The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Soviet Strategic Intelligence Deception Organizations
AUTHOR Major Edward J. Campbell, DIA
CSC 1991
                     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
     The KGB's First Chief Directorate uses active measures
such as agents of influence, propaganda, and disinformation to
promote Soviet goals.  Influence operations integrate Soviet
views into foreign leadership groups.  Propaganda operations
take the form of disinformation articles placed in the foreign
press.  Disinformation operations are false documents designed
to incite enmity toward the United States.  The Second Chief
Directorate is responsible for the recruitment of agents among
foreigners stationed in the Soviet Union.  The KGB influences
these people unwittingly,  as  most  regard themselves too
sophisticated to be manipulated.
     The second deception program is counterintelligence,
which aims to neutralize the efforts of foreign intelligence
services.   It achieves this through the use of non-Soviet
double agents and Soviet double agents.  Non-Soviet double
agents are foreign nationals who have been "turned".  A Soviet
double  agent  is  a  Soviet  with  access  to  classified
information.  These officials may be used as false defectors,
such as Nosenko, who was a CIA agent and subsequently judged
to be a KGB plant.  After investigation, the theory of a KGB
deception plot collapsed, but not before hamstringing the CIA
and Western intelligence for years.
Thesis Statement.  Despite the reduced Soviet military threat,
the   Soviet   Union's   strategic   intelligence   deception
organizations will continue to mislead the West.
I.   Background
     A.  Soviet Strategic Intelligence Deception Organizations
     B.  Soviet Union's Use of Deception
II.  Role of Soviet Active Measures
     A.  KGB First Chief Directorate
          1.  Influence
          2.  Propaganda
          3.  Disinformation
     B.  KGB Second Chief Directorate
III. Role of Soviet Counterintelligence
     A.  Non-Soviet Double Agents
     B.  Soviet Double Agents
     C.  The Nosenko Case
IV.  Conclusion
     Despite the reduced Soviet military threat, the Soviet
Union's strategic intelligence deception organizations will
continue to mislead the West.   Within the Soviet Union,
activities  that  Westerners  may  regard  as   strategic
intelligence deception fall within the scope of two distinct
programs,   each  of  which  is  conducted  by  different
organizations.    These programs  are  active measures  and
counterintelligence.  Active measures is the Soviet term for
a form of political action aimed at foreign public opinion,
political elites, and decision makers.  Counterintelligence
endeavors to neutralize the activity of foreign intelligence
and security services.
     The West has a long record of experience with Soviet
intelligence.  Since the inception of the Soviet intelligence
services,  they have  suffered from a constant  stream of
defections and penetrations.  These knowledgeable sources have
identified many thousands of Soviet intelligence operations.
The  information  they  have  provided  on  organization  and
doctrine is detailed, and covers most facets of the Komitet
Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB, the civilian intelligence
service) and the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye (GRU,
the military intelligence service).  This is especially true
of their foreign operations, and displays consistency over
     It is an interesting paradox that the KGB and GRU, those
most secret institutions of the Soviet state, are among the
best known Soviet organizations to the West.   There have
probably been more and better sources of information on Soviet
intelligence  than  on  any  other  element  of  the  Soviet
government.  This is because the KGB and GRU personnel serve
and  travel  abroad,  where  they  have  the  opportunity  to
establish and maintain contact with Western intelligence, and
they have a better opportunity than most Soviet officials to
learn about and become disillusioned with the inner workings
of the Soviet system.
     In evaluating the state of Soviet intelligence deception,
however, several distinctions are important.  First, Soviet
intelligence is only one part of the overall Soviet apparatus
for deception.   Soviet deception starts at the Politburo.
Central Committee departments play a major role, as do various
military units subordinate to the Ministry of Defense.  Much
less information is available in the West about these other
organizations than about Soviet intelligence.
     The Soviet term aktivnyye meropriyatiya (active measures)
describes a wide variety of deceptive techniques to promote
Soviet foreign policy goals and undermine those who oppose
Soviet actions.   Within the KGB,  the term distinguishes
operations intended to influence opinions or policies in
foreign   countries   from   more   classic   espionage   or
counterintelligence operations.  Active measures undertaken by
the  KGB  include  agents  of  influence,  propaganda  and
     Active  measures  is  not  exclusively  an  intelligence
activity,  and in this sense it differs from the similar
American concept of covert action.  There are many differences
between active measures and covert action.  One is the Soviet
ability to mesh overt and covert influence activities through
centralized coordination of party, government, and ostensibly
private  organizations  dealing  with  foreigners.    Despite
interagency coordination mechanisms, the United States is too
pluralistic to achieve full coordination between all the overt
and covert means of exercising influence abroad.  Other major
differences are in scope, intensity, and importance attributed
to active measures and covert action, and in immunity from
legal and political constraints.1
     Agents of influence, which are a most important part of
active  measures,  are  developed  and  exploited  far  less
systematically by American intelligence, perhaps because this
activity does not fit neatly into the sharp organizational
separation  between  overt  and  covert  activities  that
distinguishes the American intelligence system.  A Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) study lists the long-term, strategic
objectives of Soviet active measures as:
          "To influence both world and American public opinion
          against  United  States  military,  economic,  and
          political programs which are perceived as
          threatening Soviet objectives.
