The West wakes up to the dangers of disinformation
(Page 2 of 2)
The flagship of these fronts is the World Peace Council. The longtime president of the WPC is Romesh Chandra, a senior member of the Indian Communist Party, one of the nonruling communist parties most loyal to Moscow. Other WPC executives, the authors write, come primarily from other communist parties, Soviet-backed guerrilla movements, and other Soviet-controlled international fronts.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
``Moscow provides the bulk of the funds for WPC activities, although how these arrangements operate is not completely clear,'' according to ``Dezinformatsia.''
The World Peace Council has campaigned against NATO; against American ``germ warfare'' in the Korean war; American, British, and French bases abroad; American involvement in the Vietnam war; the American neutron warhead; and the NATO Euromissiles that began deployment a year ago.
The WPC and other front organizations eagerly join in popular Western peace campaigns. Various Western officials have asserted that such front organizations also generously fund these campaigns (though public proof has been skimpy). Front organizations try to steer these movements toward focusing criticism on the West while sparing the Soviet Union. And they seek to gain legitimacy for communists by their association with these movements. HOW successful they are is debatable. Bittman detects a ``tendency to glorify successes'' in disinformation services. Some signs suggest the Soviets think their overt and covert opposition to the neutron warhead in the late 1970s played a key role in killing NATO plans for it. Probably a more accurate generalization, though, would be that Soviet ``active measures'' find little resonance when they stray too far from public opinion (as in charges of germ warfare in Korea) -- but that, when they join already popular protests, especially in Europe, the communists' strong organizational skills amplify the appeal of these movements.
Agent-of-influence operations are best represented by the one Westerner who has been convicted on this count, Pierre-Charles Path'e. From 1961 to 1979 Path'e served as a paid Soviet agent in France, disseminating generally anti-American and pro-Soviet views in public articles and in a private newsletter.
A more ambitious and convoluted operation with agents of influence has been attributed to the KGB by Soviet defector Anatoliy Golitsyn and ex-CIA head of counterintelligence, James Angleton. In this scenario, the whole Soviet-Chinese split of the past quarter century is a sham -- and the Soviets have succeeded in fooling all Western foreign ministries and most academic scholars with their pretense.
In this thesis -- presented in detail in Mr. Golitsyn's 1984 book ``New Lies for Old'' -- the Kremlin has fed a number of bogus defectors into the CIA to persuade the US that the split was real. So convinced of Golitsyn's theory were parts of the CIA in the 1970s that one Soviet defector whom Golitsyn deemed an agent of disinformation was kept in solitary confinement for 31/2 years in a cell in a building constructed solely to jail him until he confessed.
In the late 1970s, when CIA directors Wiliam Colby and Stansfield Turner discovered this treatment of a human being -- as well as the paralysis wrought in the CIA by the constant suspicion and search for a presumed Soviet ``mole'' -- they dropped Angleton and severed Golitsyn's links with the agency. As the conduct of the Golitsyn camp then became public knowledge, it added to America's post-Vietnam revulsion toward the CIA. Today the mainstream of academics (and CIA analysts) dismisses Golitsyn's thesis as wild fantasizing.
As for forgeries, these have been used by the Soviets since soon after the 1917 revolution. The most elaborate in recent years was ``US Army Field Manual 30-31B,'' an entire manual that urged American officers to spy on their host countries and in some cases subvert their governments. The fake manual first appeared in Turkey in 1975. It was later circulated in some 20 countries to try to implicate the CIA in the Red Brigades' murder of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in Italy in 1978.
This much is clear then: The Soviets take their disinformation seriously.