“He came with a complete blueprint for what the Romanians, and therefore the Russians, were trying to do to us,” said Michael A. Ledeen, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank, and a former consultant to the National Security Council.
Ion Mihai Pacepa was born in Bucharest on Oct. 28, 1928. His father worked for the country’s General Motors subsidiary.
He is survived by his daughter, Dana, from a first marriage in Romania, and a second wife, Mary Lou, whom he married in the United States. His daughter, who arrived in the United States in 1990, lives under an assumed name, as does his wife. Even after the Romanian government officially rescinded the death sentence, Mr. Pacepa and his family maintained their assumed identities to avoid upending their new lives.
Mr. Pacepa studied chemistry at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, and later joined the Securitate, Romania’s intelligence service. At the time of his defection he was the acting head of Romania’s foreign intelligence service and an adviser on industrial policy to Mr. Ceaucescu.
Once in the United States, he became a favorite of anti-Communists; Ronald Reagan reportedly called “Red Horizons” his “Bible” for dealing with dictators.
But while many in the U.S. intelligence community welcomed his insights into Soviet strategy, others came to feel he relied too much on the disinformation strategy as an all-encompassing explanation for the world’s ills. He claimed, for example, that the Soviets had created the left-leaning doctrine of Liberation Theology, planted stories about American war crimes in Vietnam and fomented Islamic terrorism by seeding anti-Semitism around the Middle East.
He was not afraid to wade into the world of conspiracy theories, either. He insisted that the KGB had ordered Lee Harvey Oswald to kill John F. Kennedy; the agency later changed its mind, he said, but Mr. Oswald decided to go ahead. Much of his argument, which he presented in two books, relied on thin evidence and did little to undermine the consensus that Mr. Oswald acted alone.