By Trowbridge H. Ford
When Social Democrat leader Olof Palme surprisingly regained power in the 1982 fall parliamentary elections, the Reagan administration in Washington immediately tested his anti-communist feeling by having US and NATO submarines flood Swedish waters around its naval base at Muskö to see how it would react. It was a secret plan to check Swedish anti–submarine warfare capability (Operation NOTVART) which the new statsminister had not been informed of. He had been portrayed in Anatoliy Golitsyn’s New Lies for Old, a work by the famous double agent who the CIA and MI6 not only encouraged but also endorsed (See Editors’ Foreword) about the alleged agent of influence who had used his subversive intentions to gain power under false pretences (p. 55ff, esp. p. 288), a suspicion which was long past time to determine the truth of. Palme was on the Reagan administration’s watch list because of his continuing support of national liberation movements in Central America and Africa, and because of his support of a Nordic Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Despite the most serious concerns about Palme’s trustworthiness, the statsminister came through the naval ordeal with flying colors.
Palme went along with the set-up, also known as the Hårsfjärden incident because of where it occurred, as if nothing was amiss. While it was still going on, Vice Admiral Per Rudberg, Chief of Sweden’s Navy, appointed a service committee to determine what had actually happened, and come up with measures to make sure it didn’t happen again. Two days later on October 15th, the Palme government appointed a Parliamentary Commission under the leadership of Minister of Defence and former Foreign Affairs Minister Sven Anderson, and including leading politicians across the political spectrum to investigate the incident. To assist its inquiry, Vice Admiral Bro Stefenson, the Navy’s Chief of Staff, and Sven Hellman of the Ministry of Defence were appointed as experts.
General Lennat Ljung, the Swedish Commander-in-Chief, announced their creation in most alarming terms: “The investigation of the sea-floor continues. The barricades are still deployed. There has definitely been one submarine, possibly several. No indication of nationality. Large amount of force used, even mines, which has never happened. Tough methods. I don’t know any other country that has done this in peace-time.” (Quoted from May 1983 notes that Palme’s Secretary of State Ulf Larsson took at high-level meetings.)
In December 1982, the naval inquiry, headed by Swedish Rear Adminal Gunnar Grandin, reported to the Navy Chief. It concluded that the Soviet bloc seemed to be responsible for it, thanks apparently to NATO’s continuing checking of Sweden’s national security reliability in light of Moscow’s accidentally beaching one of its Whisky submarines on the rocks off the Swedish base at Karlskrona the year before Palme returned to office. (For more, see Chris Mosey, Cruel Awakening: Sweden and the Killing of Olof Palme, pp. 147-8.) The Grandin report put it this way:
“When it comes to nationality of the submarines, we know that the submarine incident in Karlskrona was Soviet. A number of optical, hydrophonic and passive radar indications point, even in this case to submarines from the WTO ( Warsaw Treaty Organization). Some indications of received radar signals cannot exclude that submarines of other nationality (NATO) have been in the area outside where the incidents have occurred. The reason for this has probably been to follow the activity.” (CM/Grandin, appendix 2, ‘Händelseförloppet’ Bilaga 2 i ‘Granskning av ubåtsjaktverksamheten mot background av händelserna I Stockholms skärgård’ )
On April 26, 1983, the Parliamentary Commission reported, making a stronger case against the WTO, particularly the USSR. Six submarines had been involved, three of them midget ones, and given what had happened before, especially the 1981 incident, it concluded that they must be Soviet ones. “On this point the Commission confirms,” it admitted, “that neither the sea floor investigations nor any other investigation has yielded proof in the form of objects found or otherwise which could bind a certain state to the violations.” ( SOU (1983) 13,Att möta ubåtshotet – Ubåtskrängar och svensk säkerhetspolitik. Betäankande från ubåtsskyddscommissionen. Stockholm, 1983, p. 81) Without any smoking guns, the Commission still concluded its narrative of what seemed to have been going on by pointing to the Soviet bloc.
