The Archive of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989

A Catch-22 December 1989, Groundhog-Day Production. Presenting the Personal Research & Scholarship of Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.


Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on October 3, 2010




by Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency.  Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views.  This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

This paper MAY be cited when accompanied by a full, proper citation.  Thank you.

9 ianuarie 1990; 11-17 ianuarie 1990

“…In data de 09.01.1990, intre orele 21.55 si 23.14, pe ecranele complexului de dirijare a rachetelor de la una dintre subunitatiile subordonate au fost sesizate semnale provenind de la un numar de 12 aeronave neidentificate, care se deplasau la inaltimi cuprinse intre 300 si 1800 de metri, pe directia unei localitatii invecinate.
In ziua urmatoare, intre orele 03.00 si 04.15, au fost sesizate, din nou, semnale de la sase aeronave, dupa care–la fel–intre orele 17.00-18.00 si 21.30–acelasi tip de semnale, despre niste tinte aeriene evoluind la altitudini cuprinse intre 800-3000 de metri, pe aceeasi directie de deplasare ca si in ziua precedenta.
Apoi, parca pentru a intari rachetistilor convingerea ca nu poate fi vorba de nici o confuzie, a treia zi, pe 11 ianuarie, intre orele 04.00-05.00, au mai aparut, iarasi, semnale despre 7 aeronave neidentificate, avind in esenta aceleasi caracteristici de zbor.  Ceea ce este curios e ca nici una dintre tinte nu a fost observata vizual si nici nu a facut sa se auda in zona respectiva zgomotului caracteristic de motor.
Dar si mai curios este ca, tot atunci, de la centrul de control radio din municipiul apropriat, a parvenit la unitate informatia ca, pe o anumita banda de frecventa, au fost interceptate semnale strainii, modulate in impuls, iar pe o alta frecventa se semnala un intens trafic radio intr-o limba araba sau turca.
In urma acestei informatii, comandantul unitatii a organizat cercetarea radio din mai multe zone, cu ajutorul unor mijloace de transmisiuni din inzestrare.  Astfel, in data de 11.01.1990 intre orele 11.20 si 11.30 au fost receptionate, pe frecventa respectiva, convorbiri radio, in fonic [?] in limba engleza, in cadrul carora indicatul “122″ chema indicativele “49″, “38″, “89″, “11″, “82″, “44″, “38″, “84″, si le intreba “daca va simtiti bine”.
Din fragmentele de discutii s-a mai inteles ca se faceau referiri la explozivi, spital, medicamente, si raniti “pentru orele 16.00″.  La orele 13,30, pe aceeasi frecventa, au fost din nou interceptate convorbiri in care era vorba de raniti si se cereau ajutoare.  Emisiunile au fost receptionate pe fondul altor convorbiri, din care s-au detasat mai clar o voce feminina si un latrat de ciine.  S-au facut iarasi referiri la ulterioarele convorbiri ca urmau sa aiba loc la orele 16.00, 19.00, 22.00 si, apoi, in ziua de 12.01.1990, la 09.10.
Stind de vorba cu unii cetateni din zona localitatii unde au fost sesizate acele tinte aeriene si unde fusese localizat straniul trafic radio interceptat, comandantul unitatii de aparare antiaeriana la care ne-am referit a aflat ca, in vecinatate, exista un drum forestier (nota noastra; localitatea respectiva se afla intr-o zona muntoasa), marginit de doua rinduri de sirma ghimpata, drum pe care nu se efectueaza [?], de fapt, transporturi forestiere.  Nu de alta, dar si pentru ca, pina la Revolutie, drumul in cauza era interzis si se afla sub paza stricta a securitatii.
Tot acei cetateni au mai tinut sa-l informeze pe comandantul unitatii ca, nici dupa Revolutie, drumul respectiv nu a ramas chiar al nimanului, intrucit in zona respectiva au fost vazute persoane imbracate in uniforme de padurari despre care insa, nimeni de la ocolul silvic in raza cariua se afla acele locuri nu stia absolut nimic.
Cine sa fi fost oare acei “padurari” necunoscuti?  Si cu ce “treburi” pe acolo?  Poate tot…”
(Locotenent-colonel Alexandru Bodea, din serialul “Varianta la Invazia Extraterestrilor.  Pe cine interpelam pentru uriasa si ultraperfectionata diversiune psihologica si radioelectronica prin care s-a urmarit paralizarea conducerii armatei in timpul Revolutiei?”
Armata Poporului, nr. 22 (“urmare din numarul 21″), mai 1990.)

