The British SIS, the murder of Rasputin and Hollywood movie disclaimers.

Posted in History and Politics on February 28th, 2013 by byronkho

Commander Mansfield Smith-Cumming and his son Alistair went driving in Meaux, France in October 1914, near the beginning of WWI. When their Rolls Royce crashed, Smith-Cumming used a penknife to sever his own leg in order to reach his dying son. This story of iron mettle and sacrifice later became legend in the halls of the British Secret Intelligence Service, an organization Smith-Cumming founded in 1909 after being ordered to do so by the Admiralty.

Commander Mansfield Smith-Cumming.

Smith-Cumming’s modus operandi was to partner spies with prostitutes, using one as bait and the other to twist the knife – the latter almost literally, as all agents were required to carry swordsticks. His operation became fairly successful in intelligence gathering during WWI, reporting on construction of the new dreadnoughts, zeppelins, submarines and other military hardware, and also managing to sabotage and destroy many important installations.

During World War I, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia spent a burdensome amount of time reviewing military troops and raising morale up and down the frontlines, and left much of the domestic policy to his wife, the Tsarina Alexandria. During his absence, she began to dismiss long-time ministers and advisers, and relied heavily on a charismatic and influential monk named Grigori Rasputin for advice. Alexander Kerensky, a Socialist lawyer who eventually became Minister of Justice after the Tsar’s abdication in 1917, implicated the Tsarina and Rasputin in over-meddling with military matters – including obtaining secret military plans that could be used to sabotage the war effort.

Grigori Rasputin.

When it was later rumored that the Tsarina and “Mad Monk” Rasputin’s pro-German policy decisions included seeking a separate peace with the Central Powers, Smith-Cumming – known as “C” in SIS parlance – became worried that Germany and Russia were beginning to become close, and that a possible end to hostilities between those two enemy nations would allow Germany to focus efforts on Great Britain. It was resolved that the SIS should assassinate Grigori Rasputin. His death would hopefully bring an end to all talk of a Russo-German peace.

To that effect, SIS agent Oswald Rayner was sent to St. Petersburg to conspire with his college friend and possible former lover Felix Yusupov, who was the heir to an extremely rich mining and fur trading fortune and also nephew-in-law to Tsar Nicholas II. With the help of SIS agents John Scale and Stephen Alley and other RUssian conspirators, the group planned the death of Rasputin – code-named “Dark Forces” at this point in the operation.

The major element of the plot was Rasputin’s fondness for Yusupov. A trusted confidante, Yusupov saw Rasputin every day and the evidence of court observers noted that there was a possible homosexual relationship. Utilizing promises of sex, Yusupov managed to lure Rasputin to one of his palaces in Petrograd. When he arrived, Rasputin was tortured to ascertain his links with Germany. His body was eventually found floating in the river, his testicles crushed and his body violently beaten with a rubber truncheon. The cause of death? A bullet hole in his forehead, courtesy of Oswald Rayner’s Webley revolver.

The Yusupovs.

A different tale was told in Russia following the murder. In this version, Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin conspired to bring Rasputin to Yusupov’s house for an intimate dinner. During this dinner, they served Rasputin poisoned wine and pink cakes and noted that he didn’t seem to be affected. It was resolved that Yusupov should then shoot Rasputin, which was done, according to witness testimony, in the “vicinity of his heart.” This was found to be untrue. Yusupov continued to claim that he had shot Rasputin even after a move to the United States in the 1920s, and in a book with Oswald Rayner. It has been argued that Rayner went along with the story as this was the intended version – that Russians had removed a cancer from their own monarchy. It would be a much more potent storyline for international politics than the sensational “British SIS agent tortures and murders Russian drug-addled possibly-psychic homosexual priest in court of Russian Tsar!”

A lasting effect of this historical murder is cemented on every American film made after 1934. In 1932, MGM made a movie called Rasputin and the Empress in which one of the characters was clearly based on Yusupov. Angered by a scene in which the character’s wife was seduced by Rasputin, the Yusupovs sued MGM for libel and won 25000 GBP in damages. To remove all liability, American studios henceforth attached this little disclaimer (and variations thereof) to the ends of their movies, a practice which continued to this day: “The preceding was a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is entirely coincidental.”

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A slice of Italian History: Roberto Calvi, Licio Gelli, Klaus Barbie, Carlos the Jackal, and even an appearance by Silvio Berlusconi!

Posted in History and Politics on February 20th, 2013 by byronkho

Roberto Calvi.

