Wanted: An Integrated Counter-intelligence


18 SEPT 95


For aggressive prosecution of the clandestine war under a distinct and unified command.


C. N. Geschwind

The nature and seriousness of the debility that pervades our counterintelligence efforts are obscured by many phenomena. The Communist secret services have taken care to hide the strategy underlying their covert attack. The noiselessness of the covert war between them and our forces lets success and failure alike remain concealed. Our forces are so compartmented that they do not register their aggregate inability to deal with the world-wide coordinated enemy attack. Moreover, although the enemy's home front in the covert war is fundamental to his campaigns abroad, we have been conditioned to view a nation's foreign actions as distinct from its domestic activities and therefore do not mount all-out aggressive covert action aimed at the Communist interior. The most blinding factor, however, has been the deceptive semantic linkage between intelligence and counterintelligence: this intelligence terminology of the past inhibits the development of the new concepts needed in today's situation. Many of the participants in our effort are also inhibited by concern for their particular pieces of the counterintelligence pie in any radical revision of our strategy.

Only a recognition of present shortcomings can provide the stimulus for a new effort. The difficulty of making these convincingly manifest under the circumstances cited above is aggravated by the confusion of the many different theaters of covert war and the endless variety of tactics and components engaged. Yet the same political and strategic concepts oppose each other in every theater, and the fundamentals of the covert conflict in one theater should hold for the others, due allowance being made for local peculiarities, the tactical situation, and the stage of the conflict's development in each. It should therefore be possible to produce a usable if crude picture of the general war situation by examining a particular specimen theater of operations as typical of all.


Confrontation in Germany

Here we shall undertake a preliminary examination of the situation in the German theater, almost an ideal specimen. Germany is physically as well as ideologically split, each portion reflecting faithfully the strengths and weaknesses of its sponsoring major combatant; the sponsors have large covert forces of their own in the theater; the situation there has matured; and the history of the covert war in Germany is long and heavily documented. And in spite of the fact that we have had almost every natural advantage we have done very poorly there.


The Enemy Forces

In 1945 the massive, fully mobilized Soviet security apparatus, maintaining its wartime momentum, began to build an East German security system to gain full control of the East Germans and use them in covert warfare against the rest of Germany. The East German Communists stood to gain enormous power from a successful local security control system. The distrust and fear such a system creates among the people prevents them from combining against the regime and enables it, playing one segment of the government machinery off against the others, to establish a vertical organization with power concentrated at the top. The security system detects and destroys hidden opponents. It provides the means to monopolize information, control propaganda, conceal blunders, and eventually raise the young to blind obedience.

The power thus acquired makes it possible for the regime to undertake expensive foreign ventures with great flexibility and disregard for public opinion. The national investment can be concentrated on industrial might and war potential by holding living conditions for the people to the lowest tolerable level. Abroad, the security system is used to control partisan and other covert forces and to infiltrate and subvert adjacent areas. It steals foreign inventions and cultural products, making possible industrial progress that could not otherwise be achieved.

The security system is the real secret of Communist power and the real secret weapon of the era. Fundamental to the system is the skillful exploitation of informers; Communist power is ultimately based upon the intimidated covert collaboration of a portion of the population. It is understandable that the Communists from the beginning put utmost zeal into the development of security systems in East Germany and the other new Satellites and call these secret services "the sword of the party" while attempting to conceal their real significance from the rest of the world.

Today, with fewer than 200 officers, the Soviets are "coordinating" the monolithic, well-organized East German secret service. This organization is staffed by at least 20,000 officers and NCO's, who deploy about 90,000 secret informers (Spitzels) at home to keep the people under control and have infiltrated at least 15,000 secret agents into West Germany in performance of their share of the Communist mission of covert warfare against uncontrolled adjacent areas. These figures may startle some readers. They should not. 1 XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXX has on file the names of some 70,000..."

Now that the wall has split Berlin, effectively sealing in the East Germans, the process of communizing the people and reducing them to sundered helplessness can go forward at full pace. So long as these people have not been thoroughly subjugated, the Communist program to use them as a weapon against the West and as a counterbalance against restless Poland and other Satellites is blocked. The East German Communists still cannot control the area unaided; if the Red Army were eliminated a spontaneous revolution could still develop among the East Germans. Judging from the supineness with which they accepted the splitting of Berlin and expropriation from the farmers, however, the day cannot be distant when they will have followed the Russians and Chinese in reaching full subservience to the Communists.

