US details Soviets' propaganda methods
Washington — In its attempts to discredit and weaken the United States and other countries , the Soviet Union engages in activities which are frequently secret, sometimes violate the law, and ''often involve threats, blackmail, bribes, and exploitation,'' according to a newly published State Department report.
The report claims that in efforts to influence the policies of other nations-as distinct from espionage and counterintelligence-the Kremlin employs a variety of methods, euphemistically known as ''active measures,'' which include:
* Written or spoken disinformation.
* Attempts to control media in foreign countries.
* The use of communist parties and front organizations.
* Clandestine radio broadcasting.
* Political influence operations.
By way of example, the report maintains that in late 1979 the Soviet Union spread a false rumor that the US was responsible for the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. ''In August 1981, the Soviet news agency Tass alleged that the United States was behind the death of Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos,'' it adds , calling this assertion a ''particularly egregious example'' of Soviet disinformation.
Declaring these actions to be ''a major, if little understood, element of Soviet foreign policy,'' the State Department asserts that those who practice such skulduggery are not averse to the partial and outright forgery of documents and the exploitation of a nation's academic, political, economic, and media figures.
''Active measures'' are authorized by the Politburo, the highest authority in the Soviet Union; devised largely by the KGB and the international department of the party's Central Committee, and executed by ''official and quasi-official Soviet representatives,'' the State Department report asserts.
Among those carrying out operations abroad, it observes, are scholars, students and journalists ''whose official Soviet links are not always apparent.''
As part of its efforts to manipulate the foreign press, the Soviet Union has used the Indian news weekly ''Blitz'' to publish ''forgeries, falsely accuse Americans of being CIA personnel or agents, and disseminate Soviet-inspired documents,'' according to the State Department. ''In another country, the Soviets used local journalists to exercise substantial control over the contents of two major daily newspapers,'' it maintains.
Recent Soviet forgeries are better and more prolific, observes the State Department report, maintaining that among the documents fabricated by agents are war plans ''designed to create tensions between the United States and other countries.''
Rumor, insinuation, and distortion of facts are used by Soviet agents to discredit foreign governments and leaders, the State Department alleges. It claims that Soviet officials ''warned'' officials of an unnamed West European country that the CIA had increased its activities there and that a coup was being planned. The State Department does not say when the warning was issued.
Noting that front organizations are more effective than openly pro-Soviet groups ''because they can attract members from a broad political spectrum,'' the report labels the World Peace Council and the World Federation of Trade Unions - among others - as Soviet-controlled fronts.
According to the State Department, the Soviet Union operates two radio stations, the National Voice of Iran (NVOI) and Radio Ba Yi, which broadcast to China. Both pass themselves off as the voices of ''progressive'' elements in each country. Throughout the Iran hostage crisis, the NVOI consistently urged that the imprisoned US Embassy personnel not be released. At the same time, official Soviet statements supported the hostages' claim to diplomatic immunity, the report alleges.
The most important but least understood aspect of Soviet ''active measures,'' the State Department asserts, are political influence operations which seek to exploit contacts with political, economic, and media figures to secure their active collaboration with Moscow. In this respect it notes that last year French journalist Pierre-Charles Pathe was convicted for acting as a Soviet agent of influence since 1959.
The State Department maintains that the Soviet campaign to prevent the deployment of 572 Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe, known as theater nuclear force (TNF) modernization, serves as a classic example of ''active measures'' at work.
While conceding that not all opposition is inspired by the Soviet Union, it nevertheless states that ''Moscow has spurred many front groups to oppose the TNF decision'' and that they have then lobbied antinuclear groups, pacifists and environmentalists in an attempt to broaden the opposition to TNF modernization.
The State Department adds that the Soviet Union waged a similar campaign against neutron or enhanced radiation weapons (ERW) throughout 1977 and 1978 involving ''peace councils'' and intensive propaganda in an attempt to block ERW deployment and divert attention from its growing military buildup. Notes the report: ''With the recent US decision to proceed with ERW production, the Soviets have begun a new barrage of propaganda and related 'active measures.' ''
The State Department also maintains that Soviet ''active measures'' have been directed against US policy in El Salvador and the Middle East. It claims that on Dec. 30, 1980, Pravda falsely reported that US military advisers in El Salvador had used napalm and herbicides against noncombatants. It brands a report earlier this year in the Soviet weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta that the US was preparing the ''elimination'' of thousands of Salvadorans, ''another particularly outrageous distortion.''
''Active measures'' directed against the Camp David peace process and the close relationship between Egypt and the US have been typified by the use of forgeries, the State Department claims.
One forgery surfaced in the Oct. 1, 1979, issue of the Syrian newspaper Al-ba'th, it maintains. This purported to be a letter from the US ambassador to Egypt, Hermann F. Eilts, declaring that because President Sadat has not prepared to serve US interests ''we must repudiate him and get rid of him without hesitation.''