This article appeared in the May 13, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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New archives from the Cold War – with lessons for today

Albert Riethausen/AP/File
Communist youths carry huge portraits of Josef Stalin, East German President Wilhelm Pieck, and other communist leaders on their march down Unter den Linden in Berlin on May 28, 1950. The U.S. National Security Archive has released new documents on America's clandestine operations during the Cold War in East Berlin.
Peter Grier
Washington editor

One of my favorite places for interesting bits of information is the National Security Archive. It’s an online entity that pursues, analyzes, and posts stacks of declassified U.S. government documents, shedding light on everything from the secrets of the Cuban missile crisis to the day Elvis Presley dropped by the Oval Office for a meeting with President Richard Nixon

Recently they’ve published new documents revealing aspects of the clandestine struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War in East Berlin. While old, these papers may illuminate some of the aspects of the shadow conflicts undoubtedly occurring now between U.S. and Russian spy agencies in Ukraine, cyberspace, and beyond.

Some of the most dramatic of the CIA’s missions in East Berlin have long been public, such as Operation Regal, a phone-tapping center in a tunnel dug under the Soviet section of the divided city.

But the recently declassified documents reveal much more about more day-to-day operations, including U.S. efforts to lower morale and damage support for communist leaders in East Germany.

The U.S. directly supported some activist groups in East Berlin, for instance – something it long denied. And it maintained an entire publishing company devoted to printing false editions of actual East German newspapers and magazines. These fakes contained “stories” designed to drive wedges between East German groups and denigrate Soviet officials.

The takeaways for today? There are aspects of the U.S. effort to help Ukraine we don’t know about, and probably won’t for years. And “information warfare” existed long before Russian troll farms began turning out false posts on Facebook.

This article appeared in the May 13, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/13 edition
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