February 13, 2004 by

Ryszard Kuklinski

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Categories: Criminals, Military

rkuklinski.jpgIn Poland, Col. Ryszard Kuklinski is considered a traitor by many of his countrymen. George Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, calls Kuklinski “a true hero of the Cold War.”
“This passionate and courageous man helped keep the Cold War from becoming hot, providing the CIA with precious information upon which so many critical national security decisions rested. He did so for the noblest of reasons — to advance the sacred causes of liberty and peace in his homeland and throughout the world,” Tenet stated.
Kuklinski was born in Warsaw in 1930. He joined the Polish army at the age of 17, and worked his way through the ranks to become a liaison officer between the Polish military and the Soviet Army. When the Communist regime ordered the Polish army to take part in the bloody, military crackdown on Czechoslovakia’s pro-democracy movement in 1970, Kuklinski became disillusioned and sent an offer of cooperation to American intelligence officials in Bonn, Germany.
From 1976 to 1981, he spied on his country for the CIA, passing 35,000 pages of Warsaw Pact secrets from behind the Iron Curtain. These documents exposed the government’s plan to launch a crackdown on the Solidarity movement. Just before martial law was imposed in 1981, Kuklinski and his family defected to America.
Back in Poland, the government seized his house and property, and sentenced him to death for his espionage activities and desertion. Because threats were made on his life, the Kuklinskis went into hiding, living under assumed names. Both of his sons later died in mysterious accidents. Kuklinski did manage to visit his homeland once more in 1998. After 17 years in exile, he regained his citizenship and military rank when a Polish court cleared him of treason charges.
Kuklinski received a Distinguished Service medal from the CIA for his years as an East Bloc intelligence asset. He’s also the subject of the Benjamin Weiser book, “A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country.”
Kuklinski died on Feb. 10 from a stroke. He was 73.

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