The Communist task of covert warfare against West Germany is now performed almost entirely by the East German secret service. 2 XXXXX XXXXX XXXX XX 85% of the job of infiltrating West Germany with Communist agents and subversives is now in the hands of the East..." leaving the Soviet and other Satellite services free to create difficulties for us in other places such as Cuba. The East German service is beginning to dispatch agents outside the continent of Europe, clearly intending to operate among and through Germans and German communities everywhere.

Although the Communist security systems, with their virtual blank check on manpower, may seem to be enormously costly enterprises, they are really cheap in terms of percentage of population employed and net power and capabilities for covert warfare delivered, providing leverage for the establishment of a tremendous empire. The East German security pyramid looks about as follows:

  • 200 Russian "advisers"
  • 20,000 German officers and NCO's
  • 105,000 informers and transborder agents

As adjuncts to this 125,000-man apparat there are a substructure of about 100,000 regular police with its own informer system and a party membership of 1,500,000, ipso facto informers. This establishment is the instrument for controlling a population of 17,000,000.

To what degree these figures are paralleled in the other Satellites and the USSR itself has not been determined. Allowance must be made for the fact that East Germany has been the object of an intense Soviet effort. Nevertheless, it would be surprising if the percentages reflected in the foregoing fairly solid statistics did not apply more or less to any Communist country being used as a base for further covert attack on the West (and what Communist country is not so used?). Applied to the 280,000,000 inhabitants of the USSR and its European Satellites, they would indicate that about 350,000 Soviet and Satellite secret service officers and NCO's use 1,750,000 informers and transborder operatives as the basic instrument for the control and expansion of the empire. These figures do not include party members or the police forces and their informers at home or the overt and covert Communist parties, fellow travellers, dupes, and influence agents 3 abroad.

Figures on the strength of the Soviet secret army do not of course reflect the kind of substance one associates with regular armies. Many secret operatives are not only worthless but counterproductive. The friction, confusion, and other difficulties inseparable from covert action greatly lower the efficiency per man. Nevertheless, if only one informer or agent in ten is productively engaged in the covert war, the net retinue of 175,000 effectives, combined with the officer and NCO corps, gives us a covert force, all categories, of over half a million persons in the European theater and USSR-controlled areas fully mobilized for covert action.


The Western Counterforce

While in East Germany the Communist regime is steadily suppressing the population and moulding it into an instrument of war against us, at the same time infiltrating selected targets in the West, the logical counter-weapons, Western counterintelligence and other covert forces, seem powerless to interfere preventively. West Germany has come to reflect not only all our strengths--a booming economy, an excellent overt force, a solidly democratic form of government--but all our weaknesses as well, among the most important of which is persistent inability to cope adequately with the drives of the Communist secret apparatus.

In 1945, almost immediately upon cessation of hostilities with Germany, the United States dismantled the Office of Strategic Services, its own covert counterattack force, and began the leisurely and haphazard development in West Germany of a political and security system loaded with civil liberties safeguards. Covert action, such as continued at all, concentrated upon pacifying the area by ferreting out the more heavily compromised Nazis. Eventually the Army Counter Intelligence Corps, which was for several years the only security organization of any consequence in the U.S. Zone of Germany, made increasing efforts to build up a security system against the infiltration of Communist agents. At first most of the low-level Communist agents were so inept that it was the fashion to joke about them in counterintelligence circles. Then as the Western hare saw the Eastern tortoise making unexpected headway and the Korean War created heavy political pressures, the West Germans established counterintelligence and clandestine services of their own and the U.S. services pushed the development of special covert action organizations. In 1953, however, a series of exposés of covert action undertaken by these hastily assembled organizations reverberated throughout Europe, and the development of new organization largely subsided.

By 1959 the Western security and counterintelligence structure in the German theater was about as follows. The German services were split into a federal intelligence service (BND) responsible for transborder operations including aggressive counterintelligence, a federal security service (BfV) responsible for defensive counterintelligence, 11 semi-autonomous Land security services (LfV's), a federal police service (BKA), and 11 semi-autonomous Land police forces. Neither the BND nor the BfV and LfV's had executive action (arrest and interrogation) powers; these were reserved to the police forces. By this time the British forces had turned over most of their counterintelligence responsibilities to the German services in their area. In the U.S. Zone the backbone of the security structure was provided by the CIC and CIA, XXXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXX  XXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXX XX.

