director Woolsey stated that “I [Pacepa] had confessed to him [Woolsey], in his CIA office, that I was a KGB agent.” Pacepa further alleges that Larry Watts refers “to some undisclosed documents allegedly found in CIA archives” to claim that Ceauşescu would have broken “away from the Soviet bloc” when he “was executed in 1989 because the CIA had concealed the truth about him [Ceauşescu] to avoid having to admit it had granted me [Pacepa] political asylum even though it knew all along that I had actually been a KGB agent all my life.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 339)
Having thus misrepresented the work of Larry Watts as seeking to discredit the CIA – and suggesting that Watts’s arguments are not sourced with the utmost precision – Pacepa and Bädin then paradoxically declare that Larry Watts has been seeking to associate himself with the very organization that he is bent on discrediting, that he “claimed to be working for the CIA” and that “Watts wrote in his biography (later also published in his blog) that he worked in the CIA.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 340;, 18/10/12 and 19/10/12)
These are “whoppers” indeed. Whoppers that Mr. Tismaneanu propagates more obliquely, stating that “known American personalities are attributed words which they have never uttered. I refer to Mr. R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA. Thus, resort is made to crass lies, the intentional disfiguration of the truth, [and] the brutal falsification of verifiable fact.” (, 27/07/13)
Bädin is more explicit in his exchange with Mr. Pacepa, stating that: “According to Mr. Larry Watts, the former director of the CIA, Mr. James Woolsey, had said that you admitted in his bureau at the CIA that you denigrated Ceausescu because you were a KGB agent.” (Evenimentul zilei, 29/07/13) Not surprisingly, given his sources, Pacepa’s co-author likewise declares that “Watts claims that the proof that Pacepa was a KGB agent was provided by former CIA director James Woolsey, who allegedly disclosed that Pacepa acknowledged to him, in his CIA office, that he had been a KGB agent all his life.” (
            In conformity with standard disinformation good practices, Pacepa, Tismaneanu and Bädin all fail to identify any book, article, page, TV or radio broadcast in which Larry Watts made such outlandish allegations. They cannot produce them because they do not exist. Trusting in the word of Pacepa and company, Mr. Woolsey reacts naturally to such obviously “ridiculous affirmations,” labeling them the lies they are.
Successfully misrepresenting Larry Watts as having made these absurd assertions, the Pacepa team manages to draw out Mr. Woolsey’s uninformed comment that “the affirmations of Watts are lies.” The affirmations to which Mr. Woolsey is replying are indeed lies. But they are the lies of Pacepa, Tismaneanu and Bädin, not of Larry Watts.
Mr. Woolsey’s comment is exactly the sort of jewel that Pacepa, Tismaneanu and Bädin most desired – a clear statement from a former U.S. official, and a former CIA director at that, dismissing the work of Larry Watts. This is reflected in the eager insistence on Woolsey’s comment by an impressive array of websites sympathetic to the Pacepa line. The Pacepa team members are less successful in achieving their secondary goal, to have Larry Watts engage former Director Woolsey in a polemic while leaving Pacepa and his colleagues to continue their mischief unchallenged.
Knowing the mechanism employed by Pacepa & co., I would prefer to refrain from further comment were it not for the fact that my lack of response might give the mistaken impression that these attacks on my credibility have some basis, or that Mr. Woolsey’s current opinion of Pacepa and of Romanian-Soviet intelligence collaboration represents that of the community of US intelligence agencies, the CIA especially. Neither is true.
            In fact, there are dozens (at least) of CIA documents detailing the anti-Soviet independence of the Romanian regime, especially within the Warsaw Pact, that post-date Pacepa’s defection. Those who wish to verify this can consult, for example, the collection of reports brought out by Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, whose contribution to US and NATO interests far exceeded that of Mr. Pacepa. Kuklinski, a more reliable source than Pacepa, repeatedly described Romania’s independence with admiration in both these documents and in his published interviews. (, 18 March 2011; Kultura (Paris), 4 475 (April 1987): 3-57)
            Mr. Woolsey’s opinion, that “all of the intelligence services of the Soviet bloc were, under one form or other, controlled by the KGB,” was presumably formed when he was acting CIA director (02/92 – 01/94), when the archives of the Soviet bloc were only just cracking open. At the start of the 1990s I also shared that opinion, at least in part.
