Tory councillor gave details on Britain and Nato Communist Czech spies during Cold War 

EXCLUSIVE: Tory councillor gave details on Britain and Nato’s ‘combat alert status’ to Communist Czech spies during Cold War

  • Tory councillor supplied Nato information to Communist spies in the Cold War
  •  Dexter Smith was given cash for information about chemical weapons
  • Despite being opposed to Communism, he became ‘addicted’ to cash rewards
  • Codenamed Slough, he passed on 24 reports during ‘clandestine’ meetings

A Tory councillor supplied information about Britain and Nato‘s ‘combat alert status’ to Communist spies for cash during the Cold War.

Dexter Smith, the Conservative group leader for Slough Council, supplemented his salary as a defence journalist in the Eighties by providing details about Nato nuclear planning summits, chemical weapons and the missile defence of Western Europe.

He also used his access to Government and military officials to supply reports on British involvement in the American Star Wars nuclear defence plan, the modernisation of Nato’s command and control system and military equipment developments – which were used by enemy intelligence chiefs behind the Iron Curtain.

Despite being opposed to Communism, he became ‘addicted’ to cash rewards for his information and eventually determined ‘to sell every word’, according to newly declassified Security Service archives in Prague.

He also enjoyed being ‘entertained in style’ in high end restaurants by his handler and receiving gifts including cut glass in return for the ‘reports and information he provides,’ the files said.

Dexter Smith, the Conservative group leader for Slough Council, supplemented his salary as a defence journalist in the Eighties by providing details about Nato nuclear planning summits, chemical weapons and the missile defence of Western Europe

Dexter Smith, the Conservative group leader for Slough Council, supplemented his salary as a defence journalist in the Eighties by providing details about Nato nuclear planning summits, chemical weapons and the missile defence of Western Europe

Mr Smith was said to be susceptible to flattery and also cooperated to ‘make himself feel good’ because he liked to ‘show off’ his ‘knowledge and expertise of military policy’.

Codenamed Slough, after his home town, he passed on 24 reports during ‘clandestine’ meetings in London and near Windsor Castle.

Mr Smith, who ‘fully understood’ who he was working for, was ‘very careful’ when handing over his reports and ‘looks around to make sure he is not being watched,’ according to the files.

The information he supplied was classed as ‘non-public’ or ‘not easily available’ and was to a ‘large extent usable’ and utilised by intelligence agencies in Czechoslovakia.

His paid cooperation only ended when his handler, Major Bedrich Kramar, an agent for the Czech Military Intelligence Agency who had the cover of air attache at its London embassy, was expelled from the UK for spying in September 1988.

Now retired and living in a semi-detached home outside Slough, Mr Smith accepted the file looked ‘damning’ but insisted he had done nothing wrong.

The married father of two said he never provided anything confidential and considered the cash he received payments for as ‘freelance writing commissions’.

The reports he handed over also helped the West’s deterrent by alerting the Communists to the capabilities Nato had without jeopardising them, he said.

Mr Smith also said he had told representatives from the British security services – from an agency he believed to be either MI5 or something similar – about the meetings and provided them all the information he supplied Kramar.

For their part, the Czech spies said in their initial exploration of Mr Smith that ‘nothing adverse happened that would suggest the presence of enemy counter-intelligence’.

An analysis following Kramar’s expulsion concluded – although it was impossible to rule out – ‘we have seen no signs of [Mr Smith] being used as a dangle’ by MI5.

Mr Smith's motive for cooperation with the agent and supplying information was 'mainly for financial reasons', the files allege

Mr Smith’s motive for cooperation with the agent and supplying information was ‘mainly for financial reasons’, the files allege

Soviet state banquet

Mr Smith first met Kramer at a state banquet held at London’s Soviet Embassy in September 1986, which was attended by military and civil diplomats and defence journalists. At the time the Czechoslovakian Military Intelligence Agency was a puppet of the KGB.

Mr Smith was living with his parents in Slough and worked as the strategic affairs editor of Defence magazine, which boasted their ‘globe-trotting’ journalist enjoyed ‘unchallenged political access’.

To the Communist spymasters, this made him a valuable asset, as the files explained: ‘The contact’s job makes it possible for him to obtain and hand over information on the changes in Nato’s and GB’s armed forces combat alert status.

‘He also gets sent as correspondent to closed meetings of Nato bodies and has access to non-public reports from these meetings.’

Following the initial contact, Kramer – referred to by his codename agent 718 in the files – began to make ‘covert’ contact with Mr Smith.

Amid concerns it might be a ‘dangle’ by the British secret service, the Czech handler insisted on ‘security measures’ for the ‘clandestine meetings’ including ordering Mr Smith to keep them secret, meeting at quiet times in restaurants with ‘minimal chance of being overheard’ and carefully watching Mr Smith as he arrived to ‘make sure he was not being followed’.

Exploration

During an initial nine-month ‘suitability assessment’, Mr Smith handed over information on a range of defence issues, including Britain’s involvement in the US Star Wars nuclear deterrent programme, ‘technologies and space weapons’ and the modernisation of the US strategic air force.

Another file noted: ‘His possibilities as to obtaining this kind of information and his willingness to do so were checked at a meeting on 11 May 1987 when, immediately after receiving information at the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) about the planned meeting of the Group for Nuclear Planning, he taped it for the agent.’