The Commission report was too wishy-washy for its Chairman, Defence Minister Sven Anderson, who added falsely in a press conference the same day that a midget sub that escaped to the Soviet bloc on October ll may have been damaged. To bolster any fingers pointed toward Moscow, the Palme government sent a protest to the USSR, stating that such intrusions were serious crimes against international law, adding that they were “…deliberate and illegal attempts to investigate Swedish territorial waters. These activities must be strongly condemned.” (Svenska Dagbladet, April 27, 1983) Palme made the protest public knowledge by talking about its content, and delivery at a press conference . Stockholm recalled its ambassador to Moscow for consultation to underline its disapproval of what the Soviets were apparently doing.
To keep the pressure on Moscow, certain suspicious submarine events occurred – thought to be WTO ones at the time, but which turned out later to either NATO ones or simple inventions. A month before the Commission reported, there were alarms at both naval bases at Karlskrona and Muskö that unknown subs were in surrounding territorial waters, but the hunts found nothing. Then the day after it was reported, there was a Norwegian hunt for an alleged submarine in Hardangerfjord where depth charges and anti-submariine rockets were used to sink it or force it to the surface, but none was discovered. Then there was a submarine scare off Sundsvall the next day. Two days later, an unknown sub was spotted in a fjord north of Göteborg on Sweden’s west coast. The next day one was sighted south of that city but when it was forced to surface, it turned out to be West German. While no Soviet bloc subs were found, the alarms created increasing, unprecedented anti-Soviet sentiment among the population.
It was still surprising, despite the politicised panic over the intrusions, that the government finally reacted to the clamor, and with more Defence Staff justification of it by sending another most caustic note, almost a provocation for war, to Moscow on October 10th. Acoustic evidence, visual observations, signal intelligence aka sigint, and physical examination of the sea floor where the submarine activity was most intense all pointed to vessels of the Warsaw Pact being responsible. Claiming that it was just summarizing what the Parliamentary Commission had concluded, it filled in its blanks completely at Moscow’s expense.
For example, regarding visual sightings, it declared: “All observations from the time of the Hårsfjården incident lead us to the conclusion that the submarines belong to the Warsaw Pact.” (SOU 1995.Ubåtsfrågan, 1981-1994, Stockholm, 1995, p. 137)
About two sonar findings, it added: “The conclusion is that in both these cases we are dealing with Warsaw Pact submarines. There it is possible to identify various sounds – i. e., identify the number of propellers.” (Ibid.)
“Particular circumstances,” it explained about sigint, “make it possible to define even a single ship. By taking the bearing of the signal, one can determine the position of a sender. It is also possible to get important information by listening to radio traffic between different ships or between a ship and its base.” (Ibid., p. 138)
“The existence of the prints on the sea-floor,” it added, “shows that the intruding submarines belong to the Warsaw Pact.”
While Moscow had responded to the first note by declaring it an “unfriendly action”, It said nothing about the second one, though it can hardly be doubted that it considered it little short of a declaration of war.
The real trouble for Sweden was that it was essentially untrue, as later inquiries after the Cold War ended showed. More important, in 1988, Pär Kettis, Director General of Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment aka FRA reported that it had no signal information about the Hårsfjården incident, so where did the Defence Staff get its sigint claims from? Commander Björn Eklink, skipper of the spy ship Orion who was later removed from its command because of his gung-ho attitude about getting the Soviets, claimed that he was not surprised by the admission because he had never been informed that FRA had anything incriminating Moscow.
In short, it seemed that the Palme government had just endorsed leader-of-the-opposition and Parliamentary Commission member Carl Bildt’s statement about the incidents:”I cannot think about anything in modern times that has been more serious.” he concluded: “There is no doubt, (but we) cannot reveal everything.” (“Rapport,” STV2. April 26, 1983)
The only reason why Sweden was not directly punished for its provocation is because the United States, in deep trouble of its own then, adopted Sweden’s cause as its own. The Reagan administration immediately had its foreign policy thrown into the greatest disarray by the revolution in Grenada which overthrew Maurice Bishop’s government, and then the killing of those 346 American servicemen, mostly Marines, in Lebanon four days later. Washington would have been in better shape if the President had been able to reconstruct his government when National Security Advisor William Clark was obliged to go. (For more, see Lou Cannon, President Reagan, p. 372ff.) Instead of getting personnel changes which were in favor of better relations with Moscow, the President was stuck with one which wanted to stick it to the Soviets, explaining while the difficulties in Stockholm became opportunities for the new team.