In 1959 a heavy pressure for reorganization had been built up by the manifest incapacity of this setup to handle the security problem and deal with the growing East German infiltration capabilities. The CIC was subordinated to the Military Intelligence Service in a complex arrangement which greatly reduced its coherence and competence for counterintelligence operations. There appears to have been some expectation that the West German services would develop programs and coordination adequate to fill the gaps created by this reorganization. The expectation was of course not realized, because West Germany is not centrally organized. From then on the counterintelligence components in the German theater, Allied as well as German, have been able to effect only ad hoc coordination. CIA's attempts to establish coordination by agreement, because the Agency was regarded by most other counterintelligence components as a competitor, ran into enormous difficulties.4

By and large, the German and to a lesser degree the U.S. services have continued trying to function independently of one another and have done little to fix responsibility for specific counterintelligence targets on specific components. Under the concept that covert war, like any other war, calls for coordinated effort with a subdivision of functions and targets, the shortcomings of the present setup in the German theater and the reasons for its inability to repel the Communist infiltration and launch an effective counterattack become clear. In the covert war it makes no more sense to have a chaos of autonomous counterintelligence units than it would to disband NATO and let each army, navy, and air force make its own arrangements to deal independently with an overt Soviet attack.

There are of course many other factors besides inadequate organizational concepts obstructing counterintelligence operations in Germany. There is a great East-West disparity in agent-control capability: the Communists can inflict horrendous punishments on hostile and recalcitrant operatives, while the Western states, under a variety of legal concepts, impose almost trivial sentences even for treason. The West German legal system, in particular, leans over backward to such an extreme in giving a rascal every chance to beat the law that obtaining convictions for espionage, subversion, and treason is exceedingly costly in man-hours. With the defending counterintelligence services so burdened in carrying through each hostile agent case, it pays the adversary system to send out, just for their nuisance and distraction value, agents practically certain to be caught. Moreover, the Communist operatives are therefore easily motivated to enter the West, while agents of a Western service are very reluctant to undertake prolonged clandestine tasks in a hostile area. The defensive networks of the Communist services have deployed a dense and practically impenetrable screen of informers, while the West German defenses are so weak that hostile operatives have had little practical difficulty entering and maintaining themselves by posing as refugees.

The persistent interservice sharpshooting of the last decade has not improved the situation. Very few in the counterintelligence services are now prepared to undertake risky ventures for fear of being picked off by competitors in the event of a flap. In effect, a high premium has been placed upon unenterprising and timid operations, since the errors of omission and defeats therefrom go unnoticed while the repercussions from misfire of aggressive action would be painfully evident.

The Western publics, finally, egged on by the press's recurrent exploitation of the Gestapophobia of the average German citizen, have been more hostile than friendly to their own counterintelligence personnel, withholding important moral and material support, while Western legislators seem to suffer from a blind spot which prevents their seeing the desperate need for counterintelligence legislation.

In one sector of covert activity, information procurement, the Western secret services have performed adequately, largely because the floods of refugees from East Germany have provided information for the asking. But the Berlin wall has now stopped that flood and it would seem that an information-procurement crisis also impends. The opportunities of past years to establish far-flung sleeper-agent networks having largely been wasted and the East German security service now being ready in great force to interdict Western covert operations, it will take immense effort to procure clandestinely the information that used to fall into our hands.

In assessing the disparities between the Communist covert forces and those of the West in Germany we must bear in mind, furthermore, that the Western services have had almost every moral and financial advantage. The Western economy has been booming, while the Communist economies have uniformly failed to produce adequately. The East Germans have overwhelmingly opposed the regime. The West German population at our disposal, 50 million, greatly outnumbers the 17 million East Germans. In spite of these advantages we have not achieved any notable victories in the covert war.

The principal deficiencies in our setup in the German theater appear to be the following:

  • Lack of aggressive task-force-type counterattack programs, and indeed the lack of a covert war; concept envisaging counterattack and psywar operations on such a scale as to neutralize the adversary apparatus within its own areas.
  • Inability to infiltrate Communist-held areas.
  • Inability to prevent Communist infiltration of our areas.
  • Defensive stance and lack of initiative in such operations as are mounted.
  • Progressive inability to deal with growing case-loads, obstructive organization, inadequate information management, and the depressing effects of continual reverses.
  • Interservice rivalry with case-grabbing, sharpshooting, target-hogging, information hoarding, and other side effects.


A Diagnosis

The primary cause of our infirmity is governmental inattention to the course, significance, and necessities of the covert war. It has been the curse of parliamentary governments since the days of Kerensky that they have failed to see the importance of meeting the Communists full force in the covert as well as the overt struggle. They have consistently not attempted to counter, in their concentration on physical weaponry, the Communists' possession of a new and decisive organizational weapon, their secret service apparatus.5


Democracy's Blind Spot

Parliamentary governments and their political interpreters simply do not think of the secret control system as a piece of organizational engineering which is the basis of Communist power, nor do they think of it as a vulnerable point for attack. Nevertheless, the security system is the Achilles' heel of the Communist movement, for without it the Communists would have to rule by persuasion, seeking the consent of the governed. To the rulers themselves its existence is a loathsome incubus, a constant source of guilt feelings and an ever-present threat to individual and collective security. The secret apparatus, many of whose chiefs have been assassinated by the Party in the course of the years, is a brittle, overextended undertaking which has all it can do to maintain its control over the people under present conditions. It owes most of its success to the fact that no correctly mounted, sustained counterattack against it has ever been delivered.

