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RFE [Radio Free Europe] / RL [Radio Liberty]

QKACTIVE (1951-71), operating through a proprietary cover organization (American Committee for the Liberation of the People of the USSR (AMCOMLIB) (PBAFFIRM)), sought to conduct overt anti-Soviet activities to weaken the Soviet regime and thereby reduce its threat to world security through radio broadcasts (Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty), the Institute for the Study of the USSR (BGCALLUS).

Strategic communication is a vital component of U.S. national security. It is in crisis, and it must be transformed with a strength of purpose that matches commitment to diplomacy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security. Strategic communication requires a sophisticated method that maps perceptions and influence networks, identifies policy priorities, formulates objectives, focuses on "doable tasks," develops themes and messages, employs relevant channels, leverages new strategic and tactical dynamics, and monitors success.

From 1950 to 1989, Radio Free Europe (RFE) broadcast news of the day to Soviet bloc countries - but not to the Soviet Union - in their respective languages. In 1953, four days before Stalin died, Radio Liberation from Bolshevism, later Radio Liberty (RL), began broadcasts in Russian to the Soviet Union. Both were secretly funded by the CIA, which provided covert funding for the stations during the critical start-up years in the early 1950s. In 1976, nearly 10 years after the CIA covert relationship with the "radios" was revealed by Ramparts magazine in 1967, the CIA link was ended and the "radios" were consolidated as RFE/RL.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty RFE-RL had its origins in a post-war America brimming with confidence and secure in its power. Unlike the Voice of America, which conveyed a distinctly American perspective on global events, RFE-RL served as surrogate home radio services and a vital alternative to the controlled, party-dominated domestic press in Eastern Europe. Over twenty stations featured programming tailored to individual countries. They reached millions of listeners ranging from industrial workers to dissident leaders such as Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel.

The value of instruments like Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and Voice of America during the Cold War is inestimable. In Moscow that people were listening to Radio Free Europe, to VOA, to Deutsche Welle, to BBC all the time in order to find out simply what was going on and what was the truth. And despite Moscow's best efforts, they couldn't block this completely.

Efforts of Soviet and Eastern Bloc officials to thwart the stations ranged from jamming attempts, assassinations of radio journalists, the infiltration of spies onto the radios' staffs, and the bombing of the radios' headquarters. The story involved kidnapping, assassination, poisoning, bombing, murder, and penetration of the staff by agents of communist intelligence services. Although some attacks are well known, for example, the Bulgarian umbrella assassination of Georgi Markov in London, most have received little publicity. The case of Romanian broadcaster Emil Georgescu is an example. Georgescu and his wife endured multiple attempts and threats on his life, including automobile "accidents" and a knife attack. Abo Fatalibey, found murdered under a couch in his apartment, was not so fortunate. Soviet defector, Oleg Tumanov, was hired by RL only to be recruited to work in place by the KGB. He served as a long-time penetration and was exposed after his escape to the Soviet Union, where he wrote a memoir. Perhaps the most spectacular case was the bombing of RFE/RL headquarters in Munich in 1981 by Carlos the Jackal. The bombing was sponsored by the Romanian Securitate, its foreign intelligence service.

Controversies that engulfed the stations throughout the Cold War, most notably RFE broadcasts during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution that were described as inflammatory and irresponsible. An RFE broadcast predicted the United States would come to the aid of Hungarian freedom fighters, but the broadcaster was doing a press review after the Soviet invasion and was quoting - by name - a London Observer editorial, and that even so this was a violation of RFE policy. This was the sole example of an implicit hint of assistance in two weeks of continuous broadcasting to Hungary. The story of Frank Wisner ordering Radio Free Europe (RFE) to incite violence against the communist regime and against invading Soviet troops - only to see the uprising crushed - is more complicated than commonly thought. A RFE New York memo, allegedly the result of Wisner's "exhortations" to violence, told the radio's Hungarian staff in Munich that "All restraints have gone off. No holds barred." But Wisner in 1956 had no direct involvement in RFE, the memo was produced after the uprising was effectively over, and dealt with rhetoric, not violence. The idea that RFE was fomenting violence at the behest of Frank Wisner is not supported.

RFE prevented the Communist authorities from establishing a monopoly on the dissemination of information in Poland and played a crucial role as the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union broke apart.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 00:03:35 ZULU