II. Radio Free Europe:
The New York Times reported on an attempt to poison the staff of RFE on November 21, 1959, by placing atropine in the salt shakers of the cafeteria used by RFE personnel. Atropine is a derivative of the deadly nightshade plant; it can cause paralysis of death if taken in sufficient quantity. The amount of poison in each salt shaker was said to be 2.36% by weight of the contents. White crystalline alkaloid is indistinguishable from salt.
In March 1955, Lisa Stein, an interviewer with RIAS, the American propaganda radio station in West Germany ("Radio in American Sector"), was fed candy containing the highly dangerous poison scopolamine. (Scopolamine is used in the so-called "twilight sleep." Given in small doses it induces a kind of euphoria; in larger doses it is supposed to be a deadly poison.) It was intended that Frau Stein would become ill and would be abducted. The plan was that the agent-someone whom Frau Stein trusted and with whom she was meeting in a West Berlin cafe-would offer the poisoned candy toward the end of the meeting. The lady was expected to become ill while walking from the caf6 to her nearby residence. On becoming unconscious, she was to be picked up by a waiting car which would appear to be passing by chance. The plot was not carried to fruition, however, because Frau Stein did not become ill until she was near her apartment, at which point neighbors came to her aid and she was moved to a hospital. She was severely ill for 48 hours, after which an antidote was found. (Unclassified, from the testimony of Theodor Hans, formerly with U.S. Military Intelligence, Germany, September 21, 1960, before a Congressional investigating committee.)
Another weapon used is described as a noiseless gas pistol, powered by a 300-volt battery, which fires a lethal, odorless, unidentified gas. The gas acts in two or three seconds, and is effective up to 15 or 20 meters. The pistol has three buttons: one for arming, one for firing, and the third for recharging the battery. (After 50 firings the battery may be recharged by plugging a transformer into normal house power source.) The piston is normally fired 20 times, very rapidly and automatically-" Bzzzd." (Although one squirt could kill, 20 squirts are emitted in order to saturate the area, inasmuch as the gun is fired at a silhouette, rather than at a point.) The gas shot by the pistol would penetrate the victim's clothing and enter the skin. There is allegedly no danger to the user.
Since World War II, and especially in the years since Stalin's death, assassination attempts abroad have become increasingly rare. Currently the emphasis in the executive action field is placed on sabotage and sabotage planning, rather than terrorism against individuals. The Soviets now apparently resort to murder only in the case of persons considered especially dangerous to the regime and who, for one reason or another, cannot be kidnapped. A kidnapped person is obviously more valuable inasmuch as the Soviets may be able to extract from him information of interest, as well as use him for propaganda purposes by making it appear that he defected to the Soviet side of his own fee will. This course was followed in the case of Dr. Trushnovich. It is also likely that the Soviets find it increasingly difficult to find persons willing to undertake murder assignments, while the same may not be true of abduction operations. It can further be conjectured that the Soviets are now more concerned about the adverse publicity generated by Soviet assassinations in general than they were in previous years.
In this connection, comments made by state security defectors Petr Deryabin and Yurv Rastvorov in 1954 about what the Soviets would or would not do are still of interest. Both believed that the Soviets would murder one of their officials on the verge of defecting if that were the only way of preventing the act. The same would apply to a Soviet official who had just defected, if thereby state secrets could be preserved, and if they believed that killing him would not bring about a more adverse situation in terms of politics and propaganda than already existed. Deryabin and Rastvorov doubted, however, that the Soviets would murder an official who had been in non-Communist hands long enough to have been exploited for intelligence and propaganda purposes. While both granted that in particular cases the Soviets might go to any extreme, they both believed, generally speaking, that the adverse propaganda resulting from such an act would negate its original purpose. On the other hand, Khokhlov, who might have been in a better position to know, has stated without qualification that the Soviets would continue to assassinate defectors in the future. The threat of Soviet executive action against defectors is also considered a real one by Reino Hayhanen, who defected from the KGB in 1957. A still more recent Soviet intelligence source also believes that standard Soviet practice is to mount a kidnapping or assassination operation "through all intelligence opportunities" against defectors from the Soviet intelligence services.
Deryabin and Rastvorov further agreed that the Soviets, without hesitation, would forcibly return to the USSR someone on the verge of defecting at a mission abroad. This was borne out by the aforementioned Strygin and Zelenovskiy cases. Deryabin and Rastvorov also believed that the same policy would apply to a Soviet official who had just defected, or one who had been in non-Communist hands long enough to have been exploited for intelligence and propaganda purposes, if the capability existed for returning him physically to the USSR.
Lastly, Deryabin believed that the assassination of an Allied official would be highly unlikely and probably unprofitable. He also doubted that the Soviets would attempt to kidnap any U.S. officials unless they were particularly knowledgeable. Such an incident would not be worth the trouble for an average official, but an important person conceivably would have sufficient information to make it worthwhile.