Why are the parliamentary governments so oblivious to this vulnerable secret weapon and its implications? Because our intelligence and counterintelligence services have failed to tell them the facts in terms that laymen can understand. The spates of spy stories and other scandals that erupt in public view from time to time place the whole matter in a mere "spy nuisance" light, actually helping to conceal the fact that the Communist security system is the control instrument whereby entire peoples are mobilized for war against us. The presentation needed is an "Ugly American" kind of realism in the counterintelligence field.


Conceptual Red Herring

Our inability to see and report the facts about the covert war is in large part due to our being in a semantic rut, accepting "intelligence" as the root of "counterintelligence" and therefore thinking in distorted terms. It is no exaggeration to say that the word "counterintelligence" has become one of the most dangerously misleading in our language because it enshrines the concept that in counterintelligence we are countering the operations of a hostile intelligence organization. The fact is that in attempting to counter the operations of a Communist secret service we are operating against an immense covert-war machine which resembles an intelligence organization about the way an army resembles a sheriff's posse.

The Communist secret services are gigantic, multiple-purpose organizations which break the will of whole peoples, mass-producing home front and invasion agents. They do, of course, also procure intelligence, but only as one of many integrated secret activities. We cannot adequately counterattack or defend against such a monster under the impression that it is an intelligence organization, or judge our results by intelligence criteria.

The inadequate concepts and confused semantics with which we are operating have so many points of unfavorable impact on our activities as to require a tabulation:

Impact on aggressiveness. It is the job of intelligence to collect and analyze information. Espionage for this purpose, insofar as it is aggressive, acts only with the objective of getting past the opposing counterintelligence and security forces as uneventfully as possible. Since the gathering of intelligence is a secret preparatory function, agents doing it are not supposed to undertake executive action, agitate, or otherwise risk attracting attention. Counterintelligence, on the other hand, is engaged in covert war, all-out and immediate. It has to take action--at home by investigating, arresting, interrogating, doubling, and prosecuting Communist operatives, and abroad by carrying out recruitment, neutralization, harassment, diversionary, and psywar operations against their secret service system. These diverse concepts of responsibility for action not only are fundamentally incompatible but call for agents of fundamentally different temperament and attitudes. For the intelligence-minded man, to know about the opposition and his installations is the whole goal; for counterintelligence, knowing is only the beginning of the road--something has to be done about the information.

Impact on information management. The product of intelligence collection, no matter how voluminous, presents few handling problems: the espionage organization simply passes it on to its customers. The data the espionage organization itself uses and files is largely confined to information about its own agents, projects, operations, and operational conditions, together with so much about the target as is needed to run agents against it and to understand what they are reporting. It is quite satisfactory for an espionage organization to store its operational information in ordinary files indexed by 3 x 5 cards: there is no manipulation problem, and 90 percent of it is retirable once an operation is over and the agent disposed of. Counterintelligence, on the other hand, uses information as its ammunition and is its own best customer. This information must be so stored and managed that it can be continually updated and mobilized to serve as the basis for further action.

While intelligence information tends to deteriorate rapidly, counterintelligence information retains its value for lifetimes. Since the Communist secret service apparatus is tremendous, it follows that information about its operatives (the main ingredient of counterintelligence information complexes) is correspondingly vast and will accumulate at many times the rate of obsolescence. Attempts to solve the information storage problem by setting up arbitrary destruction programs based on frequency of use or other ordinary concepts of information management are comparable to cutting off part of a man's liver because he is too fat. Counterintelligence needs all the meaningful information it can get concerning its targets.

Impact on security. Intelligence procured by espionage--for example, information derived from such an agent as Vyacheslav Molotov were he recruited--has to have maximum protection. It must be compartmented perhaps for many years, and it may so pinpoint the agent that it cannot be used at all for fear of exposing him. Even lists of requirements, revealing as they do national ignorance, estimates, intent, etc., have to be severely controlled. Counterintelligence information, on the other hand, concerns the officers and retinue of a covert force which must be fought by many people. Much of it is fragmentary and must be "married" with other data before it can be used or even understood. The only type which requires the kind of handling that nearly all espionage data must have is that pertaining to and derived from agents who have penetrated the interior of a hostile intelligence or security service.   The loss of a counterintelligence agent is ordinarily like any other battle casualty; the loss of an intelligence agent can be a catastrophe. Any clandestine services organization attempting to handle counterintelligence and espionage information along the same lines is therefore bound to have grave difficulties. The continual churning up of the former wherever the counterintelligence effort is at all alive messes up the machinery and channels that handle highly sensitive data.

