Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking defector we have ever had from a hostile intelligence service. As chief of communist Romanian foreign intelligence, he was for many years in the key meetings with heads of state and a participant in some of the most sensitive discussions by our enemies during the Cold War.
For starters, Gen. Pacepa tells us that intelligence collection is rather far down the list of what Romanian, and other Soviet bloc, intelligence services were doing all those years.
Intelligence collection, he says, “has always been more or less irrelevant.” So what were Romanian and Soviet spies spending their time on in the Cold War years? Gen. Pacepa would say “framing,” i.e., rewriting history and manipulating records, documents, etc., to bring that about. To what end this disinformation?
Oh, little matters like using press leaks to destroy the reputation of a national or religious leader, engendering the spread of anti-Semitism, and building up resentment against the U.S. and Israel in the Arab world.
Soviet leader and longtime KGB head Yuri Andropov, apparently a real aficionado of disinformation, put it this way: “Disinformation is like cocaine – sniff once or twice, it may not change your life. If you use it every day, though, it will make you an addict – a different man.”
So, one might say it’s understandable during the Cold War, but why now? And why are many governments in the Mideast essentially doing the same thing, such as spreading the crazy stories about 9/11 – that it was the CIA, or Mossad? I would imagine it’s fairly straightforward: Dictators need enemies to help them have more reason to suppress their people. And we’re very convenient.
Another major understanding emerges from the book. The communists had something between no ideology and a dysfunctional one. We have one that almost all Americans would sign on to: democracy, the rule of law and America as, in Lincoln’s words, the “last, best hope of earth.” For most of us, we also have our religion, generally Christianity or Judaism. This brought out for the Soviet bloc, and brings out for our current enemies, a carefully targeted attack, or framing, to destroy religion: to spread anti-Semitism, to smear the reputations of a pope and other church leaders as anti-Semites when they actually worked hard to protect Jews during the Nazi era.
Gen. Pacepa writes that there were more in the Soviet bloc working on dezinformatsiya than in the armed forces and defense industry! It was, and to some extent still is, a remarkable effort.
He and his distinguished co-author, law professor Ronald Rychlak, do something remarkable in this book. They not only help us understand history and many of the current disinformation operations that we continue to see – especially from Russia and countries in the Mideast – but also give us a good start in learning how to defeat them.
In short, they open a world that many of us didn’t know existed, and almost all of those of us who did know had seriously underestimated.
R. James Woolsey has held presidential appointments in four different administrations – two Republican and two Democrat – including as director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Clinton administration. He currently serves as chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and is chairman of Woolsey Partners. This article is adapted from World Net Daily.