The theory and practice of Soviet intelligence - part 5 - Dagger and Cloak

Thursday, 12 July 2007

The theory and practice of Soviet intelligence - part 5

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The fifth line of Soviet intelligence is infiltration into the security agencies and intelligence services of foreign countries. This activity holds a special challenge and a peculiar fascination for Soviet intelligence officers. Although they regard foreign intelligence officers as mercenary spies (while thinking of themselves as devoted revolutionaries carrying out dangerous assignments for the Party) , the Soviet officers do have a feeling of kinship with them and react to an encounter with one of them with the same thrill and curiosity that enemy fighter pilots feel on sighting each other across a space of sky. Their hostile attitude toward their foreign counterparts becomes sincerely friendly the moment the latter begin to cooperate as informants.

The principal aims pursued in infiltrating foreign security agencies are the following: to find out what these agencies know about Soviet intelligence operations in the country in question; to determine whether they have succeeded in planting counterspies in the Soviet network or in recruiting anyone connected with the residentura; to learn in good time of any intended arrests of network personnel; and to use their facilities to check up on persons in whom the Soviet residentura happens to be interested. The penetration of foreign intelligence services is done to find out whether they have succeeded in creating a spy network in Soviet Russia, and if so who these spies are, what secret information they have transmitted, and what lines of communication they use.

In some of the Western countries, furthermore, the intelligence services have access to the confidential papers of other departments of the government, including defense and foreign affairs. This practice is justified on the ground that it helps them evaluate the information from their own secret sources abroad and render more accurate estimates of the intentions and capabilities of other countries. Whatever the merits of this argument, the NKVD was quick to take advantage of the resulting convenient concentration in one place of secret documents from several government departments; it instructed its residenturas abroad to try to procure from the intelligence services not only their own information but also that which they receive from other government departments, for example military attache reports and the political analyses and estimates of ambassadors.

Although the intelligence services of different capitalistic countries do not always have harmonious relations with one another, thanks to national rivalry and personal jealousies, they do cooperate with one another to a certain extent in combatting Soviet espionage and subversion. Some of them exchange information in this field, forwarding to each other photographs of known or suspected Soviet spies. Soviet acquisition of this correspondence reveals what they know about Russian intelligence activities and may sometimes warn of an impending exposure and arrest of an agent. In my time, however, the secret information procured from foreign intelligence services rarely gave us cause for alarm. Much of it was incompetent and out of date. As a rule the strength of the Soviet armed forces was ridiculously belittled. The reports on Soviet espionage activities were based more on hindsight than foresight, and they frequently contained outright fantasies concocted by unscrupulous doubles and falsifiers. But though much of the information collected by the foreign intelligence services about Russia was found to be worthless, it was by no means worthless to Soviet intelligence to know about this.

It is generally said that knowledge of two things is indispensable to the charting of foreign policy in a time of crisis-the real power of one's own country and the power of the potential enemy. But to these a third must be added: one must also know what image one's own power creates in the eyes of the adversary. This is very important, because however distorted that image, it is what he is going to act upon. By infiltrating the intelligence services of foreign countries Soviet intelligence can learn and report to policy makers how each country assesses the capabilities and deficiencies of the Soviet Union. It is then up to the policy makers to figure out what mistakes the potential enemy will be likely to make when the chips are down as a result of the distortions in his view of the Soviet Union as a world power.

The infiltration of a foreign intelligence service is a much more hazardous operation than the acquisition of informants in other government departments, because the foreign intelligence officers are wise to such practices and may maneuver the recruiting officer into a trap or grab him outright before he can get away. The KGB therefore advises its residenturas not to rush things but to approach and cultivate first a friend or relative of the target officer and use him as a go-between. Then the actual recruiting and all meetings until the recruited officer has proved his sincerity (by turning over important information) should take place on territory outside the jurisdiction of the target country.

The safest way to infiltrate a foreign intelligence service without fear of being trapped is to transplant a completely reliable agent into that organization, for example to induce an old and trusted informant in some other branch of the government to seek employment with the intelligence service. Sometimes it may be necessary for him first to cultivate socially for this purpose a senior officer of the intelligence service. Agents planted in a foreign intelligence service can be used not only to procure secret information but also as a channel through which misinformation about the Soviet Union and other countries can be introduced.

The intelligence and security services of none of the big world powers have escaped infiltration by Soviet agents. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, as head of the CIA, was aware of Soviet successes in this field, and in September 1953 he expressed his apprehension in the following words: "I believe the communists are so adroit and adept that they have infiltrated practically every security agency of the government."

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