          "To demonstrate that the United States is an
          aggressive, `colonialist,' and `imperialist' power.
          "To isolate the United States from its allies and
          friends and discredit those that cooperate with it.
          "To demonstrate that the policies and goals of the
          United States are incompatible with the ambitions of
          the underdeveloped world.
          "To discredit and weaken United States intelligence
          efforts -- particularly those of the CIA -- and
          expose United States intelligence personnel.
          "To create a favorable environment for the execution
          of Soviet foreign policy.
          "To undermine the political resolve of the United
          States and other Western states to protect their
          interests from Soviet encroachments."2
     The KGB's First Chief Directorate  (Service A)  is the
current designator for the component that began as Department
D  (for Disinformation).   It was subsequently redesignated
Department A  (for Active Measures),  and then upgraded in
bureaucratic status to Service A.  Although its operations are
varied, a former intelligence officer who specialized in
covert active measures classified this activity into three
broad categories:  influence, propaganda, and disinformation.3
     Influence  operations  integrate  Soviet  views  into
leadership groups.   The agent of influence may be a well-
placed,  "trusted  contact"  who  consciously  serves  Soviet
interests on some matters while retaining his integrity on
others, or an unwitting contact who is manipulated to take
actions that advance Soviet interests on specific issues of
common concern.  The KGB takes a person who tends to agree
with the Soviet position on at least one significant issue,
such as opposition to some element of United States policy,
and then seeks ways to motivate and help that person become a
successful advocate on that issue within their own circle of
influence.    The  KGB  offers  a  variety  of  tangible  and
intangible rewards, often exploiting a person's ego and desire
to  influence  policy,  rather  than  greed.    One  usually
successful ploy with persons visiting Moscow is to arrange a
private meeting with "a very senior advisor to the Central
Committee," who is actually an officer of Service A.   The
potential agent of influence is briefed on the "real" Soviet
position  and  asked  to  serve  as  a  private  channel  of
communication between the Soviet leadership and the person's
own government, party, or organization.4  A different type of
influence operation is covert financial support to parties,
political candidates, or organizations that support positions
advantageous to the Soviet Union.
     Propaganda operations often take the form of articles
supporting approved disinformation themes and then placed in
the Western and Third World press.  The activity is covert as
there is no attribution of Soviet origin.  The newspapers and
magazines are often conservative or moderate publications;
insertion of material in left wing publications can usually be
handled openly by the Novosti office, or through communist
party and front group contacts.  The insertion is sometimes
made through controlled agents; it may also be done, however,
by  "trusted contacts"  developed on the basis  of common
interest on some limited issue, or anonymously by mail.  Once
a story appears in one area, a variety of methods are employed
to ensure it is replayed in other countries.
     Disinformation operations are best illustrated by the
example  of  forgeries.     Sometimes  they  are  complete
fabrications.   More commonly,  however,  they are modified
versions of actual United States government documents.  The
doctored portions are designed to incite enmity toward the
United States.  Another common disinformation technique uses
witting or unwitting agents of influence to disseminate false
stories that serve Soviet interests.
     In  addition  to  the  Service  A  officers  at  KGB
Headquarters, it is reported that about 50 Service A officers
are under cover in the Novosti headquarters in Moscow.  These
officers were responsible for preparing and directing the
placement of disinformation articles in the foreign press and
the fabrication of books for distribution abroad.5  Novosti
is the news service that provides feature articles about the
Soviet Union to foreign media.  It's activities have expanded
greatly since a l973 report that Novosti
     ". . . exchanges information with 101 international and
     national agencies, 120 publishing firms, more than 100
     radio and television companies, and more than 7,000 of
     the world's largest newspapers and magazines.  It
     maintains bureaus and correspondents in 80 countries.
