Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Soviet Bloc AIDS Disinformation Campaign

America.gov has a site that exposes propaganda. They recently discussed the KGB disinformation campaign about AIDS:

The origins of AIDS disinformation
— By Todd Leventhal, 9 January 2009

I had an interesting conversation on Dec. 22 with Thomas Boghardt, the historian at the International Spy Museum in Washington, and Oleg Kalugin, former Major General in the KGB, who is a member of the museum’s advisory board.

Thomas is researching the Soviet Bloc AIDS disinformation campaign and wanted to talk with me about it. I showed him a copy of the original covert disinformation press placement on this issue – a July 16, 1983 story in the Indian English-language newspaper Patriot, which was set up by the KGB.

The article, “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments,” purported to be an anonymous letter from a “well-known American scientist and anthropologist.” But several language errors revealed it was not written by a native English speaker.

First, it referred twice to the “virus flu,” instead of the “flu virus,” as English speakers say. At another point, it talked about the “real danger that AIDS may rapidly spread to India with the grave consequences to the people of the country.” A native English speaker would say “grave consequences,” not “the grave consequences,” probably followed by “for” instead of “to.” There is no definite article, aka the word “the,” in Russian, so Russian speakers frequently use a “the” when they shouldn’t – a further clue to the article’s origin.

The article also showed the signs of thorough, professional research characteristic of KGB’s Service A, which was responsible for disinformation. It cited The Army Research, Development and Acquisition Magazine, an odd magazine for an anthropologist to be reading. Oleg Kalugin noted that Soviet intelligence officers pored through obscure U.S. government publications on a regular basis, searching for something that could be taken out of context and used for their purposes.

In March 1992, then-Russian foreign intelligence chief (and later Russian Prime Minister) Yevgeni Primakov admitted that the KGB had concocted the AIDS-made-by-Pentagon story. The Russian newspaper Izvestiya reported on March 19, 1992:

"[Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists’ “crafty” plots were fabricated in KGB offices."

In Oleg’s estimation, Russian disinformation and “active measures” went through a period of relative dormancy after the collapse of the USSR, but have revived. More on that later.

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