ENIGMA 2000 Newsletter - Issue 13

November 2002
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ENIGMA 2000 article - Michael John Smith. Codename Borg

By Major F Dalby

Michael John Smith was born on 22nd September 1948. The son of an Essex marine engineer, Michael Smith achieved 10 GCE 'O' level and four 'A' level passes. Attending Surrey University Smith graduated in 1971 with a standard degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

After a short time as a trainee in a Midlands Company Smith moved to Rediffusion and lived in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. Ironically the building where Smith lived was named Walsingham.

Sir Francis Walsingham was Queen Elizabeth 1st' choice of spymaster and serious organizer of intelligence around 1570. Smith lived in a first floor flat of this converted semi-detached house in Burton Road.

Whilst at university Smith's political interests developed, he became interested in communism, eventually joining the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1972. In 1975 he became the secretary of the Kingston branch of the Young Communist League.

In 1979 he married a divorcee, Pamela Winter, at Kingston Registry Office. There were no children but the couple excelled on the dance floor, both having a liking for Spanish music and dancing. Smith himself was said to be an accomplished cook, able to create sumptuous Mexican or Spanish dishes, accompanied by a glass or two of his home made wine.

Smith's interest in communism was started by a Yugoslav, Vuk Nenandubik, his flat mate whilst studying at Surrey University. Smith was certainly interested deeply enough to participate in Russian Language instruction at the Kingston Education Centre, although he never became really proficient in the tongue.

Smith also learnt to play the guitar and played and danced at a Covent Garden club, the Seven Dials. There was a much darker side to the life of Michael John Smith. Viktor Oschenko, a KGB colonel, arrived as the Second Secretary at the Russian Embassy in 1972. He subsequently recruited Smith sometime around May 1975 after meeting with him in a public house, after a trade union meeting, which Smith had attended, on the referendum on the British Membership of the EEC.

Viktor Oschenko, whose codename was OZEROV, instructed Smith to leave the Communist Party and to stop any Trade Union activity that he was involved with. He also instructed Smith to read a sober newspaper; Smith read the Daily Telegraph and joined the local Tennis club. This, his Russian masters' thought, would display his loyalty to the authorities.

In July 1976 Michael Smith took a position as a test engineer responsible for quality assurance with Thorn-EMI Defence Electronics at Feltham, Middlesex.

Project XN-715 was a defence contract for the development and design of radar fuses for Britain's freefall nuclear bomb. The WE-177 radar fuses were tested by Michael Smith who passed all the details he could to the KGB. They in turn passed them to a secret Russian Military Institute, code named G-4598 who succeeded in building a replica from the excellent information provided by Smith.

Smith also provided the radio frequency on which the device was to operate but the personnel at the Institute were very wary of this. It was thought that the frequency would be so secret it would never be noted on any document available to Smith.

Possession of this knowledge would enable the enemy to jam or otherwise interfere with the operation of the WE-177 fuse in time of conflict.

The Institute was also suspicious of Smith because he was an active communist and had been cleared for work on top secret projects. Unknown to them some confusion was caused by the existence of another Michael John Smith in the Surrey Communist Party at around the same time as Smith. Smith, or rather BORG, would have been positively vetted.

Smith had visited the USSR in 1975, in all probability, to negotiate the terms of his service with the KGB. Smith also traveled to the US but it was never discovered whether or not the KGB had financed the journey.

A trip to Oporto Portugal, in 1977, financed by the KGB resulted in Smith being trained in spy 'tradecraft'. In the meantime MI5 had discovered the earlier error and confusion involving the other Michael John Smith and notified Thorn-EMI of Smith's communist past. As a result, in 1978, he lost his clearance to work on classified projects and contracts.

This loss of clearance fortified the Institute's suspicions that Smith might possibly be a plant. Three tests, designed to prove Smith's reliability and loyalty, were developed. The first test simply required Smith to recover two secret items from a dead letter drop in Spain; the second was an elaborate interview using psychological techniques designed to search Smith's responses. At the conclusion of 120 questions Smith had convinced his masters that he was not involved in any deception by British Intelligence.

The third test involved the pick up of secret material from a dead letter drop in Paris and its subsequent delivery to the KGB officer in Lisbon.

Smith had only worked for Thorn-EMI for two years but he had been paid in excess of £3750 for the documents supplied by him. After his 'testing' Smith was paid £300 per month as a retainer.

Having lost his clearance Smith was unable to work on classified contracts and made efforts to get his clearance reinstated. He even wrote to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, asking her to act on his behalf. Smith was eventually interviewed by a MI5 officer but denied having been a communist, having only joined the party because he was looking for a girlfriend.

He eventually succeeded getting some reinstating of his status and was freed to work on classified projects again.

In December 1985 Smith worked again as a Quality Assurance engineer at GEC-Hirst situated in Wembley. He was given a limited security clearance on a need to know basis.

Between 1990 and 1992 Smith met his case officers at the Church of St Mary at Harrow-on-the-Hill or at a local recreation park.

He received the massive sum of £20,000 for documents and other classified material taken from the GEC-Hirst defence projects.

As a result of a telephone call on 8th August 1992, from a telephone kiosk in Kingston, made by a MI5 officer, heavily disguising his voice with a Russian accent, Smith went to meet a friend of Viktor Oschenko's named 'George'. On arrival at the kiosk Smith discovered a trap and was arrested by Special Branch officers. His arrest had been brought about by the defection, to Britain, of Viktor Oschenko.

A subsequent search of Smith's Datsun car revealed a Sainsbury's carrier bag containing documents on surface acoustic wave [SAW] military radar and details of the Rapier ground to air Missile system.

Smith admitted spending some of his accrued wealth on items for his hobbies, a synthesizer, guitar and computer equipment. Pamela Smith, his wife, was also arrested at the same time and interviewed for three days during which she had had suspicions about her husband and had asked him if he was indeed a friend of Great Britain.

Michael John Smith was jailed for 25 years on Thursday 18th November 1993. The trial lasted nine weeks and was mostly held in camera due to the sensitive nature of evidential material. Smith faced four charges under the Official Secrets Act.

The judge, Mr. Justice Blofeld, told Smith that he had betrayed his country for greed. Smith was acquitted of making five handwritten notes of sensitive projects for a purpose prejudicial to the interests of the State. Within these notes were details of the so-called 'Star Wars' program.

Smith made a successful appeal against his 25-year sentence in June 1995 and as a result was shortened to 20 years.

On Friday 25th February 2000 conditions of strict security surrounded a High Court application by Smith for the right to contact the press.

The judge, Mr. Justice Jackson, ruled that Smith should not reveal any material filed by him or the MoD for use in the proceedings. Once again the full hearing is expected to be heard in camera.

If Michael John Smith serves his full sentence he will be 65 when he is released.

In 1995, both MI5 and the MoD were criticized over the handling of Michael John Smith. From a security viewpoint delays, errors and incorrect judgement characterized it.

©Major F Dalby

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