However, that opinion no longer represents the current state of knowledge among U.S. intelligence agencies or academic analysts. On the contrary, documentary collections made available since 1991 from the former regimes of the Soviet bloc – as well as further U.S. declassifications – all confirm the breakdown in Soviet-Romanian intelligence cooperation since the early 1960s. An ex-KGB foreign counter-intelligence chief, now resident in the United States, has even explained that, by 1971, “Romanian State Security terminated its ties with the KGB” while the “other Eastern European secret services became even more subservient to the Soviets.” (
Clearly, my discussion of the fact that Mr. Pacepa was an agent of the KGB throughout his career in Romania’s state security apparatus has struck a nerve. Pacepa’s discomfort is somewhat odd. He boasts throughout his 1987 Red Horizons that he received his instructions directly from senior KGB officer Alexander Sakharovsky, and had private meetings with KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. And he underscored his privileged relationship with KGB leaders in subsequent articles as well as in his current volume, where Pacepa repeatedly describes the KGB’s foreign intelligence chief as his “boss and mentor” and the leader of the Soviet Communist Party as his “ultimate boss,” and credits the Kremlin with “pushing” him “to the top of Romanian foreign intelligence.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 45, 90, 150, 191, 281, 375)
At times he has been quite specific about the nature of the orders that he received from his KGB bosses. He claims, for example, that in 1972 the chief of KGB foreign intelligence “gave him responsibility for illegal operations in Romania.” (The American Spectator, 09/07/10) What that KGB-granted responsibility meant in terms of the complete breakdown of Romanian-Soviet intelligence cooperation the year before I will leave to the reader to judge.
Pacepa’s insistence on receiving orders from the high firmament of the KGB creates a rather large contradiction when he now claims that he was “never a KGB agent.” His cheering section dismisses any suggestion that Pacepa might have been a KGB agent as utter nonsense and addled fantasy. Mr. Tismaneanu decries the fact that “Abracadabra scenarios are launched conforming to which Ion Mihai Pacepa was a Soviet agent.” And Pacepa’s co-author labels the claim “that Pacepa was a KGB agent” as “preposterous.” (, 27/07/13;, 29 July 2013)
Identifying Pacepa as a KGB agent is hardly the hallucinatory fantasy Mr. Tismaneanu claims. As Pacepa openly admits, the U.S. Presidential Administration that granted him asylum in 1978 believed him to “have been a KGB agent,” was convinced that his defection was “concocted by the KGB,” and even prohibited him “from publishing anything for the rest of [Pacepa’s] life.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 332, 342) Pacepa received asylum not because of the alleged value of his information but because it was U.S. policy not to return political defectors likely to be executed on their return – Pacepa was sentenced to death in absentia – nor was it in U.S. interest to discourage other high-level Soviet bloc defections (even if defections “in-place” were always preferred.)
The great victory obtained by Pacepa and company in this current campaign is Woolsey’s statement (retranslated from the Romanian newspaper account in Evenimentul zilei) that “Watts maintains that General Pacepa informed me that for many years he had been a KGB agent,” and that this alleged “affirmation of Watts, that Pacepa confessed to me that he had been a KGB agent, is a lie.” (
No doubt Mssrs Pacepa, Tismaneanu and Bädin see this as game, set and match.
To be clear, up to this point Mr. Woolsey was reacting naturally to the disinformation provided him by Pacepa & co. Now, however, he commits an error of his own. According toFront Page Magazine, in April 2004 Mr. Woolsey participated in a three-man panel with Mr. Pacepa entitled “KGB Resurrection,” in which Mr. Pacepa declared that “I spent 27 years of my life working for the KGB, I defected from it 26 years ago.” (, 30/04/04)
Barring the unlikely possibility that the moderator mistook Mr. Woolsey and/or Mr. Pacepa for some other persons, Mr. Woolsey probably has misremembered. Pacepa did admit in the presence of, if not directly to, Mr. Woolsey that he “worked for the KGB” for the entire period of his 27 years in the Romanian state security apparatus. Pacepa acknowledged during the same panel that Soviet KGB officer Sakharovsky was his “former boss,” removing any doubt as to which KGB he might be referring.
