The Mitrokhin Commission was an Italian parliamentary commission set up in 2002 to investigate alleged KGB ties of some Italian politicians.
Set up by the Italian Parliament, then led by Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, the Casa delle Libertà, and presided by Senator Paolo Guzzanti (Forza Italia), its focus was on alleged KGB ties to opposition figures in Italian politics, basing itself on the controversial Mitrokhin Archive, and various other sources including the consultant Mario Scaramella. The Mitrokhin Commission alleged, among other things, that Romano Prodi, former center-left Prime Minister of Italy and President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, was the "KGB's man in Italy."
The commission was disbanded in March 2006, without any concrete evidence given to support the original allegations of KGB ties to Italian politicians. In five years, the Commission had heard 47 witnesses, for a total cost of 1.9 million euros. Mario Scaramella was arrested in late December 2006 and charged with libel and illegal weapons' trade, with wiretaps of phone calls between Mr. Scaramella and Senator Guzzanti published by the Italian press in late 2006, showing that the two planned to discredit various political opposition figures by claiming ties with the KGB.
The April 2006 general election was won by Romano Prodi's centre-left L'Unione, and in November 2006, the new Italian parliament instituted a commission to investigate the Mitrokhin Commission for allegations that it was manipulated for political purposes.
Members of the commission
The inter-parliamentary commission was composed by the following twenty Senators and twenty Representatives: The President Sen. Paolo Guzzanti; the Vicepresidents Andrea Papini and Giovanni Mongiello; the secretaries Giampaolo Zancan and Salvatore Meleleo; the Senators Giulio Andreotti, Guglielmo Castagnetti, Mario Cavallaro, Amedeo Ciccanti, Cinzia Dato, Luciano Falcier, Costantino Garraffa, Mario Gasbarri, Lauro Salvatore, Loris Giuseppe Maconi, Lucio Malan, Luigi Marino, Franco Mugnai, Gianni Nieddu, Lodovico Pace, Piergiorgio Stiffoni, Roberto Ulivi, Lodovico Pace, Piergiorgio Stiffoni, Roberto Ulivi; the deputies Ferdinando Adornato, Gabriele Albonetti, Maurizio Bertucci, Valter Bielli, Francesco Carboni, Fabrizio Cicchitto, Giuseppe Cossiga, Oliviero Diliberto, Lino Duilio, Giuseppe Fallica, Vincenzo Fragalà, Pierfrancesco Emilio Romano Gamba, Francesco Giordano, Giuseppe Lezza, Giuseppe Molinari, Erminio Angelo Quartiani, Enzo Raisi, Giacomo Stucchi.
Allegations of KGB ties, which were denied and ruled defamatory in nature in court, included former (and current) Premier Romano Prodi, named as the "KGB's man in Italy", his staff, Hon. Massimo D'Alema, Hon. Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, General Giuseppe Cucchi (current director of the CESIS), Milan's judges Armando Spataro, and Guido Salvini, both in charge of the Imam Rapito case, as well as La Repubblica reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo, who broke the Yellowcake forgery scandal. Also known as the "Niger uranium forgeries", this latter affair refers to falsified classified documents provided by the Italian SISMI to US intelligence. These forgeries depicted an attempt by the regime of Iraq's Saddam Hussein to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger during the Iraq armament crisis, and was part of the rationale for the Iraq War cited by the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003.
The "Bulgarian connection" claim
Guzzanti also revived the old "Bulgarian connection" thesis concerning Mehmet Ali Agca's 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. He claimed in the draft of the report, without providing evidence to back his claim, that "leaders of the former Soviet Union were behind the assassination attempt", alleging that "the leadership of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate Pope John Paul" because of his support for Solidarity, the Polish trade-union, relaying "this decision to the military secret services" (and not the KGB). According to Frank Brodhead, however, the new conclusions brought by Guzzanti were based on the same "information" provided in the early 1980s by Mr. Michael Ledeen, a U.S. neo-conservative author tied to the SISMI and Mehmet Ali Agca himself, which is "bogus at best and at worst deliberately misleading." The "Bulgarian connection" thesis was debunked by Francesco Pazienza, a member of Propaganda Due, cited in a 1987 article in The Nation as well as by media analyst Edward S. Herman in 1986: The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection. Pazienza claimed that Michael Ledeen "was the person responsible for dreaming up the 'Bulgarian connection' behind the plot to kill the Pope."
