U.S. officials are gaining important espionage information from newly available files of the disbanded East German secret police, CIA Director William Webster says.
West German officials have shared with the United States information from voluminous files seized when the communist government of East Germany was toppled by popular discontent last fall, he said."We have pursued a number of important leads," the CIA director said in an interview Wednesday. "That's not to say we've identified spies, but we've learned more about some notorious cases," he said, declining to elaborate.
East Germany's notorious Stasi secret police had about 80,000 agents keeping tabs on its 11 million citizens, Webster said. The files have yielded a bonanza of secrets and identified some highly placed West German officials as East German spies, he said.
Webster said his counterpart in Moscow "must be wondering" how many Soviet spies have been compromised by the seizure.
The CIA director also said the United States and Soviet Union have been sharing information about terrorist threats, and the Persian Gulf crisis may open the way for more intelligence cooperation.
But the Kremlin must be careful about sharing intelligence on Iraq with the United States because it is trying to negotiate the departure of about 5,000 Soviet citizens trapped there, Webster said.
"Anything they say that suggests they provide intelligence to us may diminish their chances" of getting the Soviets out, he said. Many of the Soviets serve as military advisers, and the Iraqi arsenal is largely Soviet-made.
KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov said in a recent interview that his organization is willing to share intelligence about Iraq but hasn't offered because the CIA has rebuffed its past efforts to cooperate.
"Our common interests in the gulf open up an opportunity to deal more frankly on terrorism," Webster said.
Soviet support for states like Iraq and Libya, which sponsor terrorism, appears to have declined, making some cooperation with the United States possible, he said.
The United States cannot expose its intelligence sources in such cooperation, but it has passed along warnings to the Soviet Union about threats to its officials or diplomatic facilities abroad, Webster said.
In several cases, "it was pivotal to their preventive actions," he said. Some of the warnings were specific, others more general, he said.
The Soviets, too, have relayed information to the United States about threats to this country's people, Webster said. He declined to elaborate.
Iraq's President Saddam Hussein has isolated himself from his top advisers and is forming many of his impressions based on news accounts, Webster said.
He said Saddam enjoys broad support among poorer Iraqis and among the military ranks, and any move to unseat him would have to come from the top echelons of his military.