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Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism Hardcover – June 25, 2013
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This remarkable book will change the way you look at intelligence, foreign affairs, the press, and much else besides. --R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence
About the Author
Ronald J. Rychlak is a law professor at the University of Mississippi, has been Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and currently serves as the Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA and the SEC. A graduate of Wabash College and Vanderbilt University, Rychlak originally practiced law in Chicago. Appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court to a committee to revise that state's criminal code, he is also an adviser to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the author or co-author of seven books.
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--That JFK was killed by a right-wing conspiracy (Oswald was a KGB agent);
--That Yassir Arafat was a Palestinian (he was an Egyptian);
--That Pope Pius XII was a tool of the Holocaust (he wasn’t, and in fact helped a lot of Jews);
--That Communist countries were ruled bytheir Communist parties (the dictators, like Romania’s Ceausescu to whom Pacepa reported, ruled; the parties were powerless.)
These are just a few. It’s staggering to think of an agency with more than a million employees, as the KGB had, with so many of them committed to generating lies that so many now believe. It used to be said history was written by the winners, but maybe history has been written by the KGB.
Pacepa was in a position to know. The head of the Romanian secret police when he defected in 1978, he had been a protégé of the Soviets’ liaision to it, who later became head of the KGB’s foreign intelligence service. Pacepa had close links to the KGB’s highest reaches in its heyday. He was familiar with its operational techniques and can see them, say, in evidence others missed during the Warren Commission investigation. And the KGB farmed out parts of its disinformation projects to the secret police of its colonies like Romania.
Disinformation is the art of floating lies to shape future events. A false story is created. Documents are forged. Then it is eased out through several levels of cutouts before a gullible Western press bites on it. The story might be promulgated in a friendly Communist front institution (one of those “peace” institutes) someplace like Sweden, some left-wing academics may advance it, it might make its way from there to a local newspaper, and then finally to some larger media outlet where the KGB’s fingerprints on it are no longer visible. It’s like laundering money.
According to Pacepa, the story of the Kennedy Assassination having been a CIA plot began in a KGB memo. The Soviets were worried, justifiably, about Oswald’s Soviet links and shrewdly decided to turn lemons into lemonade by not only diverting history’s gaze but by falsely implicating the CIA.
Oswald, he says, had been a KGB agent from the get-go – recruited while a Marine based in Japan because of his access to the radar used in the secret U2 spy plane flights. He alleges that it was information obtained from Oswald that told the Soviets how high the plane could fly and develop the countermeasures that ultimately downed it and pilot Francis Gary Powers, which became an international incident.
Oswald’s trip to Mexico City some weeks before the assassination, says Pacepa, was to meet with a KGB spy from its assassinations department. Pacepa’s familiarity with KGB techniques allows him to glean evidence that others, such as the FBI or the Warren Commission, would not have seen. Oswald’s belongings, found after the JFK assassination, included brochures with a movie theater and a bullfight ring marked. KGB procedure for a meet with an agent like Oswald, says Pacepa, was to have a quick meeting at a theater, at which tickets for the bullfight would have been passed, and then meet at the bullfight itself.
Pacepa thinks the KGB shrewdly used two American Communist Party leaders as funnels for disinformation that the Kremlin wasn’t involved, and Castro used a similar tactic, play-acting astonishment at the assassination in front of foreign witnesses. A Cuban radio man on duty that day, whose job it was to monitor north of Cuba towards Florida for CIA activity, said he’d been told unexpectedly to shut that down on November 22, 1963 and to monitor Texas instead.
Four hours before the actual assassination.
Pacepa depicts the darkening of Pope Pius XII’s image by the KGB, specifically through the play “The Deputy” in the mid-1960s.
I remember this. It was a news event. A copy of it sat on my parents’ shelf and a lot of their friends read it too. The book cast an accusing finger at Pius for the Vatican’s failures with respect to the Holocaust, alleging his close ties with Nazis and so forth.
Pacepa traces the play’s provenance: Nearly everyone who had anything to do with it had Communist ties or was an outright Soviet agent – the playwright, the director, the producer, the translator, the critics such as I.F. Stone who wrote glowingly about it and made it a cause celebre. Stone was a darling of liberal journalism, later shown to have been on the KGB payroll. Pacepa traces earlier cases, such as the persecution of Cardinal Mindszenty, to show how the Communists used similar tactics to try to destroy the Catholic Church in eastern Europe.