In any case, as I affirm in my 2010 volume, Pacepa had indeed “gone on record that he was in fact a Soviet agent throughout his career in the DSS,” and he has “admitted having ‘spent 27 years’ as a Soviet agent taking ‘orders from the Soviet KGB,’ the entire length of his career in Romania’s state security organs.” (Watts (2010): endnote #59 on 206, 660)
Pacepa’s “monster plot” conspiracy theory, like that of his predecessor, Anatolyi Golitsyn, did win some adherents within the US intelligence – and especially counterintelligence – establishment, but the CIA as institution never endorsed it prior to 1985, as Pacepa and company would have us believe. Nor does the Central Intelligence Agency endorse it today, contrary to what Mr. Woolsey suggests.
Comintern agent Willi Münzenburg is credited with inventing the Soviet front organization and the “clubs of innocents” (or “useful idiots”) through which he manipulated unsuspecting Western opinion. In similar fashion Pacepa and company persist on running with the lie that Communist Romania during 1963-1989 was a Soviet Trojan horse and its independence a sham. That lie falls before overwhelming archival evidence to the contrary.
                   Naturally, Pacepa and his supporters are anxious that we “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” that might expose him as a false wizard whose information is not nearly so great nor so powerful as he would have us believe. Instead, he insists – along with Mssrs Tismaneanu and Bădin – that we look almost anywhere other than at the great hoard of publicly accessible documents detailing the close Romanian-American relationship, the close Romanian-Chinese relationship and the mutually antagonistic and often outright hostile Soviet-Romanian and Warsaw Pact-Romanian relationships.
            According to one time-tested legal adage: “If the facts are on your side then argue the facts; if the law is on your side then argue the law; but if neither are on your side then attack your opponent.” Unable to combat the avalanche of documentary evidence, Pacepa, Tismaneanu and Bädin clearly resort to this approach, attacking their imagined versions of the past and character of Larry Watts rather than the arguments and evidence presented inWith Friends Like These. No doubt they will run into similar difficulty with my second volume, Extorting Peace: Romania and the End of the Cold War (2013).

[This blog originally appeared as "Pacepa, The Great and Powerful II", August 28, 2013]

Trapping Woolsey: How to Hoodwink a CIA Director Part I

On 28 July 2013 Romania’s B1 TV ran a 6-hour marathon program to launch the latest literary effort by Romanian Cold War defector Ion Mihai Pacepa - Disinformation (2013), co-authored by Ronald J. Rychlak – and to praise Pacepa as a hero allegedly responsible for bringing down communism in Romania and, apparently, in Europe. (, 28 July 2013)
As part of the supplementary media extravaganza Mssrs Pacepa, his interviewer Andrei Bädin, and Vladimir Tismaneanu attacked my person and my book With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania (2010). Ironically, the title and central topic of the Pacepa-Rychlak volume are ideally suited for assessing their attacks against Larry Watts.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept, disinformation is spurious information designed to deceive decision-makers and/or public audiences into taking action – including non-action – damaging to their interests. In the case at hand, this might refer to the misrepresentation of a source as reliable and worthy of consultation or as exactly the reverse – as a charlatan whose reports should be neither read nor considered. Since disinformation cannot withstand serious verification, every effort is made to discourage critical analysis. Even the most bizarre allegations can be sold to target audiences when disinformation is tuned to the pre-existing beliefs, suspicions, cultural prejudices or political biases of the receiver.
Most disinformation shares several characteristics. First, aside from minor details that lend it plausibility the main allegations are difficult or impossible to verify. Secondly, disinformation is difficult to trace back to its original source. Source references, when given at all, are only general and no specific citations, page numbers, or broadcast programs and times are provided. This encourages the receiver to believe that the allegation is documented while discouraging him or her from examining or verifying any specific reference. A case in point: none of the quotations that Pacepa presents as coming from his discussions with KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, from KGB foreign intelligence chief Alexander Sakharovsky, or from Nicolae Ceausescu has any documentary basis whatsoever.
The allegations of the Pacepa-Bädin-Tismaneanu team regarding post-1963 Soviet-Romanian intelligence collaboration and their attacks against my person and my work follow this pattern exactly. They claim the existence of post-1963 collaboration against the U.S., the Vatican and Israel yet they provide no evidence or proof to back up that allegation beyond the ‘authority’ of Pacepa, insisting on what he wrote in Red Horizons. And they invent their own “Larry Watts” in order to attack assertions that I have never expressed in speech or writing, while seeking to draw unwitting U.S. personalities to join them in their campaign against assertions for which they are solely responsible. This latter tactic corresponds to a standard disinformation “game” in which conflict is incited between the target and a third party until it becomes self-sustaining, thus diverting the target’s energies and weakening its position.
Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey fell into this trap because he trusted Pacepa and therefore did not undertake due diligence in verifying Pacepa’s allegations. The same technique was used to ensnare Albert Einstein and a number of US Senators and Congressmen in unwitting support of Soviet front organizations purporting to be working on social welfare issues during the 1920s and 1930s. (;New York Times, 09/02/22)
            Mssrs Pacepa and Tismaneanu have sought to enlist some U.S. authority to discreditWith Friends Like These since its initial publication. This was no easy task given that the book received favorable reviews from leading specialists on Romania and the Cold War in the region such as Prof. Keith Hitchens, Prof. Dennis Deletant, and Director of National Security Policy and Strategy at the US Army War College, Colonel Charles Van Bebber. (Southeastern Europe, 36 1(December 2012); Slavic and East European Review, 90 1(January 2012);Parameters, 41 3(Autumn 2011))
With Friends Like These also received endorsements from a former head of British intelligence assessment, a senior CIA analyst responsible for the Balkans, several former senior US diplomats who served in the area, and professors from both the United States and Europe. In Romania the book has been praised by Academicians, university professors, archivists, both current and former post-communist intelligence directors, defense ministers, chiefs of the general staff, etc. (for reviews and excerpts of the books
            Faced with such a formidable challenge, Pacepa and company have elected to avoid the book altogether. Instead, they make an appearance of referring to the book while actually citing claims and allegations of their own manufacture. And to make those claims and allegations more credible, they impute a character and past to the author that have little or no basis in reality. Their “Larry Watts” is a disloyal American who fled the United States during the Cold War, sold his services to Romania’s communist regime, and even betrayed his country – misrepresenting me as a Pacepa in reverse. Meanwhile, Pacepa is comfortably wrapped in several layers of the American flag, writing “love letters” to the United States.
            Such incredible claims can only be made believable by “framing” targets that otherwise lack any credible motivation for the imputed behavior. Vladimir Tismaneanu, for example, began insinuating that I was an adept of Stalinism and that I worked for theSecuritate almost immediately after the publication of With Friends Like These, suggesting that I had “gone native” from “too much contact” with Romanian military historians prior to 1989. (, 28/05/11, 30/05/11, 20/12/11 and 11/05/13)
Andrei Bädin, Pacepa’s interviewer in the “major television event,” tells the rather far-fetched tale of a Larry Watts who “moved to the Romania of Ceauşescu” after “obtaining political asylum” from that regime, and then “embraced the ideals of Romanian communism” and “collaborated with the Securitate.” (, 18 and 19/10/13;, 29/07/13)
Pacepa, their source of ‘reliable’ intelligence, declares that “in reality, Watts had settled in Romania during Ceauşescu’s reign and had worked for Ceauşescu’s brother, General Ilie Ceauşescu.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 340)
None of these allegations can resist even rudimentary fact-checking. My various trips to Romania were always on U.S. government or Congressionally-financed fellowship programs. Thus, I spent two years in communist Romania on a Fulbright Fellowship; a couple of months on IREX fellowships; and a couple of months on what used to be called the National Resource fellowship, for example. I never met a single member of the Ceausescu clan during that time, much less accepted employment from one.
Nor was I huddling in cozy asylum and conspiring with the Ceausescu regime during the late 1980s, as Pacepa and Bädin insist. 
Leaving aside the Pacepa team's alternate universe, in this reality, the one where individuals actually leave paper trails, I was conducting research on a Woodrow Wilson Center grant in Washington D.C., conducting research at the University of Denver in Colorado, completing doctoral work in Los Angeles, in a program run jointly by the RAND Corporation and UCLA, and working as a RAND consultant. I provided research assistance and analysis for Pentagon-ordered studies regarding the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the Warsaw Pact. Those studies were conducted by RAND’s principal KGB expert, Jeremy Azrael, and by RAND’s various Warsaw Pact and Eastern European specialists, for example, J. F. Brown, A. Ross Johnson, John Van Oudernaren, and F. Stephen Larrabee. I also had the privilege of participating in the odd “war game” with the likes of McGeorge Bundy, Frank Fukuyama, Arnold Kantor, etc.