Foreign Involvement

So far in this piece, we have seen references to the arrest or killing as “terrorists” of the following as apparent foreigners, notably Arabs:  1) the arrest of one with a PSL in Bucharest, 2) the arrest of another with a PSL, apparently somewhere near Brasov, 3) the revelations of soldiers who killed and arrested several in the Pantelimon area of Bucharest (I will consider these two revelations one and the same for our purposes here).  Years after the Revolution, there are still claims that Arabs were captured elsewhere:  in 2005, Catalin Radulescu told a journalist that “two Arabs were caught in Pitesti, dressed in combinezoane negre [emphasis added], and armed with Carpati pistols.”[81] Later we will see reports written by two Securitate officers immediately after the events—apparently required of them by Army officials—attesting to the killing of Arab “terrorists” in the area around the Defense Ministry building in Bucharest. We shall also see how a weapon registered to a member of the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate just happened to show up in the hands of a man with a Libyan passport in his billfold who was shot in the Central Committee building in Bucharest on the night of 22 December.

Indeed, the presence and activity of these foreign, apparently mostly Arab terrorists, was almost prosaic.  Liviu Viorel Craciun (appropriately enough craciun means “Christmas”), the so-called “First Interior Minister of the Revolution” in one of the protogovernments that tried to form in the CC after the Ceausescus fled and—a source of much confusion in research on the events (more on this below)—a former USLA officer until 1986, reported that on 28 December 1989:  “…in the morning five cadavers were collected and a rough count was made, out of the five terrorist cadavers found in the street, two belonged to Arab mercenaries…The shot terrorists could not be identified and they did not seem to interest anyone.”[82]

So what was the role of foreigners, specifically Arabs, in the Revolution?  Interesting in this regard is a report dated 1 March 1990 by Lt-Colonel Ion Aurel Rogojan, who in 1989 was Securitate Director General Vlad’s chief of cabinet staff.  As B. Mihalache speculates somebody must have been interested in this question, “since Rogojan was ordered to write a report on it.”[83] Rogojan wrote in his 1 March 1990 report that he “has knowledge of the fact that between the Department of State Security and the ‘Al Fatah’ Security [service] of the Palestinian Liberation Organization there existed relations of cooperation based on a protocol.”  Rogojan continues in this report:

“At the same time, some activities for the training of USLA cadres abroad were carried out (the group was led by reserve colonel Firan, former chief of general staff of the mentioned unit).  The protocol was established in the period 1979-1980 and a copy can be found in the protocol relations division of the former Independent Judicial Secretariat Service of the DSS [i.e. Securitate].  In connection with the existence of this protocol, I was asked in recent weeks, by Colonel Ardeleanu Gheorghe, USLA Commander.  The Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare was coordinated on behalf of the DSS’ Executive Bureau by General-Colonel Iulian Vlad in the period 1977-1987, and after that by Secretary of State General-Major Alexie Stefan and Deputy Minister Major General Bucurescu Gianu.  In the USLA there existed a special detachment for antiterrorist intervention, organized in three shifts and subordinated to the chief of the general staff.  I don’t have any data concerning the activity of the USLA in the period of the December ’89 events.”[84]

It should also be abundantly clear here that Rogojan was being asked to write not just about the role of outside forces, but specifically about the role of the USLA in December 1989.  Once again, why such interest in the USLA?

In this regard, further claims related by former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu to Dan Badea, are to say the least intriguing:

Several days before the outbreak of the December events, the commander of the USLA forces—col. ARDELEANU GHEORGHE (his real name being BULA MOISE)—left for Iran, bringing with him a great many gifts; and a car’s load of maps, bags, pens, sacks, etc. What did Col. Ardeleanu need these for in Iran? What was the use of having the head of the USLA go?  What did he negotiate with the Iranians before the arrival of Ceausescu [18-19 December]?  Could he have contracted the bringing into the country of some shock troops, as they are called, to enforce the guard at the House of the Republic, the civic Center and the principal residences of the dictator?  If not for that reason, why?  Because it is known what followed…

On 22 December, col. Ardeleanu gave the order that 50 blank cover IDs, with the stamp of the Department of Civil Aviation, be released.  The order is executed by Gradisteanu Aurel from the coordinating service of that department—a Securitate captain in reserve—and by lt. Col. SOMLEA ALEXANDRU, the latter receiving the IDs and putting them where they needed to be.  It is known that the majority of USLA cadre work under the cover of being in the Militia.  But who did these IDs cover in this situation? [emphases and capitalization in original][85]