     [Novosti] claims an annual transmission to foreign media
     of 60,000 literary pieces and more than 2 million
     photographic printings."6
     The personnel of these components
     "...have become the Soviet Union's main resource for
     learning about Western intellectual prejudices and
     spreading disinformation that plays on these prejudices.
     The exposure given to them in the United States is so
     great as to effectively give the Soviet Union a voice in
     the United States domestic political process... [They)
     participate as speakers at nuclear freeze rallies, make
regular appearances on American television, attend
     academic conferences, serve as visiting fellows at United
     States university centers, sit on the editorial boards of
     United States academic journals, and contribute frequent
     op-ed articles for United States newspapers."7
     The Second Chief Directorate, which is much larger than
the first,  is responsible for internal security and the
recruitment  of  agents  among  foreigners  stationed  in  or
visiting the Soviet Union.   It has a range of departments
working against foreign diplomatic personnel stationed in the
Soviet Union, departments to cover foreign journalists and
students living in the Soviet Union, a department for foreign
tourists, as well as a variety of other units.8
     It is the foreign diplomats and journalists stationed in
Moscow who are most interesting from the standpoint of Soviet
deception.  The Second Chief Directorate views its' mission as
being aware of,  if not controlling,  all contacts between
foreign diplomats or journalists and Soviet citizens.  A large
percentage of the Soviet contacts of diplomats and journalists
in Moscow  is  reporting to  the  KGB.    The  Second Chief
Directorates has very effective  control  over the entire
environment  is  which  foreigners  live  and work  and move
socially in Moscow.
     The KGB controls what information and impressions foreign
diplomats and journalists receive, both officially for the
government and unofficially through personal contacts.   In
this way, it can, when desired, manipulate what the embassies
and journalists report back to their home countries.
     The KGB system is not perfect by any means, but when one
considers how many of our impressions of what is happening in
the  Soviet  Union  are  ultimately  based  on  embassy  or
journalistic reporting, there is certainly cause for concern.
This aspect of active measures has received insufficient
attention, as neither diplomats nor journalists are prone to
question the validity of their own reporting.  While some may
acknowledge  that  they  could  be  targets  for  influence
operations, most regard themselves as too sophisticated to be
manipulated by the KGB.
     An article by Stephen de Mowbray, "Soviet Deception and
the Onset of the Cold War," is an excellent case history that
illustrates  this  problem.    De  Mowbray  examined British
government   documents  to  determine  the   basis  for  the
government's optimistic judgment in 1943 about the post-war
policies that would be pursued by the Soviets.  He concludes:
     "Information from one Communist source was accepted as
     independent confirmation of information from another
     Communist source... The lesson of the period from 1943 to
     1945 is that we should reassess the extent to which our
     knowledge of, and opinions about, the Communist world are
     derived from sources controlled or inspired by the
     Communist authorities themselves."10
     The second major Soviet program related to deception is
counterintelligence.  Counterintelligence aims to neutralize
the efforts of foreign intelligence and security services.
Double agents and provocateurs are among the standard methods
used.  In most cases, they serve tactical counterintelligence
objectives, such as the identification of hostile intelligence
personnel,  methods,  and information requirements.   Double
agents and false defectors may, however, also be used to pass
disinformation to foreign intelligence services and thus serve
broad, strategic deception goals.
     All double agent operations are run by the KGB, often the
Second Chief Directorate.  The GRU is not authorized to run
double agents.  If the GRU learns that one of its agents has
been doubled against it, direction of the case is supposed to
be turned over to the KGB.  GRU sources have advised that, in
practice, if the KGB is not already aware of the problem the
GRU may terminate the operation rather than inform the KGB.
     In examining the role of double agents in deception
during peacetime, it is useful to distinguish two categories
of double agents.   The two categories are the non-Soviet
double agent, and the Soviet double agent.
     Most Western intelligence agents working against the
Soviet Union are not Soviet nationals.  They are Western or
Third World nationals, who, for one reason or another, have
dealings with Soviets.  Their principal task is to report on
the  Soviets  they  meet  in an effort  to  identify  likely
recruitment  targets,  but  some  of  them may  also  elicit
information or make observations of positive intelligence
interest.11  When such an agent is doubled by the KGB, the
Soviets can achieve standard counterintelligence goals such as
identification of Western intelligence personnel and methods,
and tieing up limited Western intelligence facilities in
fruitless activities.