High-ranking Mafioso Roberto Calvi, known as “God’s Banker” for his work with the Vatican, was murdered in June 1982 by being hung from scaffolding beneath the Blackfriars bridge in London. His bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, had siphoned off up to $1.5 billion dollars from the Vatican Bank, which was the Banco Ambrosiano’s main shareholder, and various other papal and Mafia sources for illegal currency export. Five days before his murder, Calvi warned Pope John Paul II of the forthcoming collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano due to spreading knowledge of a massive “hole” in their assets which could not be covered up: “[this will] provoke a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions in which the Church will suffer the greatest damage.” Through his death – double ligature marks, bricks in his pockets and all – Calvi was unable to testify and use his “blackmail power against his political and institutional sponsors from the world of Masonry, belonging to the P2 lodge, or to the Institute for Religious Works (the Vatican Bank) with whom he had managed investments and financing with conspicuous sums of money, some of it coming from Cosa Nostra and public agencies.” This last quote was from an indictment of Licio Gelli, the grandmaster of Propaganda Due or P2 Masonic Lodge, who was accused of ordering the murder of Calvi.

Calvi’s predicament echoed a previous Holy See/P2/Mafia scandal and possibly displayed a degree of learning on behalf of the lodge: the arrest, imprisonment and murder of Michele Sindona. Sindona managed the heroin profits of the Gambino Mafia family, as well as washing and moving money from the Vatican Bank to Swiss banks. Upon the collapse of his US-based Franklin National Bank, the Vatican found that it has lost up to $40 million in that one catastrophe. Years later, a court-appointed liquidator of one of Sindona’s other banks was ordered to be murdered by Sindona. The lawyer had turned over evidence to the US Justice Department regarding Sindona’s role in the collapse of the Franklin, leading to a US-ordered indictment for Sidona’s arrest. To avoid arrest, he staged his own kidnapping with the help of the Mafia and then Italian PM Giulio Andreotti, the latter’s help achieved via blackmail. His blackmail also ensnared other major bankers and individuals, some of whom were Freemasons of P2. In this he was a danger; he knew too much about P2 and Licio Gelli soon became involved. Sindona was eventually unable to avoid arrest and was convicted in a US court of 65 criminal counts. The Italian government requested extradition, which was granted, and Sindona was sentenced to 25 years. Two years later, he was murdered in his cell via cyanide in his coffee.

Michele Sindona.

Francesco “Frankie the Strangler” Di Carlo oversaw the Cosa Nostra’s operations in the UK during the time of Calvi’s death. Initially accused of ordering the murder, he eventually revealed that he wasn’t responsible and that P2 had ordered the murder. Di Carlo and others made statements to the effect that the case would never be solved, as P2 was too powerful: their members included the heads of Italy’s domestic and military intelligence services, the chief of the General Staff of the Army, the commander of the Guardia di Finanza (who investigated financial crimes committed by individuals like Calvi), the owners and managing editors of Italy’s most reputable newspapers (including Corriere della Sera), and even Silvio Berlusconi and the directors of his television networks. What he said came true; despite overwhelming evidence, Licio Gelli was inexplicably not put under trial. During the 2005 trial of the others involved, the judge threw out all charges citing “insufficient evidence” – a decision that invited a mass outcry of corruption. In 2011, the last appeals court confirmed the acquittal.

But why was P2 so involved? Because the money that had disappeared from Banco Ambrosiano was mostly siphoned off to P2. Calvi knew too much about where the money had gone and who was involved, which was apparently a Who’s Who of Italy’s political, military and media structures. Additionally, his murder site – astonishingly public – seemed like a highly symbolic warning to other snitches. Members of P2 often referred to themselves as “frati neri”, or “black friars.” Interestingly enough, P2 had been officially expelled from the Grand Orient of Italy through a 1974 proposal that passed overwhelmingly, with the expulsion going into effect starting in 1976 – but a declaration from the Grand Orient the very next year allowed the lodge to carry on. In 1981 (the year before Calvi was murdered), the Grand Lodge of England stated that it had “been informed” that the Grand Orient of Italy had suspended all operations of the Masonic Lodge in 1976, confirming the 1974 vote. Their public stance was that the P2 lodge has been in operation illegally for those contested years and implied that they did not know of their activities in the meantime… which could not have been true. The Grand Orient’s own successor continued to accept legal Freemason members, and these would hardly not have been reported in to the mothership. During that same year, the Vatican – which had been actively against Freemasonry since 1738, via Clement XII’s bull In Eminenti – released a clarification from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith emphasizing that Freemasons within the Church would suffer excommunication as a penalty. Many felt strongly that this was a reaction to P2’s growing influence in the secular Italian world, a movement that could not fail to have penalties towards official policy toward the Vatican.

