The theory and practice of Soviet intelligence - part 2 - Dagger and Cloak

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The theory and practice of Soviet intelligence - part 2

Part 1

Stalin, who was his own intelligence boss and liked to take a personal part in the cloak-and-dagger business, warned his intelligence chiefs time and again to keep away from hypotheses and "equations with many unknowns" and concentrate instead on acquiring well-placed informants and access to the secret vaults of foreign governments. He used to say, "An intelligence hypothesis may become your hobby horse on which you will ride straight into a self-made trap." He called it "dangerous guesswork." In 1932 he had ordered that our quarterly intelligence surveys of foreign countries no longer be sent him. Although based on secret data, these surveys were interspersed with unsubstantiated hypotheses and subjective views; they corresponded roughly to the national estimates which the American intelligence agencies produce for the National Security Council. After that the NKVD sent him the cream of raw intelligence only-summaries of important documents stolen from other governments and reports from exceptionally valuable secret informants like foreign ambassadors and general staff officers.

During his periodic conferences with the chiefs of the intelligence services Stalin would often interject: "Don't tell me what you think, give me the facts and the source." But sometimes he would violate his own rule and ask one or another intelligence chief for an opinion. Such was the case during a joint conference which Stalin and Voroshilov had in the summer of 1936 with the chiefs of the NKVD and the Red Army intelligence Department. Stalin asked Artouzov, deputy chief of military intelligence, "With whom would Poland side in a war between Germany, Italy, and Japan on the one side and Russia, France, and England on the other?" Without hesitation An touzov answered: "Poland will always be with France and England." "You are a jackass," retorted Stalin. "If Poland didn't side with Germany against us, she would be crushed by the German mechanized divisions on their way to the Soviet Union and would not live to see another day, whereas if she allied herself with Germany she could hope to expand if things went well, and if things went badly she might still get a negotiated settlement." Artouzov did not live to see his illogical prediction come true; he was shot in the great purge, in 1937.

Soviet Intelligence

In the Soviet Union research on publicly accessible materials is conducted by the Academy of Sciences, the universities, the scientific journals, and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Trade, Finance, and Statistics. The NKVD based its work 100% on secret sources and undercover agents. The Main Intelligence Department of the Army did study some legitimately accessible sources, but only those dealing with military matters, such as foreign military and scientific journals, army and navy manuals, military textbooks, topographic explorations, and anything printed anywhere about the armed forces of the world. But even in army intelligence the main efforts, at least 80% of the total, were concentrated on building and operating networks of secret informants and on the procurement of secret documents.

Had the Soviet intelligence agencies put their main efforts and resources into building up encyclopedias of world-wide information from overt sources and on processing and analyzing that enormous amount of incoming raw material, they would have never been able to acquire the secrets of the manufacture of the atomic and hydrogen bombs or the blueprints of the American nuclear-powered submarines or to infiltrate the key departments of the American, British, and European governments. Important state secrets and especially clues to the intentions and plans of potential enemies cannot be found in libraries or encyclopedias, but only where they are kept under lock and key. The task of intelligence services is to acquire the keys and deliver the secrets to their governments, thus providing them with the foreknowledge and orientation needed for the making of decisions.

When General Douglas MacArthur, who had been blamed for not having foreseen certain developments in the Korean War, was asked by the Senate investigating committee in 1951 to explain why the North Korean invasion caught the Americans by surprise, he gave a classic reply from which many an intelligence chief could take his cue. He said:

I don't see how it would have been humanly possible for any man or group of men to predict such an attack as that . . . There is nothing, no means or methods, except the accidental spy methodsif you can get somebody to betray the enemy's highest circles, that can get such information as that. It is guarded with a secrecy that you cannot overestimate.

Thus, under the fire of the investigation, General MacArthur, who was not an expert in intelligence, arrived with excellent logic at an idea which touches the very heart of the intelligence problem. "There is nothing, no means or methods, except ... spy methods ... that can get such information as that." This is the essence of the Soviet doctrine of intelligence.

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