He brings out surprising facts from that era: That the play (a bad one, panned even by a young Frank Rich) was protested not only by Catholic groups but by the American Jewish Committee and the ADL. Pius was previously regarded as having done what he could for Jews in occupied Europe.
One can’t, of course, accept this without asking a few questions. Pacepa, as the former head of a Communist secret police agency, cannot be seen as having clean hands, but on the other hand, it takes a thief to catch one. He says he had managed to avoid assassinations as they weren’t part of his responsibilities as he worked his way up the ladder, but when he was finally ordered by Ceausescu to kill the head of Radio Free Europe (the man was later indeed killed), he chose to defect instead.
Some of the areas he gets into are difficult areas. His defense of the Vatican, and of Catholic prelates in Eastern Europe like Zagreb’s Cardinal Stepinac, does not acknowledge troubling Holocaust-related charges in this area. It is difficult to know what information to trust when dealing with,
say, the former Yugoslavia; hundreds of thousands were killed by Croatia’s fascist Ustashe there, but no inquiry into it run by the Communists can be taken at face value either, and they themselves killed thousands of Croatians after the war. These are the people who invented the show trial. I would have liked, though, to see Pacepa grapple with this question a bit more.
Still, this is an eye-opening book. It’s scary when the evil have so much power to rewrite history, and makes you wonder if, although the Soviet Union and Communism failed, whether they succeeded in these pernicious efforts.
Pacepa was the head of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service - the DIE - who defected to the United States as the most important leader of Soviet bloc intelligence to ever defect. In his role as head of Romanian intelligence, he had direct interactions with Yuri Andropov, Romanian President Ceausescu, and the inner working of Soviet espionage, particularly the strategy of "disinformation."
Pacepa describes "disinformation" as the strategy of "framing" a subject by revising their history around a "kernel" of truth and then releasing the information through sources not obviously linked to the Soviet Union. The Soviets were masters at disinformation; they used it extensively as an internal device to augment the image of their leaders - through what Pacepa calls "glasnost" - and then subsequently used it on their enemies, such as framing anti-Nazi bishops and leaders as Nazi collaborators. Of course, the best fictional depiction of disinformation is "1984" where "We have always been at war with Eastasia." The Communists, however, were the model for Orwell.
Pacepa's book advances a plausible account of how often disinformation, either Communist or homegrown, has played a role in what Americans and Europeans are led to believe. The story encompasses more than the disinformation campaign waged against the memory of Pius XII, but it really was Pacepa's revelation that The Deputy was most probably a Soviet disinformation campaign that forms the core of this book. That bit of information also brought along co-author Ron Rychlak, who is famous for his counter-campaign against the Pius XII smear campaign.
The value of Pacepa's account is not so much from what he personally knows. Pacepa does not claim that he knows that the author of The Deputy (Black cat book), Rolf Hochhuth, was a Communist stooge or that The Deputy campaign was a Communist disinformation campaign but given his experience with such campaigns, and his knowledge of facts surrounding the attack on Pius, Pacepa makes a strong argument in favor of Soviet involvement. He also knows that the DIE was tasked with obtaining Vatican records with Pius XII's signatures as part of a disinformation campaign against Pius. Obtaining such documents was a basic element in a disinformation campaign; such documents were used a basis for forging documents and to provide the kernel of truth surrounding the disinformation lie. Pacepa also knew that there was a smear job going on against Pius XII at the time of The Deputy:
"The KGB knew what it had to do. It just needed a few Vatican documents to give the operation an aura of authenticity-- a "kernel of truth." Romania had a fairly large Roman Catholic community , so her people and foreign intelligence service, the DIE, were asked to help.