     The KGB may also use a non-Soviet double agent as a
channel for disinformation.   It is likely to be tactical
counterintelligence  disinformation,   such  as  misleading
information on the functions or vulnerabilities of Soviet
officials, or it may be a political line to support an active
measures campaign.  It is unlikely to be a carefully crafted
deception to mislead intelligence analysts about strategic
weapons systems, as the KGB recognizes that such a deception
would have little chance of success.  The non-Soviet source
simply does not have plausible access to valuable, classified
information from the Soviet Union.  If a non-Soviet source did
obtain such a windfall from one of his Soviet contacts, the
credibility of the information and the source would certainly
be subjected to extremely close scrutiny.
     The KGB occasionally permits,  and in some cases will
provoke,  Western intelligence  services to recruit  Soviet
nationals who do not have regular access to highly classified
information.  Journalists, low level trade officials, and many
scientists are examples of categories of Soviets who do not
have regular access to classified documents,  who work or
travel abroad, and whom the KGB might run as double agents.
     This category of double agent has several advantages from
the viewpoint of a KGB officer planning a deception operation.
Through such an agent, the KGB can seek to determine how
Western intelligence services communicate with agents inside
the Soviet Union; this is an important KGB counterintelligence
goal.   As a Soviet national with a variety of personal
contacts, such an agent could develop a plausible explanation
for obtaining whatever information the KGB may want passed to
the adversary.
     Soviet  nationals  involved in any  form of organized
opposition to the regime are especially attractive to the KGB
as double agent candidates.   It is standard practice for
counterintelligence  services  to  take  the  initiative  in
organizing underground or dissident groups under their own
control.  The KGB has enjoyed immense success with this type
of deception.
     Another counterintelligence category concerns  Soviet
officials  in  sensitive  positions  with  access  to  highly
classified, documentary information.  The KGB might use such
officials as double agents or false defectors.   If this is
accurate,   how  much  valuable,   classified,   documentary
information is the KGB willing to sacrifice to establish the
bona fides and credibility of a double agent?  It is possible
that the Central Intelligence Agency's  (CIA)  best Soviet
agents have actually been KGB plants deceiving the United
States government.
     The main case at issue has been Yuri Nosenko, a KGB
Second Chief Directorate officer who was a CIA agent in place
for two years before he defected in Switzerland in 1964.
After debriefing by the CIA, Nosenko was originally judged to
be a KGB plant dispatched  to the West on a twofold mission:
to divert the investigation of important KGB agents partially
identified by a previous KGB defector, including an alleged
penetration of CIA; and to deny KGB involvement with Lee
Harvey Oswald, a former United States Marine who had defected
to the Soviet Union, then returned to the United States, and
who had assassinated President Kennedy several months before.
There were many implausible elements and contradictions in
Nosenko's story, and the circumstantial evidence against him
appeared very strong.12
     The Nosenko case became the centerpiece of a "master
plot" theory with wide ramifications.  Some believed that the
KGB planned the Nosenko defection and monitored its results
with the aid of a high level penetration of the CIA comparable
to Soviet agent Kim Philby in British Intelligence.  Those who
believed in the existence of such a well-placed penetration
assumed that virtually all CIA operations against the Soviet
Union were actually under KGB control or at least known to the
KGB.   Especially  suspect  were  several  other well-placed
penetrations  of  Soviet  intelligence  who  seemed  to  be
supporting the information provided by Nosenko.
     This enormously complex case was eventually subjected to
a comprehensive re-evaluation with the finding that Nosenko
was actually not under Soviet control.13  The atmosphere of
suspicion created by the master plot theory, however, and the
feeling of helplessness from thinking that operations against
the Soviet Union may be fruitless until the penetration is
identified, caused serious damage to CIA's Soviet operations.
Several published accounts of the Nosenko case suggest that
the original assessment of Nosenko as a KGB plant was correct,
and that the subsequent re-evaluation was the product of
bureaucratic expediency and wishful thinking.  Although the
Nosenko case still elicits disagreement among those who were
professionally involved in this  controversy,  many former
believers in the theory of a KGB master deception plot have
genuinely modified their views.  The theory led, logically, to
certain  predictions.    When  these  predictions  failed  to
materialize, doubts about the theory grew.