We know from the revelations of a former worker (engineer Hristea Todor) at the Securitate’s special unit “P,” that the new Front leadership was sufficiently suspicious of Arab presence that “General Militaru referred to the transfer of some units from the MI and Securitate to the Defense Ministry.  He said the USLA had transformed into terrorists.  The electronic (telephone) surveillance of certain objectives was started up again—in particular Arab embassies.”[86] (Note:  this appears yet another reference to the aforementioned meeting at USLA headquarters on the evening of 25 December.)  Gheorghe Ratiu, head of the Securitate’s First Directorate, maintains that, on Director Vlad’s orders, between 25 and 27 December 1989 he was tasked with finding out the “truth” concerning the “foreign terrorists” reported to be in the hospitals and morgues; he had to resort to subterfuge to verify the situation, since Army personnel were denying him entrance.[87]

Notably, of course, with these exceptions, the former Securitate and their apologists—whom as Army General Urdareanu suggests uniformly don’t believe in the existence of real terrorists in December 1989, yet who love to blame foreign interference for Ceausescu’s overthrow (in particular, Russians, Hungarians, and Jews)—do not like to make reference to or talk about “Arab terrorists.”

Further evidence of the involvement of “Arab terrorists” comes from the behavior in late December 1989, as much as the later statements, of the usually garrulous Silviu Brucan.  In August 1990, Brucan would allege the involvement of “some 30 foreigners,” according to him, mostly Palestinian, who had been trained by the Securitate—what Michael Shafir termed “the first admission of foreign intervention by a member of the December 1989 leadership.”[88] Reminiscent of Tanasescu’s curt response to the reporter’s question about the involvement of foreign terrorists (discussed above)—“I ask that you be so kind as to…” not ask me about this—back on 29 December 1989, Brucan, at the time a key decision-maker in the new Front leadership (he would leave in February), told Le Monde that the issue was “very delicate” and “involving diplomatic implications that must still be worked out”; “better to be cautious,” he opined.[89] That was, of course, no denial; indeed, it sounds like the new leadership was trying to find a solution to the dilemma they found themselves in.

Suspicion, in particular, surrounded the role of Libyans, which, as we have seen, at the very least, somehow found themselves in areas of gunfire in December.  Sergiu Nicolaescu claims—I have been unable to verify this—that of all the countries to recognize the new National Salvation Front government, running to the top of the line to be first was…Qadafi’s Libya![90] The “anonymous plotters” who leaked information to Liviu Valenas of Baricada in August 1990 maintained that “It isn’t accidental that on 25 December 1989, the first plane bringing aid came from Libya.  However, when it went on its return route it was loaded with people.  In the almost complete chaos that dominated at the time, the New Power [i.e. the Front] did not know what the plane to Libya was carrying (it left from Otopeni, when the airport was still closed to traffic).”[91] In 1994, two journalists specified that the plane in question on the 25th was a DC9 and that “40 Arabs” had been loaded aboard, and noted that they had learned that on 28-29 December 1989, “the [Otopeni’s] airport archive had disappeared.”[92]

Michael Shafir at Radio Free Europe Research at the time noted in October 1990 that “unconfirmed but very reliable military and governmental Romanian sources interviewed by RFE said that shortly after the capture of Palestinians, Libyans, and other Arabs who had fought on the side of pro-Ceausescu forces, Quadhafi had threatened to kill all Romanian specialists in Libya if the Arabs were not allowed to leave Romania.”[93] Certainly, this is what Constantin Vranceanu hinted at in September 1990 in Romania Libera when he wrote of “Plan Z-Z”—according to him, “practically an alliance, on many levels, including military between Romania and several other countries with totalitarian regimes (Iran, Libya, Syria), to which was added the PLO…which called for the other parties to intervene with armed forces to reestablish state order when one of the leaderships was in trouble”:

“Several weeks after 22 December, the president of one of the countries directly involved threatened the Romanian government that it would make recourse to reprisals against those several thousand Romania citizens who were working in that country if [the Romanian government] did not return the foreign terrorists, [whether] alive or dead.  This blackmail worked and a Romanian plane went on an unusual route to a Polish airport, from where the ‘contents,’ unusually including the able-bodied, wounded, and coffins, were transferred to another plane, that took off in an unknown direction.”[94]

Nestor Ratesh quotes one of Ceausescu’s senior party henchman, Ion Dinca, as having stated at his trial in early February 1990:

“During the night of 27-28 [of January 1990] at 12:30 A.M., I was called by several people from the Prosecutor’s Office to tell what I knew about the agreement entitled Z.Z. between Romania and five other states providing for the dispatching of terrorist forces to Romania in order to intervene in case of a military Putsch.  This agreement Z.Z. is entitled ‘the End of the End.’  I stated then, and I am stating now to you, that I have never been involved in this agreement, neither I nor other people.  And I was told:  Only you and two other people know this.  I stated that and a detailed check was made in order to prove that I was not involved in such acts.”[95]

