Walesa Calls for Removal of Ex-Spy From Post in Poland
President Lech Walesa called Wednesday for the removal of the new head of Poland’s civilian intelligence service, saying his history as a top Communist-era spy could sour relations with the West.
Walesa praised the “professionalism and many years of experience” of Marian Zacharski, who was appointed to the post Monday, but said his exploits as a Soviet Bloc spy overshadowed his credentials.
“The nomination could make Poland’s process of integration with the West more difficult,” a vacationing Walesa said in a brief statement released by his office as debate here and abroad spread about the controversial appointment.
Zacharski was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States in 1981 after being convicted in federal district court in Los Angeles of obtaining secret information on the U.S.-made B-1 bomber, the F-15 fighter and radar systems used in Patriot air-defense missiles. But he was returned to Poland in a dramatic East-West spy exchange four years later and welcomed as a patriot by Communist authorities.
Walesa’s call for Zacharski’s removal, in a formal letter to the interior minister, reflected the mixed feelings throughout democratic Poland about the elevation of a Communist-era hero to so sensitive a post.
Although the president’s office would not comment, leaders from across the Polish political spectrum said it was unlikely Zacharski was offered the job without Walesa’s concurrence. Under an informal agreement with the government, Walesa oversees three ministries, among them the Interior Ministry, which includes the intelligence service.
Some callers Wednesday to a popular talk radio show criticized the appointment as a dangerous retreat from Poland’s democratic accomplishments, while others said the government was right to pick the best possible candidate for the job.
Several right-wing political parties and groups with ties to the United States sharply condemned the move and called for the resignation of those responsible for it, but the country’s largest opposition party was considerably milder in its criticism.
Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski, who was also vacationing, is expected to return to Warsaw today to respond to Walesa’s request, but it was unclear Wednesday whether he will ask Zacharski to step down. Neither Zacharski nor his direct supervisor, the head of the Office for State Protection, would comment.