Contrary to what “pragmatists” in U.S. government agencies concluded, top officials with the Soviet Union were behind the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, a biographer of Ronald Reagan told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview.
Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor and author, has acquired what he calls never-before-seen information about the Reagan administration’s “supersecret investigation” into the shooting and wounding of the pope.
The information details the role of the Soviet GRU, the Russians’ brutal foreign military intelligence unit, and KGB spy agency head Yuri Andropov in the attempt on John Paul II’s life, Kengor said.
President Reagan and his CIA chief, William Casey, had suspected from the outset that the Soviets had a hand in the shooting of John Paul II on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, he said.
But their suspicions weren’t confirmed until after Casey organized his own secret probe spearheaded by two female researchers, according to Kengor’s just-released book, “A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.”
“Their suspicions ran completely contrary to the establishmentarians in the institutional CIA, at the State Department, and among the White House pragmatists,” Kengor told The Daily Signal. “That being the reality, Casey, I learned, actually ordered a truly supersecret investigation into the shooting, researched by two impressive women in their 30s and 40s, known only to a handful of agency people.”
A Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca, 23, fired four bullets from a handgun at John Paul II, two of which struck him, as the pontiff entered the square. An Italian court eventually sentenced Agca, an escaped murderer, to life in prison. John Paul later forgave Agca, and Prime Minister Carlo Ciampi pardoned him at the pope’s request, deporting him to Turkey in 2000.
The final report of the Casey-ordered investigation never was released, and Kengor says he is not sure where it is. The author did suggest that someone in the Trump administration, including perhaps the president, could ask that the report be released.
Kengor said he believes he may have learned the names of the two female CIA employees. He emailed one, he said, but did not receive a response.
One source told the college professor that the report was “the most secretive thing I’ve ever seen,” Kengor said, declining to name the source.
“We had to practically remove the eyeballs of those who read it,” the source told him. “That report was the blockbuster of the 20th century.”
But even without the actual report in hand, Kengor said, he learned its major findings.
“I did get the results of the investigation, the background, the thinking of Reagan and Casey,” he said in an email to The Daily Signal. “I even pinpointed the date/time that I believe Casey briefed Reagan on the conclusions: May 16, 1985, 11:02-11:17 a.m. I have the president’s daily schedule from that day.”
Both Reagan, who died in 2004, and John Paul II, who died in 2005, decided it would be best not to disclose the findings at the time, Kengor said.
The pope was concerned about starting World War III and “shrewdly figured that people would rightly blame Moscow anyway,” he said.
Reagan was asked several times about a possible Soviet role in the shooting, but was “very careful not to say what was truly on his mind,” Kengor said. “This is an impressive act of diplomacy by Reagan.”
Putin and the Missing Report
So why hasn’t the report of the “supersecret investigation” been released?
Kengor has one possible explanation.
“The current head of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was in the KGB at this exact time,” he said, adding:
But I have to be very clear, I doubt very much that Putin knew anything or was involved. He wasn’t high-ranking enough. This was, as William Safire put it, ‘the crime of the century,’ and a tiny few Russian officials were permitted to know. It was actually the GRU that organized the assassination attempt.
That was the big finding in the Casey investigation, given that everyone else had been looking for, but couldn’t find, KGB fingerprints. That said, the GRU organized the shooting with Yuri Andropov’s direct order, blessing, and enthusiasm at the KGB. Andropov, as head of the KGB, was Vladimir Putin’s boss.
Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has been a “major protector of the GRU and KGB,” Kengor said. “Maybe that’s why this Cold War report still hasn’t been disclosed by Washington. Maybe Washington has heretofore feared offending Putin and hurting U.S.-Russian relations.”
“I wonder,” he added, “if our new president would have any such fears?”