Relatedly, in July 1990, Liviu Valenas noted that,

“On 24 January 1990, the new Foreign Minister of Romania announced on Television and Radio that a series of secret treaties between the R.S.R. [Romanian Socialist Republic] and third countries had been abrogated, and are no longer valid and operational for the new Romania.  The New Power pledged to deal with these countries concerning Romania’s obligations through the abrogation of these accords.  An ambiguous text, apparently launched by Sergiu Celac’s group,led public opinion in Romania to believe that these treaties concerned ‘terrorist assistance.’”[96]

It is noteworthy that in the context of a series entitled “The Truth about the U.S.L.A.,” (more on this infamous series below), Horia Alexandrescu paused on 14 March 1990 to quote from a 1 February article by another journalist about TAROM flight 259 (to Warsaw and back):

“24 January, 4 PM:  After the aircraft was inspected [“controlul antiterorist”] (after the Revolution of 22 December, ,soimi’ as those who performed antiterrorist protection [i.e. USLA] were called by the pilots, were removed from both internal and external TAROM flights, even though all airlines have such teams), the plane left for Bucharest.  Meanwhile, however, the 45 Libyan passengers, who had gotten off for 5-6 hours in a layover at Otopeni, wanted to cross ‘the Polish border.’”[97]

According to Alexandrescu, the Polish authorities would not allow the TAROM plane to leave Poland, so it sat on the runway in Warsaw…until a second TAROM plane came—this time, according to Alexandru, including “uslasi”—the moral of the story of course being that the USLA needed to be put back on flights as soon as possible.[98] It is possible this is the plane Vranceanu was referring to in the quotation above.  One thing’s for sure, this seemingly insignificant incident got unusual media coverage, in particular with regard to the USLA.

Not surprisingly, in June 2006, Prosecutor General Dan Voinea reiterated his contention that there was no foreign involvement/intervention in the December 1989 Romanian Revolution!

[81] Mirel Paun, “Ion Capatana:  ‘Argeseni, va cer scuze ca am participat la Revolutie!” Cotidianul Argesul, 5/8/05 online at

[82] Interestingly and notably, Craciun, who attempted in these days to form a political party with other revolutionaries, bitterly describes how the vague language that emerged in Front declarations by the ultimatum of the 27th—suggesting anyone without authorization was prohibited from carrying an arm—allowed the rump party-state that was the Front to essentially crush any alternative nascent groups of anti-communist opposition.  That said, it is important to point out that Craciun had no doubt as to the existence of the “terrorists” that fought in these days; he describes matters as follows:  “…for five days they fought against the last partisans of the ‘Conducator’ [i.e. Ceausescu], the terrorists who attacked every night, using secret tunnels that allowed them to communicate between different government buildings.  The battlefield was well-defined:  Piata Republicii, on the one hand, the Presidential Palace, to which the terrorists would repair, on the other.”  See Liviu Viorel Craciun, with Horatiu Firica, “Destainuirile unui ministru de interne,” Zig-Zag, no. 70, 71, 72 (July and August 1991), p. 6, quotes from issue no. 72.

Soldiers entered the tunnels of the former Central Committee building, with Major Gheorghe Grigoras and Nicolae Grigoras, of the special unit for antiterrorist warfare [i.e. USLA].  The museum curator Dan Falcan relates the findings of the soldiers as follows:

“…in the basement of the building they found a tunnel, not very long, that descended into a type of barracks.  There were eight rooms with folding beds.  These rooms gave way to many hallways, one leading to the second floor of the building.  Via another hallway a larger bunker 7 meters deep could be reached.  This led to an armored door and a spacious apartment, 9 meters deep.  The soldiers found a room with a ventilation system and from there found a new corridor.  After going approximately 30 meters the soldiers noticed an alcove with a large trunk, in which there were 16 rubber rafts with pumps.  Twenty meters forward they found another room with synthetic…10 meters further and they were under water….  Following reconnaissance it was discovered that there were exits to 80 objectives in Bucharest, such as the ASE building, the Enescu House, the Romanian Opera, etc….”  (Sorin Golea, “Cai de navigatie secrete sub Bucuresti,” Libertatea, 22 December 2002, online edition, originally accessed at

[83] B. Mihalache, Romania Libera, 19 December 2004, online edition.

[84] Document reproduced in E. O. Ohanesian, “Pe stil vechi-colonel de securitate, pe stil nou-general NATO,” Romania Libera, 8 April 2004, online edition.