Ledeen admitted to the Vanity Fair to having been paid $10,000 by the SISMI in 1979 or 1980, allegedly on extradition matters with the US. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who had initially believed this conspiracy theory, later wrote that "the Bulgarian connection was invented by Agca with the hope of winning his release from prison. He was aided and abetted in this scheme by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and William Casey's Central Intelligence Agency, which became a victim of its own disinformation campaign."
Guzzanti said that the commission had decided to re-open the report's chapter on the assassination attempt in 2005, after the Pope wrote about it in his last book, Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums. The Pope wrote that he was convinced the shooting was not Ağca's initiative and that "someone else masterminded it and someone else commissioned it".
Guzzanti's claims in the draft report were based on recent computer analysis of photographs that purported to demonstrate suspected conspirator Sergei Antonov's presence in St Peter's Square during the shooting and on information brought by the French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, a controversial figure whose last feat was to indict Rwandese president Paul Kagame, claiming he had deliberately provoked the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against his own ethnic group in order to take the power. According to Le Figaro, Bruguière, who is in close contacts as well with Moscow as with Washington, D.C., including the CIA and the FBI, has been accused by many of his colleagues of "privileging the raison d'état over law."
Both Russia and Bulgaria condemned the report. "For Bulgaria, this case closed with the court decision in Rome in March 1986", Foreign Ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev said, while also recalling the Pope's comments during his May 2002 visit to Bulgaria.
The "Bulgarian connection" thesis, which claims that the Soviet Union was really behind the Pope's assassination attempt by the former Grey Wolves member, Mehmet Ali Agca, had been denounced previously by Pope John Paul II during his travel to Bulgaria in May 2002. In Russia, Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov called the accusation "absurd.".
Analysis of the allegations
In an interview published in La Repubblica in November 2006, former KGB agent Yevgeny Limarev told how the "working group" of the commission purpose was to find connections between Italian political left exponents and KGB or FSB, presumably for political purpose. Asked about targeted personae he said: "Without a doubt, the first name on the list was that of Prodi, especially during the period preceding the spring elections. [...] Prodi was a real obsession, in spite of the fact that nothing ever came out on your Prime Minister."  In a rebuke to the original Mitrokhin commission's authenticity, Vasily Mitrokhin himself refused to meet the Commission's members before his death.
On December 1, 2006 several Italian newspapers published interceptions of telephone calls between Paolo Guzzanti and Mario Scaramella, a consultant on the Mitrokhin Commission, who became involved in the events surrounding the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in Great Britain on 23 November 2006
In the interceptions, Guzzanti declared that the Mitrokhin Commission's unstated goal was to depict Romano Prodi and Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, leader of the Federation of the Greens and current Minister of Environment in Prodi's government, as "agents of the KGB", financed by Moscow in order to discredit him. In these interceptions, the two men also discussed plans to claim that Antonio Bassolino, governor of the Campania region, was linked to the Camorra. According to the Corriere della Sera, these interceptions demonstrated that Scaramella was in contact with Italian police agents, penitentiary police agents, and two CIA agents, one of them being Robert Seldon Lady, former CIA station chief in Milan, indicted by prosecutor Armando Spataro for having coordinated the abduction of Abu Omar in 2003 in Milan, a case of extraordinary rendition which gave rise to the Imam Rapito affair.
Scaramella, according to the interceptions, was to collect false witnesses among KGB refugees in Europe to support this aim. He was arrested end of December 2006 on charges of calumny and illegal weapons' trade. The investigation showed that Scaramella received some of his "information" from Alexander Litvinenko. Scaramella was then an obscure figure, described as follows by the International Herald Tribune:
a slew of media reports about him and his career here — which included trying to prove that some top Italian center-left politicians, including Prime Minister Romano Prodi, are Russian spies — have invariably included unflattering adjectives. They include: "incurable liar", "wannabe 007", "braggart", "bumbler" and "swindler" — not to mention "fool" and "mental case.
