A fascinating account from October 28, 2013 of a libel trial in Denmark by Dispatch International editor Lars Hedegaard:
Danish Journalist Jørgen Dragsdahl was a KGB agent
With Friday’s acquittal of history professor Bent Jensen for libel, the Danish Superior Court put an end to a seven-year court battle. Jensen was unanimously and comprehensively exonerated and the court determined that he was ”justified” in calling Jørgen Dragsdahl a KGB agent. Dragsdahl (photo above) was also the man behind the Social Democratic Party’s anti-NATO course during the 1980s. It remains to be seen if the party will take this blow to its reputation lying down.
Here we see the curtain drawn back on the identity of an agent of Soviet influence, a "spy" whose mission under consideration is not the theft of secrets but rather influence on policy -- the topic under consideration in American Betrayal.
It took Professor Bent Jensen (75) – an acknowledged expert on Soviet and Cold War history – seven years to clear himself of accusations of libel, deliberate lies and manipulation of his sources after writing an article in the daily Jyllands-Posten accusing journalist Jørgen Dragsdahl (64) of having been an influence agent of the Soviet KGB.
In July 2010 Professor Jensen was convicted of libel in the lower court but last Friday a unanimous Eastern Superior Court in Copenhagen acquitted Bent Jensen and ordered the plaintiff to pay Jensen 600.000 DKK plus interests since 2007. In addition to this sum, Dragsdahl has to pay for his own legal expenses reputed to be in the order of a million DKK.
The panel of three judges completely overturned the decision by the lower court.
Observers of the lengthy court proceedings agreed that this outcome was in large part due to the able defense conducted by Professor Jensen’s counsel Karoly Neméth with the aid of law professor Ole Hasselbalch.
Jørgen Dragsdahl had asked the court to punish Bent Jensen for 35 statements accusing him of having been a KBG influence agent and having spread disinformation in the Danish press intended to further Soviet objectives and discredit and endanger Soviet dissidents during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
The Superior Court agreed that the 35 statements had indeed harmed Dragsdahl’s reputation but that Professor Jensen had been ”justified” in uttering them.
The court made no determination that Dragsdahl had in fact been a KGB agent – only that Bent Jensen had not been wrong to come to that conclusion. In other words, Jørgen Dragsdahl’s behavior had been such that a historian might well have concluded that Dragsdahl had been in the service of the Soviet Union.
The sticking point in the case was whether documents from the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) that unmistakably identified Dragsdahl as an agent and accused him of spreading disinformation could be taken as the official opinion of the Service or were only the private opinions of individuals.
The lower court had opted for the latter whereas the Superior Court determined that this was indeed the conclusion of the Service as such. Former PET Chief Ole Stig Andersen left no doubt that the Service had considered Dragsdahl a Soviet agent and noted that almost certainly, Dragsdahl was the only Danish journalist the Service had ever kept under observation.
The Superior Court noted that Bent Jensen had based his statements on PET reports that Dragsdahl had had secretive meetings with his controlling KBG officers in Denmark and abroad. These reports had been forwarded to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Danish Defense Intelligence Service and the government’s Security Committee in addition to a foreign intelligence service.
The judges emphasized that Bent Jensen had at no time accused Dragsdahl of having violated any law by being an agent but noted that both the KGB and the PET had considered him an agent of the Soviet Union. They therefore determined that Bent Jensen had had a “factual basis” for his statements.
Interestingly, the court also referred to the defected, former KGB officer Oleg Gordijevskij, who had also testified that Dragsdahl had been the KGB’s man in Denmark. This must be seen as a slap in the face of members of left-leaning Danish elite who have done their utmost to discredit Gordijevskij as an unreliable witness.
Former KGB archivist Vasilij Mitrokhin has also positively identified Jørgen Dragsdahl as an agent who went under the cover names ”Stot” and ”Yershov”. A further KGB-officer, only known under his cover name, has done the same.
The court noted that Dragsdahl had been in contact with a number of leading Danish politicians, among them the influential Social Democrat Lasse Budtz – a spokesman for his party’s NATO-critical policies in the 1980s. It also observed that Dragsdahl had approached another Social Democratic politician, former Justice Minister Ole Espersen, in 1985 after it became clear to him that the PET took an active interest in his activities.
The verdict has been met with condemnation among Jørgen Dragsdahl’s supporters. History Professor Poul Villaume comments that Bent Jensen had no factual basis for his accusations and should have been convicted.
It is uncertain what Villaume bases his opinion on. According to Bent Jensen, Villaume has never had access to the documents he has studied. The same goes for another of Dragsdahl’s academic friends, Professor Curt Sørensen, who is not a historian but a political scientist. Sørensen believes that Dragsdahl has been a victim of ”strong political forces” and ”the dominant media”.
A strange statement in view of the fact that some of Denmark’s most dominant media – public radio, the influential left-leaning daily Politiken and to some extent the left daily Information – the paper Dragsdahl used to work for during his time as an agent – have clearly sympathized with Dragsdahl.
It remains to be seen if Dragsdahl will try to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court. This can only be done if a special panel gives the green light.
However, Dragsdahl still has influential political friends in the left parties. Among them is the current Social Democratic speaker of Parliament, Mogens Lykketoft. In August 2010 Lykketoft published a manifesto arguing that it was a ”citizens’ duty” to support Dragsdahl and several prominent politicians and former ministers of government – among them former Justice Minister Ole Espersen – encouraged everyone to support Dragsdahl with financial contributions.
It is not hard to understand the Social Democratic interest in supporting Dragsdahl. Based on a number of academic studies it is safe to say that Jørgen Dragsdahl was the man who pulled the strings behind the Social Democratic Party’s change of heart in relation to the NATO Alliance and caused it to distance itself from the Alliance’s so-called double-track decision from 1979 to counter the Soviet Union’s SS-20 missiles by threatening to place NATO missiles in Western Europe. The Social Democratic policy led to a crisis in Denmark’s relations to NATO.
Now that the Eastern Superior Court had determined that Bent Jensen was justified in calling Dragsdahl a Soviet agent, it is perhaps appropriate to characterize the Social Democratic NATO policy during the 1980s as a result of a successful Soviet influence operation. In fact Jyllands-Posten has already argued that the man behind the party´s change of policy (i.e., Dragsdahl) was a KGB-agent