General Sakharovsky, who until shortly before that had been the chief KGB adviser to the Romanian DIE and had just been appointed to head the Soviets' entire foreign intelligence service (the PGU, or first chief directorate of the KGB), 3 knew I was in an excellent position to contact the Vatican regarding approval to search its archives. The year before, as deputy chief of the Romanian Trade Mission in West Germany, I had negotiated a "spy swap" with the Holy See, involving four prominent Catholics who had been sentenced to long terms in prison on spurious charges of espionage at the end of a 1951 trial against the Vatican nunciature in Bucharest. 4 The four had been exchanged for two DIE officers (Col. Constantin Horobet and Maj. Nicolae Ciuciulin) caught spying in West Germany. 5
"Seat 12" was the code name for the Romanian side of the KGB's operation against Pius XII. The name was an allusion to the pope as occupant//
Thus, Pacepa points out that the "Hitler's Pope" meme was actually floated for the first time in 1945 by the Soviets, who were preparing for the next war against Catholicism. (Although Pacepa doesn't mention this, during their rapprochement with the Nazis, the Soviets had actually claimed that the Pope was the lackey of Roosevelt and an opponent of the Nazis.) This claim didn't take, but the claims floated by the Soviets in 1945 appeared in Hochhuth's The Deputy. One might think that this is perhaps a coincidence or it has a common genesis in the pope's behavior during the war, and that is a possibility, but the connection of Hochhuth with long-time agents of Communist influence is well-established. There is also the fact that The Deputy took the world by storm, even though it is a flatulent, bloated bit of anti-Catholic doggerel by a Protestant former Hitler Youth that makes a hero out of an SS officer who worked at the death camps. Why was this mediocre playwright picked out of a well-deserved obscurity? How did all the right people in all the right places all over the world suddenly decide that The Deputy was worth their attention? This is not to say that they were all intentional Communist agents, but we now know that many were, and that they were in a position to influence others.
Then there are weird pro-Soviet elements in The Deputy that left me puzzled when I read the play. While I picked up on the planted proposition that the Germans were really responsible for the Katyn Massacre, what really caught my attention was the absolutely crazy claim that Pius was culpable for not recognizing the injustice of the German attack on the Soviet Union. In a pencil swipe, Hochhuth eliminated the actual history of the Soviet partition of Poland. Sometimes there is no "just side" in a war; when two robbers fighting over stolen property, neither has justice on their side. But Hochhuth simply plants the notion that the Soviets were the victims - when their actions, their pact with Germany, gave Germany the green light to invade Poland and start World War II.
I don't think that Hochhuth was necessarily a Communist agent, but there may have been a Communist disinformation editor in the mix.
Likewise, the Pacepa's description of the historical "Sidelights" section of The Deputy is dead-on:
"The historical aspects of The Deputy contain further circumstantial evidence that the show was produced by the KGB's framing experts. The printed play's appendix, entitled "Sidelights on History," has been described as follows:
Forty-five pages of demonstration and proof! But the quantity is deceptive. The materials are all mixed up higgledy-piggledy; seldom are we told precisely where the arguments and quotations come from ... "Solid collections of sources are mentioned only in isolated instances; but evidence and witnesses of dubious value are mentioned frequently. ... The work is based on second and third-hand evidence, on popular books which do not even claim to provide a final clarification ... ""
Dead-on! I read my way through the Sidelines and couldn't make heads or tale of his sources or his claims. I thought that was my problem, but now that I've read Pacepa, I realize that this is a kind of "tell" - of the kind described by Justus George Lawler in Were the Popes Against the Jews?: Tracking the Myths, Confronting the Ideologues - when the grammar and reasoning starts to get dodgy, hold on to wallet because someone is running a scam. Now that I think of it, the same features appear in Carlo Falconi's appendixes in Silence of Pius XII - which may be another Communist disinformation piece.
Interestingly, we also see Carlo Falconi citing The Deputy - an ostensible work of fiction - as if it was historical. Other anti-Pius writers do this also, but whether citing The Deputy as the reason for a personal conversion became a trope or they were trying to take advantage of the "credibility" of The Deputy or it was part of an incestuous conspiracy, who knows? (Although there is a weirdly incestuous relationship among the anti-Pius writers who review each other's books, act as sources for each other and write the commendations on the fly-leaf of each other's books.)
I think that Pacepa's inside information and expert analysis makes the case that The Deputy was part of a Soviet disinformation campaign. I think his analysis that The Deputy was subsequently picked up by Cornwell in the 1990s for his own agenda is correct.