The opportunities that Sweden provided for getting rid of the USSR some way would not last long – as Washington, despite its efforts to maintain that Moscow was in an aggressive, war-starting mood – had to be concerned that the truth about Hårsfjärden would start to leak out, especially since the Social Democrats, especially Palme, had not been duly informed about what the Defence Staff was falsely claiming, Not all journalists accepted the official line. Anders Hasselbohm was writing Ubåtshotet – En kritish gtanskning av Härsfjårds-incidenten och ubåtsskyddskommissionens rapport which would soon be published in Stockholm by Prisma. Hasselbohm was getting disclosures, especially Norwegian acoustic and other visual evidence, by NATO officers about individual submarines in the hunt which were known to be Western ones – what greatly undermined the Parliamentary Commission report, and completely gutted the note to Moscow.
The biggest problem for Washington with these claims was that the Norwegian Commander-in-Chief, General Sven Hauge who was in Stockholm at the time of the incident, and had lent Stockholm its most advanced hydrophone capability in the hope of catching the Soviets red-handed, making intrusions into Swedish waters three weeks before (Operation NOTVARP), completely changed his tune after he heard the tapes – what America’s National Security Agency (NSA) got wind of. They confirmed what the leakers were claiming about NATO submarines – what the US Navy even confirmed after the Cold War was long over, and it was time to acknowledge the efforts of those involved. The giving of the Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) to the Cavalla, SSN-684, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) to the Bergall, SSN-667, Guitarro, SSN- 665, Aspro, SSN-661, Groton, SSN-694, and Puffer-SSN-652, along with the midget submarine Turtle, DSV 3, showed that they were involved in some fashion in the incident. (Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, Appendix C, pp. 424-5, and p. 433)
To defuse the Hauge-Hasselbohm ticking bomb – what would ruin new NSA Robert ‘Bud’ McFarlane’s ‘false flag’ operation to destroy the USSR in a non-nuclear war – Washington had to inform Stockholm that the Soviets were solely responsible for the Hårsfjäarden incident in a most convincing way. One would expect the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO) – the agency that DCI Richard Helms had created when Nixon became President to keep track of all the secrets that the Navy was collecting – but it had not been informed by Captain James Bradley’s Office of Undersea Warfare (OUW) of the intrusions of Swedish waters, so getting.the NURO involved would just cause more problems. The OUW, while well-informed about such secrets, was too well-organized, and widespread for any deceptive mission succeeding without some kind of damaging blowback. (For more about it, see ibid., p. 117ff.) Besides, allegedly ratting on a mission that it was most involved in would be most suspect to start with.
So NSA decided to do it. Now its director was Air Force General Lincholn D. Faurer who had had a long career of carrying out its surveillance missions. “During the 1970s,” James Bamford wrote in Body of Secrets, “Faurer served variously as director of intelligence for the Southern Command, Air Force deputy assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, vice director for production at the Defense Intelligence Agency, director of intelligence at the U.S. European Command, and deputy chairman of the NATO MIlitary Committee.” (p. 387) Faurer was known for his can-do attitude, and his obsession about secrecy while the agency was undergoing its largest expansion in history. “Unlike Inman (his predecessor),” Bamford added, “Faurer was determined to keep out of the spotlight; he began rebuilding the agency’s wall of anonymity.”