     The predictions and actual results were as follows:
Since Nosenko was "known" to be under KGB control and the
purpose of the Soviet operation was also "known," it was felt
that a hostile interrogation would succeed in breaking him and
gaining a confession.  It didn't.  Similarly, it was believed,
a hostile interrogation would break a confessed KGB illegal
who had been arrested in South Africa.   That,  too,  was
unsuccessful.   A proper counterintelligence analysis and
security investigation would identify a KGB penetration of CIA
Soviet operations who was being built up or protected through
this KGB deception; no such penetration was discovered despite
very extensive investigation.  Since the KGB would want to
limit the cost to itself from the information it was giving
away, it was judged that investigation of leads to seemingly
well-placed KGB agents would show these agents had recently
lost their access or, for some other reason, were expendable
to the KGB.  However, investigation showed them still in place
and producing valuable information for the KGB.  Similarly,
there were tantalizing leads to Soviet agents who could not be
fully identified by Nosenko; investigation of these leads, it
was believed, would lead to a dead end, so the KGB had really
sacrificed nothing.  In fact investigation of these leads did
identify valuable KGB agents.14
     As the years passed and other Soviet sources originally
thought to be under KGB control or at least known to the KGB
continued to pass large quantities of extremely valuable
information, the theory of a grand deception collapsed of its
own weight.  Whether Nosenko had other personal motives for
exaggerating, concealing, or fabricating information is still
     The  question  remains,  however,  how  much  valuable
information the KGB will give away to establish a credible
deception channel.  If the stakes are high enough, they may,
of course,  sacrifice whatever is required to do the job,
though post-war experience provides little evidence of KGB
willingness to give up much at all.
     Cases  in  which  Western  intelligence  has  received
significant positive intelligence through agents subsequently
determined to have been under the control of the KGB are
distinguished by their rarity.  If there is one thing that is
more important to the Soviets than deceiving the enemy, it is
protecting their own security.15
     The Soviet Union has two quite separate and distinct
programs relating to strategic intelligence deception:  active
measures and counterintelligence.  There is clearly central
direction on key issues of national strategy, these different
forms of deception are implemented by different organizations,
often motivated by different goals, conditioned by different
circumstances   and   different   obstacles   to   effective
implementation, and follow different historical traditions.
Owing to this diversity, many generalizations about Soviet
capabilities  are  likely  to  be  misleading.    In  forming
expectations and evaluating fears about Soviet deception, it
is important to specify at all times exactly what kind of
operation one is talking about.  Failure to do so has been a
major source of confusion in discussion of Soviet deception.
1.        The most extensive treatments are U. S. Congress,
               "Soviet Active Measures;" Schultz and Godson,
               Dezinformatsia; Barron, KGB Today, Chapter VI;
               John Barron, KGB:  The Secret Work of Soviet
               Secret Agents  (New York:   Reader's Digest
               Press, 1974, Chapter VIII; Ladislav Bittman,
               The Deception Game  (Syracuse, NY:   Syracuse
               University  Research  Corp.,  1972);  U.  S.
               Congress, House, Permanent Select Committee on
               Intelligence,  "Soviet Covert Action:    The
               Forgery Offensive," 96th Congress, 2nd Session
               (Washington,  DC:   GPO,  1980);  Clive Rose,
               Campaigns  Against  Western Defence  (London:
               Macmillan Press, 1985)
2.        U. S. Congress, House, Permanent Select Committee on
               Intelligence, "Soviet Active Measures," 97th
               Congress,  2nd Session  (Washington DC:  GPO,
               1982) p. 33.
3.        Bittman, The Deception Game, p. 20.
4.        U. S. Congress, "Soviet Covert Action," p. 83.
5.        Bernard Gwertzman,  "Fake Books as International
               Weapons," New York Times, January Il, 1976,
6.        External Information and Cultural Relations Programs
               of the  Union  of  Soviet  Socialist  Republics
               (Washington,  DC:   USIA Office of Research
               Assessment, 1973), pp. 36-37.
7.        William  C.  Green,  "Soviet  Disinformation  and
               Strategic  Deception Concerning its Nuclear
               Weapons Policy," Report No. 4, Contract No.
               N6227l-82-M2200 for Naval Postgraduate School,
               February 1984, pp. 30-32.
8.        Barron, KGB Today, pp. 113-17.
9.        Ibid., Chapter VI.
10.       Stephen de Mowbray, "Soviet Deception and the Onset
               of the Cold War," Encounter, July-August 1984,
               p. 24.
11.       Harry  Rositzke,  The  CIA's  Secret  Operations:
               Espionage Counterespionage and Covert Action
               (Pleasantville,  NY:  Readers Digest Press,
12.       David Martin,  Wilderness  of Mirrors  (New York:
               Harper and Row, 1980), Chapter 7.
13.       Andrew Boyle, The Climate of Treason:   Five Who
               Spied for Russia (London:  Hutchinson, 1979)
14.       David Martin,  Wilderness  of  Mirrors  (New York:
               Harper and Row, 1980), Chapter 7.
15.       Golitsyn, New Lies for Old (New York:  Dodd, Mead &
               Co., 1984), pp. 21-22 and 42.

Join the mailing list