His repeated offers to collaborate with the Italian secret services were all rejected in the 1990s by the Italian government. Nonetheless, from 2003 to 2006, he worked for the Mitrokhin Commission. When a left-wing member of the Commission questioned his credentials, he promptly remade one.
According to the investigations of Rome prosecutor Pietro Salvitti, who indicted Mario Scaramella, cited by La Repubblica, Nicolò Pollari, head of SISMI indicted in the Imam Rapito affair, as well as SISMI n°2, Marco Mancini, arrested in July 2006 for the same reason, were some of the informers, alongside Mario Scaramella, of senator Paolo Guzzanti. Beside targeting Romano Prodi and his staff, this "network", according to Pietro Salvitti's words, also aimed at defaming General Giuseppe Cucchi (current director of the CESIS), Milan's judges Armando Spataro, in charge of the Imam Rapito case and Guido Salvini, as well as La Repubblica reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo, who broke the Yellowcake forgery scandal as well as the SISMI-Telecom affair, in which Marco Mancini, n°2 of the SISMI already indicted in the Imam Rapito affair, was arrested for end of 2006. The investigation also showed a connection between Scaramella and the CIA, in particular through Filippo Marino, one of Scaramella's closest partners since the 1990s and co-founder of the Environmental Crime Prevention Program (ECPP), described as an empty shell according to the International Herald Tribune. Marino, now living in the U.S., has acknowledged in an interview an association with former and active CIA officers, including Robert Lady, former CIA station chief in Milan above-mentioned.
Closure of the Commission and creation of a new commission
The Mitrokhin Commission was shut down in March 2006 without any concrete result provided, and not one political figure was exposed by the allegations, despite months of press speculation alimented by Berlusconi family newspaper Il Giornale. Following the general election and the nomination of Romano Prodi as head of the new government, a parliamentary commission was instituted to investigate about this controversial "Mitrokhin Commission".
- The Guardian, 2 December 2006 Spy expert at centre of storm (in English)
- Le Figaro, 4 December 2006, Mario Scaramella, l'Italien qui enquêtait sur l'ex-KGB (in French)
- Reuters cable, November 28, 2006 Cite error: Invalid
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- "Soviets 'had Pope shot for backing Solidarity'". The Telegraph. March 3, 2006.
- The War They Wanted, The Lies They Needed, Vanity Fair, July 2006 (in English)
- Rwanda : Bruguière incrimine Paul Kagamé, Le Figaro, 21 November 2006 (in French)
- Le Figaro, 22 November 2006, "Un juge provocateur", p.2
- Reuters, 2 March 2006. "Soviet Union ordered Pope shooting: Italy commission". Available here (in English)
- Italian Panel: Soviets Behind Pope Attack
- "Il gruppo della Mitrokhin voleva Prodi e D'Alema", La Repubblica, November 27, 2006
- L'Intervento di Luigi Marino nella Commissione Mitrokhin, Ufficio stampa, Roma, 22 settembre 2004 (in Italian)
- L'Unità, December 1, 2006. Mitrokhin, la magistratura indaga, l'Udc prende le distanze 2006-12-08 (in Italian)
- Corriere della Sera 30 November 2006 Così la Mitrokhin indagava su Prodi- URL accessed on 2007-02-27 (in Italian)
- "Italian emerges as an odd footnote in Litvinenko case". International Herald Tribune. 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2006-12-11.
- Reuters, 2007-01-05. "Italy gives Litvinenko contact withering welcome". accessible here. URL accessed on 2007-01-24. (in English)
- Il falso dossier di Scaramella - "Così la Russia manipola Prodi", La Repubblica, 11 January 2007 (in Italian)
- International Herald Tribune, 9 January 2007, "How one man insinuated himself into poisoning case". see here(in English)