Impact on targeting. It is essential that espionage organizations be compartmented because security is crucial, and compartmentation is possible because these organizations operate against discrete targets. Operational coordination is not essential, for example, between components operating against a political intelligence target in East Germany and those operating against a military intelligence target in Romania. Espionage targets tend also to vary with the times, the emphasis of national policy, and ignorance of a given enemy activity. Counterintelligence, however, operates against one or another part of a single permanent, giant target, the Soviet and Satellite secret service system. The various components of the counterforce have to subdivide the job, coordinate their operations, and exchange a bulk of information just as any other army must. The conflict which arises between managerial concepts in selecting espionage targets (What's the current priority?) and counterintelligence targeting (What's the next move in the plan of campaign?) is obvious.

Impact on planning. An espionage organization generally makes its plans operation by operation. Counterintelligence services should plan whole campaigns on both strategic and tactical levels. They need to lay down an integrated strategy for perhaps years of struggle and correlate the efforts of armed forces, police, security, psywar, and defensive and offensive counterintelligence elements in composite groups or task forces.

Research and analysis. Espionage organizations pass their products along to customers who do the research and exploit the information. Counterintelligence, on the other hand, has constantly to re-collate and re-evaluate, study, and act upon the data it acquires. Most action it initiates will be based on its research for leads and vulnerable spots in target persons. Espionage components, when intertwined with counterintelligence personnel, complain that the latter are forever mulling over fragments of information instead of "getting out and recruiting someone": counterintelligence requires great amounts of office space and clerical man-power, while espionage operates best under utmost emphasis on outside activity. Counterintelligence action must conform with a formal strategy and research must support this strategy, whereas espionage efforts are directed by the requirements of customer agencies. The efficiency of both is lowered by attempts to merge them along command and area lines.

Public relations. Espionage organizations naturally shun the light of publicity. Counterintelligence must have public support and an understanding legislative backing. One of the most disturbing aspects of the present situation, we have noted, is the unawareness of Western governments of the role played by the Communist secret services. Counterintelligence should carry on publicity to make the people and their representatives aware. The espionage case officer, having to function within complex environments under cover, where the mere fact of his becoming known for what he is may be totally incapacitating, is justly hipped on the matter of personal security. A counterintelligence officer, like his police counterparts, can often operate almost unhindered blown.

Review and control. Espionage services cannot be supervised by any kind of lay board such as a congressional committee because espionage operations require extreme security precautions. Furthermore, they are so much a matter of luck and operational technique is so much a matter of opinion that from practical considerations supervision has to be left to experts. Since espionage organizations, when confined to their proper sphere, are relatively small, function only against foreign targets, involve no massive organization or other mass aspects, and have little effect on politics, lack of outside supervision, if it is a deficiency, is a relatively unimportant one. Counterintelligence organizations of modern design, however, will be massive, complex structures which not only cross national borders but have effects at home. They must be supervised by some independent reviewing authority, just as the armed forces must be so supervised; and the supervision will be of positive benefit in making the lay authority aware of the importance of their work.

Operational technique. Espionage agents are usually recruited through the so-called professional or "classic" covert approach in which one agent is used to recruit another. This practically never works in counterintelligence operations against a Communist secret service officer. The officer vulnerable to recruitment would be one in trouble and already thinking seriously of seeking protection from his service. Knowing its suspiciousness and the machinations it employs and being by now at least mildly paranoid and very frightened, he fears that everyone around him is reading his mind and so views any covert approach as a provocation by his own service. Any Communist secret service officer attempting to recruit a colleague in a vulnerable condition can accordingly expect to be turned in.

The underlying idea of our present operational concept has been precisely that we can accomplish such recruitments on a sufficient scale to warrant a substantial effort. In the German theater this concept has not paid off. Whenever agents have been "recruited" from within the East German security and intelligence apparatus they themselves have personally taken the initial step by presenting themselves to us. The only function performed by the "recruiter" has been to be on hand to accept the agent's application. Most of the voluminous information that has been obtained on the East German security system has been derived from defectors who either had been or were about to be thrown out because they were in trouble. Obviously, therefore, the way to get adversary officers to cooperate is to concentrate on psychological and neutralization actions which will get them into trouble, making their careers so shaky that they come to the point of approaching one or another Western service. This is a concept involving the use of large organizations able to maintain major psywar programs and is at marked variance with the no-noise mentality of the espionage agent handler.