By 1988 Romania’s prospects seemed to me so bleak that I temporarily left it as a field of study, re-focusing my analytical attentions on the then-extraordinary evolution and liberalization of the USSR. That autumn and winter, with the aid of a RAND grant, I even spent several months in Leningrad, the Baltic republics and Moscow, actually presenting a seminar paper at what used to be called Zhdanov University in today’s St. Petersburg on “The KGB and Reform.”(See Only the overthrow of Ceausescu in the revolution of December 1989, and the persuasiveness of IREX personnel, convinced me to return to the topic of Romania from my teaching post at the University of Washington in Seattle.
I have been resident in post-communist Romania at least half-time since 1991 – working on NATO integration and security sector reform and, since 2009, teaching and writing. My residence in Romania has always been on the basis of a series of temporary visas and that remains the case today. I have neither requested nor applied for Romanian citizenship. All of this is part of the documentary record that can be verified at each of the institutions mentioned.
Pacepa’s rapid-fire ability to compound untruths is impressive. In one ‘revelation,’ obviously considered by him to be the “smoking gun,” Pacepa proclaims with emphasis that the English language version of my book was published only “a year after its Romanian ‘translation’”. “Clearly,” the triumphant defector announces, “Watts’s book was first written in Romanian,” and that “proves its role as disinformation.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 340)
Once again, Pacepa’s fable crumbles when subjected to even the most superficial verification. The launch of the English edition of my book, including close-ups not only of the front and back covers but of the English language text and maps inside, has been on the internet since November 2010. (, 10/11/10) It was also presented to a Romanian meeting of the Trilateral Commission at the time. The maiden launch of the first Romanian edition in May 2011, seven months later, has also been available on the internet since then. (, 19/05/11) The English “horse” did indeed come before the Romanian “wagon”.
Such basic fact-checking is hardly rocket science. And Pacepa’s failure to bother with it while insisting that reality was exactly the reverse raises some very serious questions about other information for which his testimony is the sole source. Trotting out a series of former U.S. officials and other Americans who have been gulled by Pacepa hardly reduces this basic credibility problem.
Pacepa singles out my work in the final chapter (before the epilogue) of hisDisinformation and insists that it is dedicated to discrediting him. However, With Friends Like These is over 760 pages long and Pacepa appears only on seven pages of the text, the first time only on page 550. (Watts (2010): 550-552, 554, 581-582, 660) And, in contradistinction to his practice, I do not target him with ad hominem attacks. The few brief references I do make to his past in Romania are primarily based on his own, sourced utterances and on recent discoveries by the hard-working staff at Romania’s National Council for the Study of the Security Archives. (e.g. Liviu Ţăranu, Ion Mihai Pacepa in the Securitate Files 1978-1980, CSNAS 2009) 
That said, my book does detail the Soviet Bloc’s clandestine war against Romania up until 1978, on the basis of archival documents from the former Warsaw Pact members principally. And its central finding, that the independence of Romania’s communist regime was not only real but far more real and genuinely anti-Soviet than we in the West realized at the time, strikes at the heart of the Pacepa legend, so heartily supported by Mssrs Tismaneanu and Bädin.
Pacepa’s main theme remains as it always has been – that communist Romania was a Soviet Trojan horse and that none of its independence was genuine. The Pacepa team demands, on the one hand, that we dismiss all of the overwhelming documentation to the contrary that has emerged from the archives of the former Warsaw Pact states – and to ignore “the man behind the curtain,” a glimpse of whom would destroy the entire myth created by long repetition of this lie.
