JERUSALEM — In a bizarre twist on the Jonathan Pollard spy case, an unprecedented confession by an Israeli said the United States planted a CIA agent in Tel Aviv to spy on Israel.
That flies in the face of U.S. arguments in the Pollard case, taking Israel to task for recruiting Pollard, a U.S. citizen to provide classified information.
Andrzej Kielczynski said he signed a contract with a CIA agent in Tel Aviv in 1985 and passed on data about Israeli intelligence operatives in the United States and elsewhere, including Pollard, before Pollard's dramatic arrest in Washington for espionage one month later.
"I can't say how much the Americans knew about Mr. Pollard before they got my information," Kielczynski told Israel Radio Tuesday. "So I can't say whether my reporting on him caused his arrest. But his name was among those I reported."
Unlike Pollard, who was a U.S. Navy employee, Kielczynski was not an employee of Israel's defense establishment, but he had close links to it. As a poor immigrant from Poland who had taken up painting "out of necessity rather than talent," he drew the attention of Likud leaders through his activism for "national" causes. Protesting against Israel's relations with West Germany, he had set himself on fire at the German Embassy.
He became a member of the Likud Central Committee and gained entrée to party chiefs from Menachem Begin on down, including top security figures like Ariel Sharon. (Kielczynski said he wasn't planted by Polish or Soviet intelligence, and exhaustive checks by Israel's Shin Bet and later the CIA cleared him of that obvious suspicion.)
"The CIA people at the American Embassy followed my activity for several years and decided I could supply the data they needed," Kielczynski said. "They courted me for a while, then made the offer. I signed the contract in Frankfurt, Germany, with a CIA man from the embassy, Thomas Volz." The Israel Foreign Ministry's diplomatic list for 1984-85 mentions Volz as an undersecretary at the U.S. Embassy.
An Embassy spokesman declined comment on this or any other security or intelligence matter.
Kielczynski said he was not given a copy of the contract or any subsequent document he signed with the CIA. At the spartan apartment he moved into after returning to Israel this month, he had notes giving addresses for rendezvous in various foreign cities and a thick wad of used airline tickets, which he hardly could have afforded without the expenses provided for in his contract. He said he was also promised a monthly salary of $3,000, "operating money" and ultimately, U.S. citizenship. Initially, he was issued an unlimited-entry visa.
"Improving my financial condition" was one of the motives that Kielczynski said propelled him into what he admits constituted treason. Others included resentment of his initial persecution by the Shin Bet and "a general distaste for the direction the country was going. But I also agreed with what I was doing and enjoyed it."
His work for the CIA included reports on the intelligence networks being built by such "alternative" agencies as the Chamber for Scientific Relations, run by Rafi Eitan, which recruited Pollard.
Kielczynski cited informing on Pollard in the suit he filed against the CIA for breach of contract in a Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court. "There were others, too," said Kielczynski, and he confirmed that some of the networks may have been uncovered as a result of his efforts, but he refused to go into detail.
"I'm now telling Shabak [the Shin Bet] all I know, and I'm not sure what I'm allowed to disclose," he said. The Shin Bet confirmed that "Kielczynski's case was brought to our attention and is being dealt with."
Kielczynski also claimed in the lawsuit to have provided information on the deployment of nuclear weapons by Israel. Did he in fact pass on such information?
"Yes, but I didn't get very much on that. The U.S. didn't believe what the Israelis told them about how they were spending money — they thought, for instance, that Israel was buying more aircraft parts than it needed."
Much of his activity consisted in reporting developments within Israel's political and military elite. At his handlers' request, Kielczynski said he recommended personalities from those circles whom he thought the CIA could recruit. While he was never informed whether the CIA followed up on his leads, he believes it likely that some of those he cited provided information to the United States, though not necessarily as paid agents.
He said his own role seemed very central to the agency. "They told me frequently that my reports went directly to the State Department and even higher up."
Things seemed to be going very well. Kielczynski has a letter dated 1988, three years after he began spying for the CIA, appointing him — in the name of Likud Central Committee Chairman Ariel Sharon — to the foreign and defense commission of that body. That may have helped in one of his final, urgent assignments: to report on Israel's plans and attitudes toward Iraq before and during the Gulf War.
But shortly afterward, "all the warning lights started flashing" when — using his top-rank connections — he asked "my friend Moshe Katsav," now Israel's president and then minister of transportation, to help cut red tape at Ben-Gurion Airport for one of Kielczynski's many trips abroad.
"The minister's aide called a security man at the airport and left the speakerphone on. I heard the other party say, 'But he's a spy for the Americans!' The aide laughed it off, but I got out of the country fast. I also used the prearranged code to inform the CIA that I thought I had been found out."
The CIA ran him through medical tests in Los Angeles, which diagnosed him with diabetes, and he was ditched, he said. The agency did pay him $50,000, but the promise of U.S. citizenship was never fulfilled, his visa was canceled and when immigration authorities acted to deport him, he sued.
The CIA blocked the case, he said, citing an 1875 precedent that grants immunity from such suits for national-security considerations. While forced to reject the case, Kielczynski claims that the judge voiced sympathy, indicating that he considered the CIA's argument as confirmation there was a contract.
Kielczynski also said that during a special hearing, the Senate Intelligence Committee believed him. But while his lawyer appealed the ruling, Kielczynski submitted to deportation to Israel — "the first time in espionage history that a country deports its own spy to the place he operated in. Confusion between the U.S. agencies was such that my CIA contact woman tried to phone me at my New York apartment when I was already in Israel."
The Shin Bet was waiting for him, but he has not been arrested. During his questioning by the Israeli agency, Kielczynski said, "they are treating me coolly and elegantly — not in a friendly way, but I didn't expect it. I do expect to be required to account for my deeds in court."
Kielczynsk hopes Israel will allow him to end his life out of prison, "where they would have to keep me in the hospital anyway." He appears to figure that evidence of this reverse Pollard case may finally give Israel the leverage to get Pollard himself released by embarrassing the same U.S. intelligence community that has so far blocked it.