Organizational Accident

Why, if there are so many conflicts of interest between intelligence and counterintelligence groups, are they so often yokemates? The teaming up appears to have been a side effect of peculiarities in the evolution of our covert operations system. The FBI, developing separately from intelligence as an element of the Attorney General's Office, was given only "defensive" counterintelligence functions. CIA, created to prevent a possibly fatal repetition of the Pearl Harbor attack, acquired counterintelligence functions along with its responsibilities for coordinating intelligence activities, for protecting sources and methods, and for running secret transborder operations. The CIC, a military organization, had responsibility for the security of the U.S. Zone of Germany thrust upon it and found itself embroiled with a vastly stronger Communist secret service system.

The development of these primary organs was warped by the extremely limited concepts underlying the laws and regulations controlling them. Moreover, the preponderance of controlling positions were occupied by intelligence-minded men who gravitated into them from other intelligence organizations. OSS men of the Wild Bill Donovan stamp and regular counterintelligence officers did not play much of a role on the levels where policy was made and organization formulated.

The predominance of intelligence-minded influence led both to the hamstringing of the psychological warfare program and to the fragmentation of the counterintelligence effort. In the formative period 1950-60, and especially after the Korean War, strong voices in the government were able to streamline the covert action organizations and many other Government components, removing built-in competitive features which the Roosevelt administration had developed to keep super-government functioning on democratic lines.6 No group likes competition, and intelligence groups are no exception. It was therefore quite natural on this ground alone for the dominant intelligence-minded element to make sure that counterintelligence should not get out of hand. In the German theater, rivalry and conflict between the CIC and CIA resulted in the eventual disintegration of the former, with potentially incalculable effects on the course of the covert war.

There is also a vociferous faction that raises a storm of objections the moment it is suggested that an effective counterintelligence organization be established. These people, the Gestapophobes, profess to see the threat of creating a totalitarian state in any effective attempt to close the dangerous gap between the capabilities of the Communist secret service system and those of our jerry-built counterintelligence. Still others are determined that nothing should be done to make the Communists angry, failing to understand that the Communists will do anything they dare to us whether we make them angry or not. However varied their motives, these seem all to agree on the necessity of keeping counterintelligence decentralized and subordinate.

It is of course true that there is real danger to democracy in any government-sponsored covert action organization. Making counterintelligence independent from intelligence functions, however, is actually a way to reduce this danger. Giving the responsibility for both covert and overt war to the same organization would also be hazardous. What we actually need is a triple setup--an overt war authority, an intelligence service, and an organ for covert war. The threat to our liberty today comes not from our covert action organs but from the increasing inability of the remaining parliamentary governments to deal with the Communist thrusts.


A Prescription

The first step toward mounting a sustained covert counter-attack upon the Communist secret services would be recognition of the fact that existing Western concepts and organization are obsolete and inadequate. It is true that CIA, within an intelligence framework, is attempting to coordinate the type of action called for and has here and there had some incipient or momentary success. The rate of achievement, however, makes the prospect remote that anything worth while can be accomplished without substantial changes in organization, new concepts, and the infusion of new drive. The existing setup is even a deficit in that it lulls people into thinking the underground conflict is being handled adequately, whereas in fact all that Western counterintelligence now does is bite the stick that prods its ribs, ignoring the hand that holds it.

The United States has to accept responsibility for leadership in the international covert war as well as in preparations for an overt one. Intelligence-mindedness, with its emphasis on knowing rather than doing, is out of place in covert war. The rationale underlying the terms counterintelligence and counterespionage should be discarded and replaced by concepts of covert counterattack and terminology reflecting them. The Communist secret service system is a major weapon, and the Western counterweapon has so far not been forged.


Elements of a Counterweapon

After this recognition of inadequacy, concrete measures could be taken--the separation of intelligence and covert war functions and the establishment of a covert war organization led by action-minded men. This organization should be chartered to mobilize, not to supplant, the existing counterintelligence components, U.S. and foreign, that are attempting to deal individually with the Communist system. The aim would be to establish coordinated covert task forces on a scale roughly comparable to the collective overt forces organized in NATO and SEATO.

Such a reorganization must perforce be preceded and accompanied by an information campaign designed to make the public, the Congress and other government organs, and NATO and SEATO understand the nature of and necessity for the proposed action. It must be brought home to those who influence the course of Western policy that an adequate covert counterattack would also open up a new strategy of indirect attack 7 upon the entire Communist power structure that could help break up the present stalemate.