Moving to a contemporary issue, Pacepa's observations about the use of disinformation and its destructiveness for society also seems accurate. Disinformation is like a drug. Leaders want more and more of it and come to rely on it. Obviously, in a highly advanced, technological civilization, truth is a first-order good. More than that, as Joseph Pieper points out, prudence - which is simply the ability to apprehend reality - is the foundation of all other virtues. By affirming lies and suppressing truth, even about apparently small things, disinformation cuts against the ability to apprehend truth and to have a just society. For example, this week, The Rolling Stones magazine acknowledged that a sensational rape case against the fraternity of a university was a total lie. The reporter was not fired, the liar was called a "victim" and the story was defended on the grounds that although it may have been a lie, it still served a useful purpose of putting the issue of rape into the public discussion. We have become a disinformation culture.
Pacepa points out that we have been a disinformation culture for a long time and he is worried about the survival of America because of his own experience with Soviet Romania. For example, he points out how the American - we assume - peace movement has coopted the language of our former enemies:
"Today, it is considered bad manners to point to any Soviet source of American anti-Americanism. But throughout their history, Americans had never before been anti-American. They voluntarily came to the United States. They were always a proud and independent people who loved their country and who won every military conflict up until its wars against communist expansion-- the Korean and the Vietnam Wars."
One might also point out how the peace movement simply disappeared with the election of Barrack Obama. It is almost as if they weren't concerned with peace so much as who was waging the war.
Likewise we see that there is a lot of effort being put in making sure that Americans don't link the War on Terror with Islamic extremism, lest people be incited to hate Muslims. Yet this concern for the defamation of groups is absent when it comes to a media that makes sure to publicize any and every scandal involving a Catholic priest. I have just completed Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: The Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939 The Definitive English-Language Edition of the ... History of Religious and Political Pluralism) which documents how the Nazis deliberately publicized morality trials against Catholic priests as an attack on the Catholic Church. Are we to assume that the liberal media is less perceptive about the effects of their editorial decisions that Goebbels, particularly when they are so concerned about the effect on Muslims?
Pacepa also has an interesting section on Oswald. I think that most people think that he was a CIA stooge. Certainly, very few people realize that Oswald was a dedicated Communist who spent time in the Soviet Union. Pacepa makes an interesting circumstantial case that Oswald provided the secrets that permitted the Soviets to shoot down Francis Gary Powers' U2 spy plane. He also explains the strange behavior of Oswald's trip to Mexico, which involved, according to Pacepa, "trade-craft." Is Pacepa's speculation that Oswald acted on his own in retaliation for Kennedy's humiliation of Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis true? Who knows? Certainly it is far more credible given the facts than the conspiracy theory floated by far-left loons like Oliver Stone, who has profited nicely on his claim that the Kennedy assassination was a CIA coup. But thanks to disinformation, we can talk about whether the CIA killed Kennedy, and not whether a card-carrying Communist who had spent time in the Soviet Union might have been a Communist agent.
When someone reads a book like this, the reader should properly wonder if they are not being made the victim of another disinformation scam. We have no way of verifying the details of Pacepa's career in the DIE, but I have been reading a lot of primary source material on the Nazis and Catholics recently, and Pacepa's story fits the data. He is right about the Soviet origin of the Pius slander - I was surprised when I stumbled over those New York Times articles and read those claims from 1945. His description of Soviet tactics dovetails nicely with Guenter Lewy's The Cause That Failed: Communism in American Political Life, which describes the Soviet infiltration into culture and its use of fronts and fellow travelers and agents of influence. Likewise his description of the framing of Catholic bishops like Mindszenty and Stepinac for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis, which was a lie, is verified by contemporary accounts from the New York Times, e.g., I have a New York Times article that contains Cardinal Stepinac's condemnation of Nazi racial policies. Finally, I have dived deeply into the New York Times archives and the criticisms of the Nazis by Cardinal Pacelli/Pius XII and by the German bishops is simply too numerous to give any rational credence to the slur about "silence."
Yet we live in a world where people assume the Catholic church supported the Nazis during World War II.
That is either a weird random occurrence or it is the product of enemy action.
Once is coincidence, twice is bad luck, three times is enemy action.
Based on Pacepa's book we are well-past three times, and it may be time to be a trifle more skeptical about what we think we know.