His bottom line is that Romania hoodwinked Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan (in his first term), along with CIA directors John McCone (1961-1965), William Raborn (1965-1966), Richard Helms (1966-1973), James Schlesinger (1973), William Colby (1973-1976), George Bush, Sr. (1976-1977), Stansfield Turner (1977-1981) and, apparently, William Casey during the first half of his tenure (1981-1987). This was highly improbable even before the post-communist avalanche of documentary evidence to the contrary from Soviet and Warsaw Pact authorities – documents that are now publicly available at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project and the Parallel History Project for Cooperative Security (for example). (;
On the other hand, Pacepa throws a “curtain” of culpability over the entire Romanian state security apparatus, the various Romanian communist regimes, and Romania itself so that they might be identified with Pacepa as agencies of the KGB and Kremlin. Hewould have us believe that the wealth of documents now made available by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian and at the CIA’s Freedom of Information Act Reading Room, which illustrate the special Romanian-American relationship, are unreliable because the U.S.A. had been hoodwinked from the early 1960s until almost a decade after he arrived in the United States.  (
Always an unlikely proposition, insistence upon it is now ridiculous. Not only can US intelligence reporting be compared with that from within the Warsaw Pact, but it is even possible to triangulate the documentation from the former Soviet bloc made available through official declassification and vetting processes with the impromptu East German intelligence leakage during the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, the KGB archives smuggled out by Vasiliy Mitrokhin, and the Soviet Central Committee and KGB documents remaining in the archives of the Republic of Moldova (and other former Soviet republics), which Moscow has been desperate to reclassify (without success as of this writing).

[This blog originally appeared as "Pacepa, The Great and Powerful I", August 19, 2013]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

30,000 Ceausescus - 25/02/2014

At the beginning of 1990, a friend prophetically remarked: “the main problem with Romania is not that it had a Ceausescu, but that it has 30,000 Ceausescus.” I have had more than one occasion to recall that statement when witnessing demonstrations of poorly internalized democratic values among leading figures in the government, in extra-parliamentary opposition and, most disappointingly, among Romania’s “civic society.”
            The phenomenon is perhaps the most offensive in the realm of media and free speech, where the Voltairian pledge – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it*” – has often been supplanted by claims on the monopoly of truth. As an American, I was brought up to believe in the ideal of the “marketplace of ideas” in which conflicting opinions are allowed to be voiced, to confront one another, and to stand or fall on their own merits. A marketplace where, to cite Voltaire again, you were expected to “think for yourself, and to let others enjoy the privilege to do so as well.” (06/02/1770)
Recently, the tenth episode of the documentary “The Clandestine Legacy” [Mostenirea clandestina at] based on material from my books With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania (2010) and Extorting Peace: Romania and The End of the Cold War (2013), was abruptly interrupted in mid-broadcast and taken off the air by the director of Romania’s national public television station, Stelian Tanase, because he considered it “communist propaganda.” Mr. Tanase did not further elaborate why he thought it “communist propaganda” but it was probably not for the same reasons that persuaded U.S. and European historians to favorably review my books (see e.g. Professor Keith Hitchens in Southeastern Europe and Professor Dennis Deletant in Slavic and East European Studies) or institutions such as the U.S. National Intelligence University to use them as reference texts.
Instead of the equidistance demanded by public broadcasting Mr. Tanase has substituted his personal political agenda. And he has taken it upon himself to ensure that an alternate opinion is not heard, despite the high-ratings and several professional awards that the documentary series has garnered.
Mr. Tanase’s insistence on his monopoly of the truth echoes former dictatorial efforts to eliminate inconvenient historical truths and replace them with ones more supportive of the aims and capricious whims of respective dictators. As Yugoslav political philosopher Svetozar Stojanovich observed, under Communism “the only absolutely certain thing is the future, since the past is constantly changing.” (Praxis, 3-4, 1972:375)
The mentality demonstrated by Mr. Tanase that history is only a function of ideology and interest is not only unfortunate in its implications for democracy and free speech, it is fundamentally mistaken in terms of historical methodology. There is, in fact, an evidentiary basis upon which genuine history is written. And because of that evidentiary basis the best histories are able to stand the test of time and regime change.
This is by no means the first time that Romanian history has come under attack. Indeed, one might argue that it has been a semi-permanent reality. Between the world wars the USSR maintained an all-out offensive in its effort to rewrite the past in order to depict the Romanian Kingdom as a relentlessly “aggressive armed encampment” and as the “most savage monarchy in Europe,” against which the Soviet Union had to intervene militarily for humanitarian reasons. In a most eloquent demonstration of the social pathology known as “blaming the victim,” Soviet forces invaded and occupied parts of Romanian Moldova and Bucovina (Bessarabia, northern Bucovina and the Herta) in 1940 while the Moscow propaganda machine labeled Romania the aggressor.
