National Post

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Tuesday, September 14, 1999

The traitorous granny
National Post

The spy of the century, it turns out, is an 87-year-old great-grandmother who loves to garden and makes jam in her spare time. Melita Norwood is a former secretary at a British nuclear weapons research station who provided Stalinist Russia with Britain's top secret plans for nuclear weapons for 40 years. She was unmasked this week in just-published KGB documents. Even by the elevated standards of British espionage revelations, this must be considered a shocker.

And yet this shocking news is trumped by the decided lack of interest within the Blair government to go after the spying granny. Jack Straw, British home secretary, has said there will be no criminal investigation and claims the last time it would have been possible to prosecute her was 1992.

There is something deeply unsettling about this lack of will to prosecute Ms. Norwood. Nearly every country in the world has agreed that German Nazis must be pursued to the ends of their days because of the magnitude of the crimes they committed during the Second World War. When the topic is the Cold War, however, we are told that too much time has passed for there to be criminal charges.

Failure to prosecute Ms. Norwood reduces the Cold War into something approximating a sporting event, in which both sides were earnest and honourable competitors. In truth the Cold War was a tremendously serious affair in which the blood-thirsty regime of Stalin was the enemy of the civilized world in every sense of the word. The bucolic descriptions of Ms. Norwood and her garden overlook the fact that she could have been responsible for millions of deaths throughout the Western world had Stalin used his purloined bomb.

If Britain finds itself unable to bring Ms. Norwood to account, it will be sending a powerful message to all its allies, Canada and the U.S. included, that it doesn't consider spying or the fight against totalitarianism to be serious business. A minimum sentence for Mrs. Norwood should compel her to visit the Russian mass graves, each containing as many as 300,000 victims, and the Gulag camps where millions were worked to death, so that she may begin to grasp the true nature of the genocidal regime whose long oppression she helped to extend. Let her then go down on her knees and beg forgiveness of those whom she helped to murder and oppress.

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