The proposed organization, an old story in Communist areas, will be essentially new for the West, and it will have to be fitted into the framework of democratic government. That fitting will require experimentation. A pilot model could first be assembled to carry on the covert war in the German theater. Germany would appear to be the ideal area for test runs, not only because of the full-blown state of the covert war there but also because we have there a large margin for error and a reserve of good will. The required specialized manpower and volumes of compiled information are there in quantities as adequate as are likely to be found anywhere. The West Germans are still willing to accept our leadership; the East Germans are not yet communized.  Certain components of our own organization which could readily be integrated into a streamlined U.S.-German covert counterforce are already on the spot in embryo.

Regardless of where the new organization is assembled or under what auspices, it will need the following operational components in addition to the support elements that all covert organizations need:

  • A General Staff, composed of representatives of all participating services under a U.S. chief, to develop strategy and tactics and to plan and coordinate operations.
  • An Information Mobilization Division,8 to apply the most advanced methods of electronic data processing to the problem of achieving instantaneous theater-wide collation and interchange of information on the Communist covert apparatus, its personnel, and its victims and to supply thus the ammunition needed for operations.
  • A Neutralization and Corrosion Operations Division,8  responsible for the engineering of psywar operations, including the mobilization of informer resistance, against the Communist secret services.
  • A National Operations Office, creating special task forces and groups of forces to operate against the secret services of countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the USSR which have no Western counterparts as in the split countries. (Note that the German area offers good bases for operation against most of the European Satellite services.)


Strategy and Tactics

The strategy of the covert counterattack can be kept simple by confining it to a single mission, the unseating of the Communist security system by all methods short of hot war. The generic tactics can be equally simple: use the multiple vulnerabilities of the system to undermine and negate it, principally by mobilizing its informer and agent networks against it. With respect to the ruling Communist parties this effort would be in the nature of an indirect attack, striking at the basis of their power in a way that reduces the danger of hot war in direct proportion to its success without increasing it if unsuccessful.

Tactics that could be pursued can be described in detail. The East German security apparatus, for example, has serious internal vulnerabilities. Many of its officers have developed paranoid characteristics and vices which make them vulnerable to personalized psychological measures. The concentrated efforts the regime makes to insulate these officers bear witness to their fear of this type of assault. We are in possession of thousands of items of information which can be used to conduct this kind of attack. The East German security officers can be reached by many avenues; they are in fact the easiest of all East Germans to reach, because it is part of their job to watch the West.

It is important to bear in mind that the Communist security system--despite its weapons and its prisons--is essentially a psychological weapon: it works because it generates and maintains a high level of fear and inter-citizen distrust. It will begin to crack the moment the people recover the ability and the will to conspire against it. This fundamental vulnerability cannot be removed or offset by the communists; all those involved with it, including the Communists, hate the system.

The informers of the system are the ultimate basis of its power, and they hate it most of all. For them it is a selfrespect-eroding, bone-wearing, ceaseless imposition, forcing them to betray their friends in order to enslave themselves. A person forced to become an informer conceals his plight as he would VD and seeks somehow to arrive at an accommodation with the security service. He winds up as a stool pigeon for life without pay--a Judas without 30 pieces of silver.

The system counts upon the informer's concealing his status. The Western world has played into its hands in this crucial matter by directing a stream of condemnation and opprobrium at the hapless informer, not lifting an effective finger to help him defend himself. A psychological program aimed at removing the stigma and depicting the informer not as a Judas (Judas was a volunteer!) but as a victim entitled to his neighbor's sympathy would, if successful, do more to undermine the security system than any action undertaken against it since Lenin and Dzerzhinsky set it up. The informers can be mobilized, encouraged, and coached in many ways to frustrate the system. The security apparatchiks know this and have devised ingenious provocation programs to keep them in line. But the system has been able to control its informers largely because these victims have been left to shift for themselves.

If the informers and other captive citizens can be mobilized to engage in counter-judo in East Germany, the security system will be plunged into cumulative difficulties which will radiate through the entire Communist power structure. Many competent analysts maintain that the Communist Party itself must be attacked effectively and directly if the Communist regime is to be overthrown. Ultimately this is true: what is in question here is means to disarm the Party. The secret service system is what gangsters call "the difference," i.e., the weapon that keeps a man on top. A man having what it takes to become a dictator does not have to use a Gestapo to get power, but a Gestapo enables him to keep it. So long as the Communist security system is intact, the Party behind it cannot be destroyed.