[85] Marian Romanescu with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si Fratii Musulmani,” Expres, no. 26 (2-8 July 1991), p. 8.  In no.8 (23-30 March 1990) Expres p. 8, Cornel Nistorescu wrote in “Tot Felul,”

“Our compatriots tried and are trying to sell a lie:  that the USLA had no role in guarding the dictator.  Mr. General Stanculescu, we communicate publicly to you something you know:  that every time Ceausescu went out in Bucharest, in each convoy there was an USLA team.  And for Ceausescu’s visit to Iran on flight RO 247 of 9 December to Istanbul and on to Tehran were the following:  Mortoriu Aurel, Ardeleanu Gheorghe, Bucuci Mihai, Ivan Gelu, Grigore Corneliu, Floarea Nicolae, Rotar Ion and Grecu Florin.  These weren’t diplomats and they weren’t going for a snack.”

[86] “Marturii din 23 decembrie,” Ziua , 23 December 2005, online edition.

[87] Gheorghe Ratiu, interview by Ilie Neacsu (episode 17), Europa, 7-22 March 1995, cited in Hall 1997, p. 366.

[88] See Michael Shafir, “Preparing for the Future by Revising the Past,” Radio Free Europe Report on Eastern Europe, vol. 1, no. 41 (12 October 1990), p. 36.

[89] Quoted in Shafir, “Preparing for the Future,” p. 37, fn. 35; also FBIS, 30 December 1989, for the last quote.

[90] See Sergiu Nicolaescu, Revolutia:  inceputul adevarului (Bucharest:  Editura TOPAZ, 1995), concluding chapter.  The Libyan ambassador gave a hasty statement on Romanian Television on 25 December 1989, becoming the first foreign ambassador to recognize the new government, according to Valenas et. al. (see next note #91, and Ratesh 1991, pp. 65-66).  According to FBIS, Bucharest’s Domestic Service on 30 December 1989 announced Dumitru Mazilu of the Front had met with “Qadafi’s representative.”

[91] See Liviu Valenas, “Lovitura de palat din Romania:  Capii complotului dezvaluie,” Baricada, no. 32 (21 August 1990), p.3.  The speculation by Ratesh that the “anonymous plotters” were “surely Brucan and Militaru” seems correct; in fact, their photos appear in the center of the article, see Nestor Ratesh, Romania:  The Entangled Revolution (New York:  Praeger, 1991), p. 65. Ion Cristoiu maintained in 1993 that, Gelu Voican Voiculescu, a key figure in the early Front, had then recently told him, that the British photo journalist (Ian Parry) who perished in the still murky incident surrounding the shooting down of an AN-24 on 28 December 1989, “had stayed at the ‘Hotel National’ and discovered, it appears, on a list many Libyans.” See Constantin Iftime, Cu ION CRISTOIU prin infernul contemporan (Bucharest:  Edtirua Contraria, 1993), pp. 31-32.

[92] Toma Roman, jr. and Lucia Stefanovici, “In 25 decembrie 1989, un avion DC9 venit din Libia as scos din tara 40 de arabi, la ordinul unui ‘emanat,’” Flacara, no 43 (25-31 October 1994), p. 6.

[93] Shafir, “Preparing the Past,” p. 37, fn. 35.

[94] Constantin Vranceanu, “Planul ,Z-Z’ si telefonul rosu,” Romania Libera, 28 September 1990, p. 3.  The information was given, according to Vranceanu, to him by a high-level anonymous political personality and supposedly confirmed by people of high-rank in the Securitate.  Vranceanu claimed he was told Soviet pressure led the countries involved to renounce fulfilling their end of the agreement.

[95] Ratesh, Romania:  The Entangled Revolution, pp. 66-67, quoting Radio Bucharest, 2 February 1990.  I don’t think from the context given it is clear that this alleged incident took place in January 1990, as Ratesh assumes; the reference to 27-28 might have been a reference to December 1989.

[96] Liviu Valenas, “Lovitura de palat din Romania:  Enigma ,teroristilor (I),’ Baricada, no. 29 (31 July 1990), p. 3.  Once again, I am unsure of the accuracy of the date used here, this time by Valenas.

[97] Horia Alexandrescu, “Adevarul despre U.S.L.A.:  Pornind de la ,Odiseea Zborului RO-259’,” Tineretul Liber, 14 March 1990, p.4.  He is quoting Rodica Dumitrescu’s article in Lumea, no. 5 (1 February 1990).

[98] I should add here:  they actually returned to airport duties in July 1990, but not before protests by airport employees.



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