To make up for the treachery that analysts William H. Martin and Bernon F.Mitchell committed by defecting to Moscow a quarter century before, Faurer apparently had David Helmer defect to Sweden on February 10, 1984, much like Lee Harvey Oswald had done when he went to the USSR, hunting for Soviet leaders. Hemler had volunteered for the Air Force, and had done well enough to become a member of its elite eavesdropping agency, the 6913 Electronic Security Squadron, stationed in Augsburg, Germany. General Faurer had become most involved in the unit’s activity while serving in various Air Force intelligence capacities in Europe, and was looking for defectors to make up for NSA’s increasingly limited human spying. When Faurer was preparing to retire early, he complained about the need of still more agents, stating that the role of computers in its operations had almost doubled since those earlier defections. (Bamofrd, p. 388)
While Hembler recently explained that his alleged desertion was caused by West Germany’s adoption of the installation of cruise missiles, the defection to Sweden was intended to prevent a nuclear conclusion to the Cold War, only a non-nuclear one which would lead to its capitulation was acceptable, as Joseph Nye had recommended in his Nuclear Ethics. Hemler’s disclosures convinced Palme that the Defence Stall’s claims about the 1982 incident were accurate, causing him to dismiss anything or anyone who claimed otherwise. When Foreign Minister Lennart Bodström claimed the following year at a dinner attended by journalists who had not taken Hasselbohm’s claims seriously that there had been apparently no intrusions, as its Navy claimed, of Swedish waters, he was sacked by the statsminister. (Mosey, p. 151)
The most disturbing event that occurred while Hemler was finding employment with the Swedish government, probably with either FRA or Säpo, was the murder of TV reporter for the Rapport program Maureen ‘Cats’ Falck and her associate Lena Gräns after they had dinner in a south Stockholm restaurant in November 1984, They were investigating the Iran-Contra shipment of arms and money to Tehran and Central America, a process in which Swedish arms, especially from Bofors, were involved, and East Germany, particularly the port of Rostock, was the center of. It was the network that Ted ‘Blond Ghost’ Shackley had been assigned by Reagan to put together from Hamburg to help gain the release of American hostages held by Iran. The reporters were apparently poisoned at the dinner, and their bodies were in a car which was driven into Stockholm’s Hammerby Canal – which were discovered the following May.
While attempts to get to the bottom of her claim that they were on to ‘something big’ – what has proven fruitless despite attempts to prove that East Germany’s Stasi killed them, as most of their research has disappeared – little attempt has been made, as the Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review magazine noted in 1997, to determine what they meant when they claimed “…something which was going to happen in 1986.” While, in retrospect, people predictably sited the Palme assassination, and it was, but not in the way they thought. When they were murdered, the plan still just called for some ‘false flag’ incident, like what happened in October 1982, and its exploitation. The delay was needed to get all the men, particularly the double agents in Operation Courtship, and material, especially a Keyhole radar satellite, in place to pull it off.
It seems that the reporters got wind of the mission somehow, and were asking around about it. It is possible that they learned of it from Hemler, but it is just as likely that they learned of it from CIA agents like Rodney ‘Rod’ Carlson or even Rick Ames himself. They were in the process of putting together the agents who were to catch the Soviets flat-footed over some surprise. Just when Hemler was defecting to Sweden, Ames, whose career crashing, was given the top job in Carlson’s Counter Intelligence Group, head of its Soviet branch. (For more, see David Wise’s Nightmover, p. 94ff.) It was while Ames was investigating what the moles in Soviet intelligence were doing for Operation Courtship that he decided to become a spy for Moscow, and word of the ‘false flag’ operation leaked increasingly to treacherous members of Sweden’s military, thanks to the Agency’s newest claim that Palme was in the process of pulling off a coup himself.
The assassination of the statsminister was now the first ‘false flag’ operation, making it look like Soviet spy Stig Bergling had done it while on compassionate leave to get married, the second would be Navy Secretary John Lehman, Jr.’s attack submarines sinking all the Soviet boomers which went on station because of the surprise in Stockholm, and NATO’s Anchor Express Exercise being dragooned into taking out the Soviet forces around the bases and in the air over the Kilo Peninsula.
Palme had become the target after he most belatedly learned of the plotting by the Anglo-Americans when they tried to slip those 80 HAWK missiles through Sweden on November 17, 1985 on their way to Iran, but stopping them just increased the risks of President Reagan being impeached and removed from office because of his illegal findings.
Palme even removed the gung-ho Björn Elkind from command of the most important spy ship Orion in the Baltic, as Britain’s HMS Challenger was not available, but plans had moved by then far beyond any simple change stopping the juggernaut.
Of course, Hemler survived the fiasco, as no one even wanted to acknowledge his existence, much less what he had helped happen. It was only now that it is starting to leak out, after 28 years, but it doesn’t seem that much more will be heard about the deserter/defector, much less why.