In the past, Western agencies have individually launched small and ineffective psychological campaigns aimed primarily at the captive people--who are helpless to do anything but try to revolt as in Hungary--and the Communists themselves, who are beyond the reach of any but the ultimate argument. A correctly conceived, manned, and mounted international counterattack against the secret service system has never been attempted.

What can reasonably be expected of an international covert counterforce once it were established? We cannot expect from it the kind of dividends the Communists draw, because we cannot use it the same way. We can construct only a mongoose-like organization to destroy the Communist cobra. But it should be able to produce at least the following results, cited in the probable order of appearance:

  • We should put the Communists on the defensive in the covert war. This is a development they fear. They feel guilty about the security system and its need for secrecy, and this is one of the reasons they persistently refuse to allow any form of that inspection upon which the Western powers insist as a condition for disarmament.
  • The joint international effort would mobilize and collate information exposing networks of secret service operatives now protected by the dog-in-the-manger file systems of the many American and European counterintelligence components operating independently of one another.
  • It would substitute beneficial competition among the participating CI services for the hamstringing cross fire of today, putting pressure on the timid to act rather than react and attack the adversary rather than seek advantage in the flaps of other services.
  • The spreading knowledge of the new organization and its purpose would raise the morale of the captive peoples and tend to inhibit security service action through dread of the day of reckoning.
  • As harassment tactics became effective, their impact on conventional operations aimed at penetrating the vulnerable interior of the security services should be such as to restart the flow of defectors and eventually yield penetrations which would supply the "missing 20 percent" of information we need to bring the security system to the ground.
  • The agent inundation which presently overwhelms the defending Western services would be reduced, and their operatives now tied down with petty drudgery could devote their talents to the detection of high-level Communist agents in the West.
  • As the mobilization of the East German informers against the security system became effective, the system would get into cumulative difficulties which would eventually lower its effectiveness to the point of breakdown. It has to maintain a certain level of prestige and omniscience which, once breached, is almost impossible to restore in the face of persistent harassment.

Under the leadership of the United States the Western world has attained a level of international cooperation on the overt fronts which would have been considered impossible in other times. To fail to try for a similar level of cooperation on the covert front is to acquiesce in the Communists' possession of a decisive weapon without even trying to strike it from their hands.


1 These figures may startle some readers. They should not. XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXX has on file the names of some 70,000 persons against whom substantial charges of informing have been made by refugees and other sources. In 1961 the West German Ministry of the Interior publicly announced that there were at least 15,000 secret Communist agents in West Germany. In 1961 more than 2,100 persons in contact with an Eastern intelligence service were "identified and neutralized" XXXXX Of these about half come forward voluntarily and the rest were detected in the process of trying to carry out their missions. These statistics, even allowing for some inflation XXXXXX XXX X, show the magnitude of the threat to the Federal Republic.

2 XXXXX XXXXX XXXX XX 85% of the job of infiltrating West Germany with Communist agents and subversives is now in the hands of the East German service.

3 A category of sympathizers and operatives who support Communist operations within target governments without having much, if any, operational contact with the Party or a secret service. Those in a position to influence appointments arrange to have fellow travellers or counterproductive persons picked for key jobs. Those who can influence activity see to it that either counterproductive or worthless work is pushed and useful projects sidetracked. In the cultural field they can sidetrack anti-Communist literature, films, etc. and subtly push the party line in a variety of ways. Motivation appears to range from anti-civilization urges to outright control by blackmail or other means. Influence agents are practically not convictable.   The most they can be charged with is "honest error."   Their activities add up to subtle sabotage.

4 Sherman Kent's Strategic Intelligence, pp. 94-5, had warned of this danger with respect to a coordinating agency's production of positive intelligence.

5 For cogent descriptions of organizational weaponry and its potential see The Organizational Weapon by Philip Selznik (Free Press, Glencoe, Ill., 1960) and The Continuing Struggle (Chapter V) by Richard Louis Walker (Athene Press, Inc., New York, 1958). These books are at least on the right track. For the oblivious side compare Central Intelligence and National Security by Harry Howe Ransom, which reflects the blindness of intelligence-minded men to the counterintelligence problem, and the willfully blind Protracted Conflict by Robert Strausz-Hupe and others (Harper, 1959), whose authors take one frightened look down the counterintelligence corridor and scuttle on.

6 This phenomenon is well described on pp. 158-160 of Presidential Power by Richard E. Neustadt (John Wiley & Sons, 1960).

7 For a lucid exposition of the advantages of indirect attack see Strategy, by B. H. Liddell Hart (F. A. Praeger, N. Y., 1960).

8 Nuclei of these components already exist in the German theater.




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Historical Document
Posted: May 08, 2007 07:49 AM
Last Updated: Aug 04, 2011 02:39 PM