The FBA passed personal information on Rep. Daniel Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) through a middleman to an intelligence agent of the Polish government at the Poles' request, an FBI document reveals.
When the data did not satisfy the agent, he asked for more confidential information, including background onthe congressman's "life history . . . his drinking habits and his girl friends, if any."
The polish government officials were given the Fbi information on Ostenkowski and other U.S. citizens by a Polish-American who the poles believed was helping them spy on the Chicago Polish Community. Actually, the man was an Fbi informant, the FBI fed him information requested by the Polish consulate in Chicago, to enhance his credibility.
However, it is not known specifically what the information said about Rostenkowski.
Rowtenkowski is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. A political power in Chicago, he is generally considered the spokesman for the influential Chicago Democratic congressional delegation.
Files indicate that the FBI believed the Poles wanted the sensitive background information on Rostenkowski and other Polish-Americans so they could try to intimidate U.S. citizens into helping Polish spies or to manipulate government agencies.
Although the information was turned over nine years ago, the FBI claims that its disclosure now would impair "national security."
Rostenkowski, informed of the FBI action by a reporter, said he was outraged.
He said he planned to call FBI Director William H. Webster's office "and demand that they bring to me, here in my office, the complete contents of any file the FBIkept on me -- regardless of any national security considerations they may say are involved.
"It's absolutely incredible that something like this could happen to American citizens -- to a congressman or to anyone else," he said.
[The FBI said last night that Webster has requested a detailed review of the bureau's files concerning certain counterintelligence operations in the Chicago area inthe early 1970s. The bureau also said the congressional intelligence oversight committees would be briefed.]
Other information the Polish spies sought about Rostenkowski incluced questions on:
Whether he had any influence over promotions in the FBI and the Chicago Police Department.
Whether an aide in his Chicago office had a cousin working in the Chicago FBI office.
The Polish operatives, who were assigned to the Chicago consulate under various covers, not only sought information on politicians and other prominent Polish-American in Chicago but also asked the Fbi informant to obtain:
Confidential and compromising information on eight Chicago attorneys who regularly handled immigration cases involving attempts by Polish visitors or defectors to obtain asylum in this country.
Similar sensitive background material on workers of Polish decent employed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Chicago, particularly new hires.
Secret details on the internal functions of the immigration service's Chicago operations.
Some of the information turned over about some of the lawyers -- gathered both by the informant and by FBI investigators and then "cleared" by FBI headquarters in Washington -- was derogatory and potentially damaging.
The Poles apparently gave the FBI informant no specific explanation of why they wanted the various kinds of information. But the FBI's own files make clear that the bureau believed the Poles sought the potentially embarrassing information so they could contact American residents and coerce them into working secretly for the Polish government.
The files show that the Fbi turned over the data without any notification or permission from Americans involved. Nor were they warned in any way that they might be contacted by foreign agents who might attempt to blackmail them into spying for Warsaw.
The FBI's attitude was that it "assumed" the U.S. residents would inform the FBI of any such contacts, it was learned.
The files did not make clear how or why the Poles first had contacted the man who became the FBI's informant. But the files did not reveal that the informant had a brother who at that time was in Poland.
Intelligence sources outside the FBI said it was not uncommon for Poles and operatives from other Iron Curtain countries to pressure U.S. citizens or recent immigrants to supply intelligence information by threatening to retaliate against relatives "in the old country" if the target was reluctant to help.
The files also reveal that the Polish government planned to permit the informant's brother to come to the United States in late 1970 or early 1971.
The U.S. government maintains -- in seeking to keep lawsuits on the subject suppressed -- that disclosure would reveal still-sensitive intelligence operations. Yet the file appears to contain no reference to any FBI intelligence action against foreign diplomats and operatives that have not already been spotlighted in publicized accounts of FBI activities.
Details on the FBI's tactic here were made available to The Sun-Times by Justice Department staffers angered by FBI practices and by congressional sources with oversight in intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.
The files also made clear that the FBI operative was a "double agent," as the term is normally used in intelligence circles. The informant obtained no direct information back from the Polish operatives who were his contact: It was "all give, no take," in the words of one Justice Department attorney. i
Intelligence operatives from other agencies said the informants's twofold value to the FBI would have been in identifying Polish secret agents working in the Chicago consulate and in learning about an area in which the Polish intelligence service was most interested -- such as the INS. The Sun-Times began investigating the Polish incident last month after discovering that an attorney accidentally had learned -- through a Freedom-of-Information-Act request for his files -- that the FBI, for some reason, had turned over information about him to Polish intelligence.
Reporters came across the existence of two lawsuits the attorney had filed against the government while the reporters were investigating "suppressed" cases in the wake of the Progressive magazine suit, which sought to end government suppression of an article about how to build a hydrogen bomb.