Double Agents

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Double Agents

JOSEF, alias RHUBARB (KV 2/2267-2276)

The reconstituted files of the case of JOSEF, also known as RHUBARB, contain selected historical papers documenting in some detail the only British based double agent run against the Japanese.

JOSEF was a Polish born merchant mariner who had been a Communist since 1929 and by his own admission had been engaged in low-grade espionage against Britain for the Soviets. Having come to notice in 1941, in connection with sabotage on the SS Parklaan, he was interrogated at the Oratory School in London in 1941, and while detained there became acquainted with the interned former press attaché of the Japanese Embassy, a Mr Matsumota. He asked JOSEF to convey a message to his uncle in the Japanese embassy in Lisbon if he got the chance. JOSEF was released from internment in March 1942, and Plan KIMONO was adopted, whereby JOSEF would use this entrée to gain access to Japanese diplomats in Portugal. When he arrived in Lisbon, he was introduced to a Colonel Kano (a pseudonym for Colonel Mishima, the military attaché), who offered him £150 per month to act as an observer and contact supplying information to the Japanese. After much hesitation it was decided to run JOSEF as a double agent.

The details of the initiation of the case are in KV 2/2267 (1942), including JOSEF's reports of his history and of his first journey to Lisbon, as well as the summary presented to the XX (Double Cross) Committee (serial 54B) and the draft of his first letter to his Japanese contacts (serial 55A). There were concerns about JOSEF – the minuting in KV 2/2268 (1942) admits "we know very little about him….we do not feel that we can rely upon his keeping his word". A detailed comparison of his case against information supplied by Krivitsky about standard OGPU (Russian abbreviation for State Police Directorate, predecessor to the KGB) operating methods is included in this file.

The case develops in subsequent files. KV 2/2269 (1942-1943) shows how a second agent was to accompany JOSEF on his trips to Lisbon, acting part bodyguard, part observer. The case summary at serial 148A shows how the Japanese asked JOSEF to propose likely sabotage targets in Glasgow, and the list sent back is at serial 160A. There is a detailed case summary for the end of 1943 in KV 2/2271 (1943). This summarises the type of information so far passed by JOSEF – largely factual, but over-emphasising the amount of British naval construction and including information about so called "battle carriers" about which the Admiralty was keen to mislead the Japanese.

The remaining files contain numerous reports on JOSEF's visits and correspondence about material to be provided to the Japanese. Of particular interest are papers relating to the involvement of the novelist Graham Greene in the case (e.g. serial 435a, in KV 2/2272) – he was involved in the peripheral attempts to identify a ship's fireman who had arrived in Lisbon around the same time as JOSEF and was identified, in a very Greenean touch, only as the fireman who sold canaries. Serial 483a and following in the same file detail how JOSEF was arrested in Dumbarton while sketching the docks for transmission to the Japanese, and how the Security Service had to intervene to secure his release.

Information about JOSEF was shared with the FBI so that the Americans could also use him to pass false intelligence to the Japanese, and the US involvement is detailed fromKV 2/2273 on. This development culminated in JOSEF's journey to the US in 1944, which is detailed in KV 2/2275, as noted in e.g. serials 697a and 717a – an eventful passage during which JOSEF's transports were repeatedly torpedoed. He was eventually stranded in New York, and it was only through the intervention of the Secret Intelligence Service there that his return to Britain could be arranged. Reports of JOSEF's final journey to Lisbon and its disappointing results are in KV 2/2276 as is the final decision of the XX Committee to close the case.

This release also includes the file relating to Elyane Duprez (KV 2/2279), a Belgian recruit of the Abwehr (German intelligence agency from 1921 to 1944) who was considered as a possible double agent, but rejected at Camp 020 as unreliable and likely to become a triple agent. There is also a file on Security Service liaison with the Indian Intelligence Bureau over the SILVER double agent case it ran (KV 4/332). This was an interesting case because of the co-operation with the Soviet Union it involved.