A later file added Mr Smith was ‘likely to have close contacts with holders of such confidential information’ and once told his handler when set a task relating to a subject he didn’t know enough about: ‘I will ask around, I have friends in Nato.’

His handler did not detect the ‘presence of enemy counter-intelligence’ so the spy chiefs approved ‘tightening our cooperation’ with Mr Smith.

Now retired and living in a semi-detached home outside Slough, Mr Smith accepted the file looked 'damning' but insisted he had done nothing wrong

Now retired and living in a semi-detached home outside Slough, Mr Smith accepted the file looked ‘damning’ but insisted he had done nothing wrong

Cut glass and cash

Mr Smith’s motive for cooperation with the agent and supplying information was ‘mainly for financial reasons’, the files allege.

His first reward in 1987 was a cut glass Bohemian crystal, worth around £100 at the time, which he said would make a nice present for his then girlfriend.

Payments then ‘gradually changed to direct financial rewards’ which were only given for ‘information that was deemed useful’ by his handler.

One file noted: ‘When receiving envelopes with money in, [Mr Smith] did not seem particularly shy but looked around inconspicuously to make sure he was not being watched.

‘He simply considered the money to be a reward for his informational help.’

On one occasion his handler ‘tested’ whether he was a double agent by offering the money in front of his colleagues during a meeting at his workplace.

Mr Smith looked ‘scared’ and told the agent ‘he would deal with it outside his workplace.’

His handler concluded if he was being directed by the British security services ‘he would most likely not been so worried about hiding his side income.’

As time went on there was an ‘unwritten rule’ that Mr Smith was ‘regularly rewarded for supplied information but he never asked [for] information that was of no use to the agent.’

Mr Smith ‘gradually got used to a side income’ and from November 1986 to March 1988 received just over £1,000 in rewards and hospitality – nearly £3,000 in modern value. At this time he was earning £1,200 a month for his job.

On one occasion when his agent gave him half of what he had expected, Mr Smith was said to be ‘not happy’ and ‘asked for an explanation’. However the following month he showed ‘overt joy’ when paid retrospectively for the information.

His handler believed this showed his ‘growing addiction on financial rewards,’ explaining he was counting on the cash and tried to ‘sell every word’.

Fine dining and flattery

The files say: ‘[Mr Smith] liked dining in style and he used to be impressed by the agent’s choice of high-class restaurants.

‘An additional motive was Smith’s self-satisfaction at being able to supply insightful information that did not compromise him in any way.

‘He knew he was extremely knowledgeable on the required subject matter and was privy to information that no one else in the editorial office had access to and he made sure everyone else knew it.

‘The agent encouraged him in this by making it obvious to him that he respected him as a real authority in his field.’

Source agent

By June 1988, the files note Mr Smith had ‘observed security instructions and fulfilled tasks set’ by his handler, and spy chiefs proposed his recruitment as a full ‘source agent’.

It said that ‘based on the reports and information handed over to us in the exploration stage’ he had ‘already proven his potential’ in providing recorded information from closed MoD meetings about planned changes in the armed forces, training exercises and planned reinforcements of Nato’s armed forces on the Central-European battleground.

He had also offered information on Nato’s military strategy, the ‘development and implementation’ of new types of weapons, the outcome of Nato’s summit meeting with regard to military policy and US influence on Nato’s European military policy.

The day after an October 1987 MoD press conference, he supplied information and documents about Nato’s planned exercise ‘Certain Strike’ – a mass practice to prepare for a potential attack on West Germany by the USSR and its Warsaw Pact Allies.

It said: ‘[Mr Smith] fully understands who he is working for.

‘He is keeping his contact with the agent secret, follows the given security instructions, fulfils the set tasks relating to monitoring changes in combat alert status.

The document concluded: ‘His cooperation is deliberate and he has been obtaining and supplying the required information relating to Nato’s combat alert status on a long-term basis…

‘We have not found anything adverse with regards to security that would prevent his recruitment as a source agent.’

Handler expelled

But, in September 1988, his handler Kramar was expelled from the UK for spying.

Apparently after he was told of his deportation – but before he had left the UK – Kramar had a last meeting with Mr Smith.

The files noted: ‘We saw no signs suggesting a link between the deportation and the Slough case.

‘[Mr Smith] did not show any changes in behaviour during the last regular meeting and agreed to carry on with cooperation with a different agent and supply information in return for money like before.’

Mr Smith said he had no recollection of this meeting and that it did not seem ‘plausible’.

The Czechs did initially cut contact with Mr Smith for several months before spy chiefs decided to make approaches via a new agent to see if the journalist was happy to continue the arrangement.

But the tentative plan appeared to have run out of time, with the final dossier on Mr Smith in the Prague security archives dated 28 November 1989 – the date Communist rule in Czechoslovakia officially ended following the Velvet Revolution to overthrow dictatorship.

Professor Anthony Glees, an intelligence and security expert from the University of Buckingham, said it was no surprise that the Communist spies targeted journalists.

He said: ‘A journalist is always a very important agent. They are trusted and have licence to ask questions of those in power and senior positions.

‘Because it is their brief and subject, they know where to look for and dig out public information which others would not know how to find.’

As a general principle, MI5 will neither confirm nor deny whether someone has worked for or with them, even historically.

MI5 can use whatever lawful means necessary to gather information about a foreign intelligence service operating in the UK.

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