Michael Weiss (alluding to John le Carré’s depiction of the KGB) writes: If Moscow Centre is indeed behind this bit of cyber skulduggery [the DNC hack], then it represents the boldest intrusion ever by a past and present Cold War adversary into America’s political decision-making.
Indeed, the style and purpose of this intrusion bears an uncanny resemblance to old Cold War tradecraft.
An active measure is a time-honored KGB tactic for waging informational and psychological warfare designed, as retired KGB General Oleg Kalugin once defined it, “to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs.”
The most common subcategory of active measures is dezinformatsiya, or disinformation: feverish if believable lies cooked up by Moscow Centre and planted in friendly media outlets to make democratic nations look sinister.
As my colleague Peter Pomeranzev and I discovered in researching our report on the Kremlin’s weaponization of money, culture, and information, some of the most famous conspiracy theories to bombinate in backrooms, basements, street corners, college dorms were actually whole-cloth inventions of the Cheka.
For instance, a story suggesting that Jimmy Carter had a “Secret Plan to Put Black Africans and Black Americans at Odds”; that the United States used chemical weapons in the Korean War; that AIDS was an invention of the CIA; that the Jonestown massacre was by U.S. intelligence; that the United States tried to kill Pope John Paul II; that Barry Goldwater and the John Birch Society were in cahoots to mount a coup d’état in Washington, D.C.
Many in 1963 doubted that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in murdering John F. Kennedy; but only a precious few ever saw their paranoid Grassy Knoll explanation transformed into a Hollywood blockbuster. American researcher Max Holland found that the KGB fabricated letter that got planted in the Italian newspaper Paese Sera was the first to allege that one of the suspects for the Kennedy assassination, Clay Shaw, a New Orleans businessman, was actually an operative of Langley. The New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison, got hold of a copy of that letter and while he never cited it in court, his film version Kevin Costner most certainly did in the paranoid Oliver Stone movie JFK.
Vasili Mitrokhin, a retired KGB archivist who defected to the West and smuggled out six enormous cases of Soviet foreign intelligence files, later recorded that the “KGB could fairly claim that far more Americans believed some version of its own conspiracy theory of the Kennedy assassination, involving a right-wing plot and the U.S. intelligence community, than still accept the main findings of the Warren Commission.” [Continue reading…]