Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The real Ted Kennedy scandal

While there has been a ripple of interest in the recently-opened FBI files on Ted Kennedy, most of that has been a prurient interest in long-ago sex romps or reports of the death threats against the Senator. Interesting perhaps, but not, in the long run, all that important.

The American Spectator reminds us of a much more important set of files on Ted Kennedy that should have short-circuited the man's political career or at least made big news. Instead...crickets.

KGB files contain the news of overtures that Kennedy made to the Soviet Union both during Carter's and Reagan's administrations to undermine American policies. We have the files due to a man who defected from the Soviet Union and had made copies of files that he then gave to the United States.
Kennedy's long history with the KGB is well documented, but underreported. It remains available through the writings of the now deceased Vasiliy Mitrokhin, who defected to Britain from the Soviet Union in 1992, and a separate 1983 memo addressed to then General Secretary Yuri Andropov. Kennedy's actions occurred at the expense of presidential authority and in violation of federal law, according to academics and scholars who are familiar with the documents.

The Mitrokhin papers highlight a meeting that took place at the behest of Kennedy between former Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) and KGB agents in Moscow on March 5, 1980. The information exchanged during this encounter is included as part of a report Mitrokhin filed with the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. The former KGB man continued to work with British intelligence until the time of his death.

Noted Cold War author and researcher Herbert Romerstein has described Mitrokhin as a "highly credible source" with vast knowledge of the now-closed KGB archives. Romerstein, who headed up the U.S. government's Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation and Active Measures during the 1980s, has explained in previous interviews that Mitrokhin made meticulous copies of KGB files by hand prior to his defection.
At the time of Carter's about face to a tougher stance against the Soviets after the invasion of Afghanistan, Kennedy was there to pander to the Soviets at the expense of his president, perhaps because he was getting ready to run against Carter in the 1980 primaries.
The KGB files Mitrokhin retrieved indicate that Kennedy fixed the blame for heightened international tensions on the Carter White House, not on the Kremlin. It is important to note that Kennedy was challenging incumbent Carter for the Democratic nomination for president at that time.

Tunney told his KGB counterparts that Kennedy was impressed by the foreign policy statements made by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Kennedy saw in Brezhnev a leader who was firmly committed to the policy of "d├ętente," the report said.

Moreover, Kennedy also blamed the Carter Administration for assuming an overly belligerent posture toward the Soviet Union after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, according to the papers.

"The atmosphere of tension and hostility towards the whole Soviet people was being fuelled by Carter," Kennedy argued, as well as by some key advisors, the Pentagon and the U.S. military industrial complex, Mitrokhin wrote.
He continued his pandering to the Soviets while considering his political fortunes during Reagan's presidency, particularly in the period before the 1984 election.
KENNEDY ALSO OFFERED TO WORK in close concert with high level Soviet officials to sabotage President Ronald Reagan's re-election efforts and to orchestrate favorable American press coverage for Andropov and Soviet military officials, according to the 1983 KGB document.

Kennedy offered to have "representatives of the largest television companies in the U.S. contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interview," KGB head Viktor Chebrikov explained in a letter to the general secretary dated May 14, 1983, the file shows. The idea here would be for the Soviet leader to make an end run around Reagan and make a direct appeal to the American people.

The KGB letter to Andropov first came to light in a Feb. 2, 1992 report published in the London Times entitled "Teddy, the KGB and the Top Secret File." Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor, included the document in his 2006 book: The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and The Fall of Communism.

Kennedy suggested that Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters and Elton Raul, the president of the board of directors for ABC, be considered for the interviews with Andropov in Moscow. He also asked the KGB to consider having "lower level Soviet officials, particularly the military" take part in television interviews inside the U.S. where they could convey peaceful intentions.

Tunney, the former senator, once again served as an intermediary traveling to Moscow in 1983 to relay Kennedy's intentions. In the interest of world peace and improved American-Soviet relations, the Massachusetts Democrat offered specific proposals built around a public relations effort designed to "counter the militaristic politics of Reagan and his campaign to psychologically burden the American people," Chebrikov wrote.

Although it is not made clear who Tunney actually met with in Moscow, the letter does say that Sen. Kennedy directed the California Democrat to reach out to "confidential contacts" so Andropov could be alerted to the senator's proposals.

"Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan," Kengor the Grove City professor said in an interview. "But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders."
Kennedy was willing to undermine Reagan in order to curry favor with Andropov. Think of that. Yet it's a story that few people know about even thought the information has been public for years.

We just have to be glad that the man's personal history was so disastrous that he never did become president. What might have happened if Roger Mudd hadn't asked Kennedy one simple question.