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 Moscow’s Assaults on American Democracy Began 80 Years Ago

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RR Phantom


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PostSubject: Moscow’s Assaults on American Democracy Began 80 Years Ago   Thu Jun 15, 2017 10:08 pm

Excellent short essay on how the Soviet Union attempted to influence American politics over the course of the past 80 years.

I have no doubt there are a plethora of other stories of this type, it would be interesting to see a modern compilation done with comments on their effectiveness and as a reflection on current intelligence and information warfare efforts by Russia.


Over the last nine months, headlines have reverberated with questions regarding the Russian role in “hacking” the American electoral process. On January 5, 2017, James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “The Russians have a long history of interfering in elections. Theirs and other peoples…This goes back to the 60s, from the heyday of the Cold War.” He went on to call Russian interference in the 2016 election “unprecedented.” In some respects — the scale and impact of the accusations — they are. In other ways, however, they are a throwback to an 80-year-old saga.

The role of Russia’s intelligence services in the 2016 election represents the revival of Soviet efforts that predate even the Cold War. “Fake news” and financial assistance to opposition candidates, two measures that define Russian influence operations targeting the West, both date to the Stalinist period and the rise of the Soviet foreign intelligence apparatus. In the 1930s, when these methods were first unleashed, the United States had almost no counterintelligence capabilities. Until the early Cold War, the Soviets proved reasonably adept at influencing American politics towards Russia and acquiring information. Only with the expansion of the FBI and the reorganization of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) did Soviet efforts at directly influencing American elections dwindle.

The Kremlin’s Man in Congress

Ironically, the House Un-American Activities Committee was built upon foundations laid by someone associated with Soviet intelligence. Among those on the payroll of Soviet intelligence (then called the NKVD or the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) in the late 1930s was Rep. Samuel Dickstein, a Democrat from New York City. He first came to Moscow’s attention when he assisted Soviet “illegals” — secret agents without an official Soviet cover identity — in obtaining false passports and visas in 1937. But he soon offered a juicier lure to his Soviet contacts: As founder of the McCormack-Dickstein Committee (formerly called the Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities), the congressman was actively involved in domestic intelligence operations. In particular, he offered to relay information on anti-Soviet activities within the United States by Russian émigrés. His platform for this would be the newly formed body, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, based on the McCormack-Dickstein Committee. Dickstein aimed to get a seat on it, and steer it away from the investigation of communists and towards fascists and anti-Bolsheviks. His NKVD handler Peter Gutzeit, under cover as a diplomat at the Soviet consulate in New York, wrote back eagerly to Moscow. Through Dickstein, Gutzeit said, they could gain information on “not only Russian monarchists, Nazis, Ukrainian nationalists, and Japanese operatives, but also, supporters of Leon Trotsky.” By 1938, Soviet operatives were passing Dickstein $1,250 a month, and planned to “throw him a round sum for the reelection campaign.”
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Moscow’s Assaults on American Democracy Began 80 Years Ago

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