Why was he killed?
The case for a VENONA related killing..
Over the years, many people have presented their thoughts on how the Somerton Man died, amongst the theories put forward was suicide, accidental overdose, poisoned by mistake and even that he was murdered. The latter coming as no surprise given the findings from the inquest which suggests as much but, in my humble view, it makes sense to question every aspect when espionage is a suspected element of a case.
In this post, (it will be lengthy and broken into a number of parts), the plan is to present a series of events that took place in the years leading up to the discovery of the mans body on Somerton Beach and how these events provide us with clues and evidence, albeit circumstantial, that point to a VENONA related killing/assasination. By default this post will tell us why he was killed and perhaps give us some options on just who may have caused his death.
Who Knew About VENONA & When?
|Ben Chifley Clem Attlee 'Doc' Evatt|
|Sir Percy Sillitoe DG MI5 Roger Hollis MI5 Guy Liddell, DDG, MI5|
'A Soviet code clerk preparing a message first reduced its text into numeric code groups drawn from a codebook (a kind of dictionary in which the words and common phrases correspond to four-digit numbers). After encoding the plain text with numeric code groups, the clerk would obscure the code groups by adding them, digit by digit, to a string of random digits. This second series of digits, called 'additive' or 'key,' was known to both the sender and receiver because it was printed on the pages of a 'one-time pad. ' One-time pads were periodically pouched to Soviet consular missions in sealed packets. The pad pages--with 60 five-digit additive groups per page--were used in order, always starting with the group in the upper lefthand corner (the pad-page number to be used was more or less concealed somewhere on the face of the message). Code clerks in different Soviet missions used up these packets at varying rates, depending on the volume of messages to be enciphered or deciphered'. Source CIA website
Timeline of events
Finnish Intelligence sell copies of Russian Code books to OSS officers, these books contained the top secret codes that became the beginning of the VENONA project, a US led and organised Signals Intelligence operation. The Americans discovered that the Russians had unwittingly distributed duplicate copies of some of their 'One Time' pads that contained code sequences that should only have been used once. This enabled US cryptologists to 'break' some of the vast volume of Russian secret Military and Trade cable traffic.
Second set of Russian code books found in a German Army building which was about to be handed over to Russian Forces.
US sets up Army Security Agency with a mandate to establish a World Wide network of specialised 'listening' stations to intercept Russian radio traffic.
UK-USA Security Agreement known as the 'Secret Treaty' is signed. It's focus was SIGINT or signals intelligence and the signatories were the US as the first party and Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand as the second parties.
QUESTION: Where were the Australian Listening Stations Located? from an unnamed source one location could have been between Woomera and Nurungara. From personal knowledge, there was a US radio station in SA close to Adelaide on the road between Salisbury and Gawler. You could drive right past it and above the barbed wire fences and behind the red brick buildings you could see numerous large radio masts. This was in the late 70s and my understanding is that they had been there since WW2 days. If you have any other locations that you are aware of or have any relative information please let me know.
Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director General MI5, having been briefed by senior US Intelligence officers, meets with British PM Clement Atlee in December 1947 and discloses the VENONA project to him. In particular he tells Atlee that there had been a serious leak of very sensitive information about British long term strategies and that the leak had been traced to Australia and the Department of External Affairs. Atlee tasked Sillitoe with travelling to Australia and informing Ben Chifley, Australian PM of the findings. This presented a major problem to Sillitoe as the disclosure could put at risk the whole VENONA project, a cover story was suggested and adopted as the best way forward. The cover would be that the information on the leaked documents came from a Russian defector and plans were made to have Sir Percy travel to Australia, he would take Roger Hollis, MI5, with him. In fact they eventually both travelled on separate days towards the end of January 1948. Atlee cabled Ben Chifley and told him to expect a visit from Sillitoe on a matter of some importance. In Defence of The Realm
According to Guy Liddell's diary, (Deputy Director General of the Security Service) during January 1948 a number of top secret meetings were held within the offices of MI5 with the topic being the US cables (VENONA) project and Sillitoe's impending visit to Australia for meetings with Ben Chifley and 'Doc' Evatt. The cover story was exapanded and was somewhat nervously agreed to. Roger Hollis would accompany Silletoe with both men leaving for Australia at the end of January.
During Silletoe's absence, further meetings were held discussing the setting up of an MI5 Australian Office with a number of potential MI5 officers being considered for the position in Australia. This was even before Sillitoe and Hollis had met with Chifley and revealed the real nature of VENONA and an unusual level of confidence on behalf of MI5.
NOTE: Both Roger Hollis and Guy Liddell were later to be accused of being Russian moles.
In the next post, which will be added here within 48 hours, we will move the timeline of events further along into 1948 and include more people who were involved in the project. There is much already revealed here with more to come, for some site visitors this information will be quite new and may even cause them to rethink their views of those early cold war years and the involvement of Australians.