Licio Gelli.

Gelli himself had massive power and a shady history: he was an officer in the SS with the Herman Goering Division, was Juan Peron’s economic advisor to Italy, ran a “Rat Line” in conjunction with the OSS/CIA that allowed hundreds of Nazi war criminals to escape (including Klaus Barbie) under Operation Paperclip, and was involved with a stay-behind plan supported by NATO and the CIA that would run clandestine subversive operations against communist influence in Europe. It was strongly felt that Gelli and P2 were allies with the CIA in several right-wing terrorist attacks in Italy, including those blamed on the Red Brigades and other militant groups.

One incident in particular was heavily laden with P2 involvement: on August 2, 1980, a powerful bomb killed 85 and wounded hundreds at the central train station in Bologna. Members of the Nuclei Armati Revoluzionari (NAR) were brought to trial for the bombing, but they were acquitted several times as there was insufficient evidence to support their involvement. For one, their MO was assassination, not mass bombings. The explosives themselves seemed to have been provided by agents of the military intelligence service, whose head belonged to P2. Additionally, P2 members were distributing much disinformation regarding the incident in an attempt to divert blame onto Terza Posizione, a group that was merging with the NAR. Their efforts were marked down as strange as they would have no reason to involve themselves – unless they wanted to defend the involvement of P2 in such a bloody massacre. Strangely enough, evidence came to light later that seemed to blame a secret Palestinian plot. The bombing was a supposed retaliation for the arrest of Abu Saleh Anzeh, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader, for arms dealing between Italy and Palestine. Other documents and interviews suggested that Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, or “Carlos the Jackal,” was also involved – with some sort of deal being hashed out between the PFLP and Carlos’s Separat organization. Ex-Italian President Francesco Cossiga told the BBC in 2008 that it was likely that the bombing was attributable to Palestinian involvement. However, Carlos spoke out from his Paris jailcell and denied responsibility, claiming that these claims were “attempts to falsify history” and threw blame on the CIA and Mossad, stating that they were punishing Italy for its close relations with the PLO. Whatever the case, Gelli and his counterparts were still meddling in the whole sorry business for no apparent reason, and were actually given prison sentences in 1988 for “slandering the investigation.” Their suspicious behavior gave rise to rumors that they had been manipulating the entire system from the get-go, with their hold over the media and political leaders and many of the lawyers and judges involved.

Carlos the Jackal.

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Wladyslaw Sikorski, Kim Philby and Poland during WWII.

Posted in History and Politics on February 2nd, 2013 by byronkho

General Wladyslaw Sikorski.

General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the leader of the Free Polish during WWII, was murdered on July 4, 1943. His plane was the recipient of sabotage, suffering a fatal crash into the ocean off of Gibraltar soon after departure. At the time of his death, he was engaged in reviewing Polish troops, raising national morale and also pressing an International Red Cross investigation into the Katyn Massacre – in all ways a thorn in the side of Josef Stalin.

During this period, Kim Philby was in charge of British counterintelligence operations in France and Spain, including Gibraltar. At the time, Philby was not considered as a possible suspect since Sikorski’s death heavily benefited the Russians and not the British. That changed. Twenty years later, Philby was revealed as the highest-ranking Soviet mole in the British governmental hierarchy (and one of the few to also be an OBE during his entire spying career). Additionally, in 1940, Philby was appointed an instructor in sabotage and clandestine propaganda with the British dirty tricks department, the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

Kim Philby.

Sikorski had suffered a few suspicious airplane mishaps throughout that year, and suspiciously, all were located within the area that Philby was responsible for. In place and with the skills and resources to recruit and train saboteurs, it was highly probable that Philby may have had a hand in each of the failed attempts, and the successful last attempt, to assassinate Sikorski.

Upon Sikorski’s death, the Polish exile cause was immeasurably weakened. Without Sikorski, the Polish had no one of sufficient international influence to press for their rights; consequently, they were not invited to the Tehran or Yalta conferences. Their cause collapsed with the cession of most of Poland to Russia in the final Tehran treaties, just four months after Sikorski died. As a final note, once Sikorski was removed from the picture, Russia received very little effective pressure to explain the Katyn massacre. They continued to formally deny responsibility for the atrocity until the 1990s.

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