            Communist authorities ordered massive book burnings according to the indications given in several editions of the volume Forbidden Publications [Publicatiile interzise]. Among the categories of books to be destroyed were all school manuals printed before 1947 and all works by Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Iuliu Maniu, Ion Mihalache, Nicolae Iorga and the Romanian royal family. Hundreds of forbidden works were listed for destruction according to each letter of the alphabet (e.g. 621 books beginning with the letter “M” and 741 beginning with “S”). According to Forbidden Publications (1947, p. 5):

“In their criminal activity of keeping the people in ignorance and obscurantism at any price, the reactionaries used all means that could help them achieve that end. They propagated poisonous imperialist ideology among all strata of society in preparation for the war of thievery and invasion against the Soviet Union, and the working masses had to be deliberately misled and the true truth hidden behind a mask of lies, which the landholder-bourgeoisie desired to be as non-transparent as possible.”

Romanian historiography, previously indistinguishable from that of the rest of Europe, was labeled henceforth as “imperialist” and “bourgeois propaganda.” The Stalinist “classed-based” historiography that replaced it one-sidedly depicted Romanian leadership before communism as relentlessly repressive and aggressive, Romanian policy as one of constant expansion into the territory of others, and every Romanian regime as devoid of any constructive or positive attributes whatsoever.
This changed in the early 1960s when Soviet officials began attacking Gheorghiu-Dej’s new document-based Romanian historiography, which disregarded considerations of “class” and the precepts of Marxist-Leninism. Accordingly, the Soviet school of historical thought now held that no Romanian leadership had ever represented anything more than a blight on the political landscape, a demonstration of failed civilization.  The basic problem, as Moscow described it, was the “similarity or identity of modern Romanian opinions with the appreciations of Western bourgeois historiography.” (See documents 1, 11, 14, 17 and 24 at
The quality of serious Romanian historiography from the mid-1960s into the 1980s was so impressive to the global community of professional historians that they elected Romania to hold the five-year presidency of its most prestigious institution, the International Committee of Historical Sciences (1980-1985). (Toward a Global Community of Historians (2005): 259-260) It was the only Soviet bloc member to be so honored during the Cold War. Although Moscow hosted the Congress in 1970 it had been awarded that honor only because of its political clout unrelated to the quality of its historiography, which remained tightly bound to the dogmas of Communist ideology.
Interestingly, just like the earlier Soviet claims of “falsification” and “imperialist propaganda,” contemporary reference to these realities – to the respectable professionalism of post-1962 Romanian historiography and especially to Romania’s constructive role as a state actor in international politics – continues to be labeled by some as “falsification” and, ironically, as “communist propaganda”. Given Stelian Tanase’s uninformed characterization of my work as Securitate/Communist propaganda, it would appear that his agenda includes rewriting Romanian history along ideological lines.
Mr. Tanase apparently feels that best way of dealing with the scandal that his transgressions have brought upon himself and upon TVR is to mount an ad hominem attack against Larry Watts (a.k.a. “blaming the victim”). What saddens me is that he has drawn in someone, Michael Shafir, whom I once thought dedicated to the ideals of transparency and scholarly debate. And that Mr. Shafir then chose to employ tactics of shadowy innuendo and ad hominem attack more characteristic of Securitate (and Soviet) disinformation.
            According to Shafir’s “defense” of Tanase’s transgressions:

The affiliation of Larry Watts with Securitate circles is no secret to anyone and (besides himself) is not denied by anyone. At least not in any credible manner. I will not again take up here the numerous indications [of his Securitate affiliation] based on his unusual “scientific” travels in Romania. These things are well-known, beginning with his self-recruitment into the group supporting the rehabilitation of Marshal Antonescu, alongside Iosif Constantin Dragan, in the 80s …

Thus, Tanase’s transgressions are deemed unimportant because Larry Watts allegedly has dubious connections to the Securitate. And there is no need to actually prove the existence of such connections because they are “not a secret for anyone.” Moreover, Watts should be ignored on the topic of his past because “no one [else] denies” the alleged ties. That no one else except for the circle of Tanase, Tismaneanu, Pacepa and Shafir is alleging such affiliations is a minor detail.
