Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cedric Belfrage: Soviet Spy

Born in England, Cedric Belfrage was in the United States as early as 1927, working as a reporter covering Hollywood and the entertainment industry. He travelled back and forth between Britain and America for several years, but had settled in the U.S. by the 1930s.

In 1937, he joined the Communist Party in the United States (CPUSA). At that time, this was not merely an act expressing a political view, but rather it was supporting an organization which called for, in its printed materials, a “violent” revolution in America.

He shifted his career from journalism to espionage, as historian Stan Evans writes:

He lived and worked in the United States off and on for something like two decades. In the early days of World War II, he was employed by the British Security Coordinator in New York, the famous Canadian spy chief Sir William Stephenson (the man called “Intrepid” by Winston Churchill), who worked in tandem with the ultrasecret American Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In this job, Belfrage had access to U.S. as well as British intelligence data.

Although he lived continuously in the United States for a number of years, he did not become a U.S. citizen. Not only did he have classified data about national security, but he would also have influence on the implementation of national policy in postwar Europe.

At war’s end, Belfrage obtained a post with the military government of occupied Germany as a press control officer, supposedly to help advance the cause of “de-Nazification” in the defeated country. In this role he was involved with the licensing of publications, including some of notorious Communist bent (official Allied policy at the time).

The victorious Allies were anxious to promote freedom of the press, but expressing an ideology is not the same as working for a “violent” revolution. “It was this background that brought him to the notice of” people who were concerned about security risks in the U.S. government.

In Washington, congressional committee members were “looking into U.S. information programs in Europe and possible subversive influence in their operations.” Cedric Belfrage, and others, were using Allied and American organizations to plan for the violent overthrow of western democracies.

When Cedric Belfrage was questioned by

counsel Roy Cohn as to whether he had been a Communist while carrying out his postwar duties, or if he were a CP member at that very moment, Belfrage declined to answer, seeking shelter in the Fifth Amendment. He refused to answer similar questions concerning fellow journalist James Aronson, his sidekick in this and other ventures. Whereupon the committee called on the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport Belfrage.

Because Belfrage had not obtained U.S. citizenship, his case trended naturally toward deportation. A trial, and any subsequently sentenced prison time, would have been fraught with diplomatic difficulties. Stan Evans writes that

After a lot of legal bickering, this in fact occurred, and Belfrage at last left the United States to go back to England.

As in many other cases of Soviet espionage, the famous Venona project shed light on the case of Cedric Belfrage. In this project, American intelligence agencies were able to intercept and decrypt messages sent between various secret Soviet operatives.

Four decades later, however, came the revelations of Venona. Here we find numerous mentions of Cedric Belfrage, identified by the cryptologists as the KGB contact “UCN/9,” reporting back to Moscow out of William Stephenson’s office. Venona shows UCN/9 providing data from the OSS about the then-looming struggle for the Balkans — a major focus of Soviet, British, and U.S. intelligence efforts. The decrypts also show UCN/9 trying to sound out British policy toward a second front in Europe to ease Nazi pressure on the Russians, sharing documents with Soviet spy chief Jacob Golos, and otherwise acting as a fount of knowledge for the Kremlin.

Cedric Belfrage, then, had a hand in, among other events, the postwar developments in Yugoslavia. He carries responsibility for the human misery and deaths caused by a 45-year communist domination of that region.