Mr. Shafir claims as ‘proof’ for his allegations the existence of “numerous indications based on [Watts’] unusual ‘scientific’ travels in Romania.” Apparently, further detail regarding those “numerous indications” is shared only among the illuminati. Or, following Mr. Shafir’s logic, they do not have to be made explicit because they are “not a secret for anyone.” Mere interest in Romania is suspect.
In fact, all of my Romanian visits prior to 1990 were made on the basis of grants and fellowships funded by the U.S. Government or Congress (National Resource Fellowship (FLAS), IREX grants and Fulbright Fellowships). And from 1984 until 1990 I was either working under contract for the U.S. government, conducting research at the Woodrow Wilson Center or the University of Denver, working as a consultant at the RAND Corporation – including a 6-month period during 1988 in the USSR financed by RAND – or teaching as visiting professor at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Clearly, all of that must have been a front. It does it matter that I can document where I was, what I did, and on whose coin I did it. And the fact that paper trails proving this are relatively easy to follow in the United States is inconsequential. By all means, one must avoid such transparency if innuendo and insinuation – disinformation – are to have their desired effect.
Shafir also claims that I “recruited myself” to a group “supporting the rehabilitation of Marshal Antonescu, alongside Iosif Constantin Dragan.” I did no such thing. I have never even met or communicated with Mr. Dragan, much less collaborated with him. My 1985 Master’s thesis at the University of Washington dealt with the regime change from King Carol II to Marshal Antonescu in 1940. The main finding of that thesis, that the King had invited the German military mission and committed Romania to the German Axis long before Antonescu came to power, has been fully validated by post-1989 archival revelations.
Interestingly, only one day before the Tanase/Shafir attack on my person and work, the unreformed Securitate perspective on my “dark purposes” and “dubious ties” was also presented on-line by ex-Securitate Colonel Filip Teodorescu, the current head of its veterans’ association:

“Larry Watts was under Romanian counterintelligence surveillance. … You should not associate with him. I, for one, will not because I know. I know what he did. I know why he was here. I know what he is doing now. And I know the purpose of his insistent action here from 1981 until now. Perhaps on another occasion we can broach the topic [of Larry Watts] more professionally. First he praises Romanians … but in the end he tells us what we do not like, he delivers the blow, [which] he has prepared in advance. That’s who he is, he is an intelligence professional.”

Thus, the self-styled “civic society” represented by Tanase and Shafir would have me and my work marginalized because of my alleged ties to the Securitate. And the Securitate desires the same because of my alleged ties to U.S. intelligence. The suspense is killing me. I, for one, cannot wait for Mssrs Teodorescu, Shafir or Tanase to give some credible explanation of what my dark purposes really are; for whom, in the end, I am actually working; and how my work in resolving ethnic tensions, establishing democratic control over the armed forces and intelligence services, and gaining Romania’s admission into NATO have served the “dark purposes” of my purported masters.
But enough about me.
The actions perpetrated by TVR Director Stelian Tanase in arbitrarily interrupting episode 10 of “The Clandestine Legacy” in mid-broadcast because of his personal opinions are troubling, especially given that he is reputed to be a leading representative of civic society in Romania. His continued lack of regret suggests that he remains unaware as to the import and inappropriateness of his actions. And his preference to avoid responsibility and to throw the blame anywhere else suggests that this will not be the last such incident while he heads Romanian public television. Singly and together, these actions betray a mindset more comfortable with dictatorship than democracy.
On Monday, February 24, Mr. Tanase further attempted to justify his disregard of the Romanian constitution and of the regulations of Romania’s public television station by repeating his claim that the censored program was “a Securitate provocation” forbidden by law. Mr. Tanase apparently feels that evidence and opinions with which he does not agree should be repressed.
On the one hand, Mr. Tanase displays a profound lack of respect for free speech and public debate as well as the extent and limitations of the authority of his present position. On the other, he dismisses as “propaganda” assertions and interpretations that are not only well-documented but whose documentation can be independently checked on-line at multiple internet archive sites hosted by respected institutions in the United States and Europe.
For treating Romania’s national public television station as his personal property and its personnel and procedures as subject to his whim, and for demonstrating a callous disregard for democratic principle and historical truth, Mr. Tanase has earned himself a prominent place among the 30,000.

[*Voltaire’s actual words were “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” 06/02/1770]

This blog appeared in Romanian translation at