Meanwhile in Army…
they study more and more advanced methods of modern warfare. [via]
Meanwhile in Army…
they study more and more advanced methods of modern warfare. [via]
Explaining it to the internet.
For some time now, as a side project, I have been meeting with a former KGB operative, since it relates to my background in interrogation research and…because I used to play spy instead of barbies - and who gets to meet their childhood alter ego?
So this ongoing interview will cover his experience & assignments, life as a KGB in cold war Russia and his life now in the US. The idea is not just to look at the techniques, training and related Soviet science, but to share the story of a once deadly man who wants to make a change in his life. Sounds like a movie with Liam Neeson, yah? Well, this is where I share little snips of it with you, like this:
What area was your work focused?
xKGB: KGB Counterintelligence field office, then KGB espionage division. Working “American direction”, with American citizens. Then SBU espionage against Russia… when I was preparing to kill Russian President Yeltsin.
Torturing the Body and Mind
In light of a recent Wired article about psychopharm use during Gitmo interrogations, we revisit this topic:
In your experience, what types of techniques of psychological torture were used?
xKGB: Forcible narcotics addiction - here you can use also depressants, stimulants, opiates or hallucinogens (psychedelics), depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, antianxiety drugs with effects of euphoria, tension reduction, disinhibition, muscle relaxation, drowsiness; stimulants (cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (crystal meth).
Once you’ve made an addict, information can be easily obtained, the drug has now become more important than the protection silence offered… if you are not mad by then.
According to reports, Haldol is our choice “sedative” in Gitmo. A footnote in the Pentagon’s inspector general report (p.4) explains that:
Haldol is antipsychotic used in the treatment of schizophrenia and, more acutely, in the treatment of acute psychotic states and delirium. Side-effects of Haldol include; anxiety, dysphoria, and an inability to remain motionless.
What we know:
Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given ‘mind altering drugs,’ including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums.”
A patient on Haldol can develop long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders. […] But did they consent? (No.) Did the medics consult the prisoners’ medical background before administering drugs? Were prisoners still under the effect of the drugs during interrogation? The report concludes: very likely.” [via]
I then asked my contact, “Given the psychological effects of these drugs, how reliable is the information?”
"Don’t babble! Keep your tongue behind your teeth!"
Since the early 1990s, the opening of intelligence archives in the United States and Eastern Europe has done much to enhance our understanding of the operations of intelligence agencies during the cold war.
A major exception to this trend, however, has been the files of the Soviet KGB.
For a brief period following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, researchers gained limited access to the files. (…) —but the doors soon slammed shut, and much of what we know about the KGB still comes from memoirs or unorthodox sources…
Most of these materials, moreover, have dealt with the KGB’s activity abroad and have not shed much light on the service’s role in repression at home. - via CIA.gov
Re: Women in the KGB
It seems female agents were frowned upon, were they seen as a liability due to stereotypes, such as emotional weakness?
xKGB: Absolutely. But you’ve read about Maria Mikota - she probably saved Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill - if Germans killed them in Tehran, God knows how history would change from there.
How many female KGB officers did you work with?
xKGB: I had altogether around 100 agents, only 5 were women.There’s one very sensitive point with women agents - when they transfer the officer to other offices, other cites, he has to introduce the agents to his successor. I had 3 cases when women refused to work with other officers.
They got attached?
xKGB: (smiles) Of course.
xKGB: Well… (straight face) Yes.
Sprinkled in our conversation was his time as a sniper. Here he talks about how that work breaks down:
xKGB: “Kremlin” operation I was working alone - we can talk about it more. Sniper goes into 4 categories: first, military sniper - he works with a partner, who’s looking for the targets using optics.
Woman are the best snipers (they usually have lower blood pressure than man and they pay more attention to details. In Chechnya, Russian small Muslim republic where terrorists fight for independence since 1993, they pay women -snipers (soldiers of fortune) from former Soviet Baltic republics (Litva, Estonia) to fight Russian army. Every woman has 2 helpers - they count the dead bodies and keep an eye on the sniper.
Then there are mafia snipers - work mostly as a team. Next are espionage (gov) agency snipers - might be a solo, might be a team, depends. Last are “lonely wolves” - psychos who just shoot people in the street through a hole in a van, from the roof, etc.”
Then noticing we aren’t talking about him anymore, he redirects and with the driest of all humor, and half truths, he says, “I prefer to work alone.”
Above: Female Russian sniper [via]
Old KGB Headquarters in Budapest. It is a torture museum now, a photo by Joe Harper on Flickr.
I’m back in touch with my contact, a former KGB counterintelligence operative.
We will continue with our interviews looking at his experiences, training and the psychology of the KGB. I’ve joined with an amazing co-author who’s background in international security is sure to compliment this endeavor. Together, this promises to get very interesting.
In a recent conversation with my contact, we asked and he answered:
There is a saying about people being either trained or untrained: how influential was training at the Counterintelligence School or Intelligence Academy? To your knowledge, could someone obtain comparable skills privately?
xKGB: I can talk about myself. I started as a field officer and my boss didn’t want to send me to the Counterintelligence school for 3 years. During this time I got so much experience that at School they asked me to lecture other students. Intelligence is different. You can’t go work abroad at the station (legal or illegal rezidentura) without special training. Besides, experienced former spies have to share their knowledge with you - it’s very important. I don’t know how you get this privately - via Hollywood movies ? No way.
It’s “attitude adjustment hour” at the Russian Vodka Room.
ABOUT MY SOURCE
Born in Kolomiya, his father was a deputy mayor and his mother worked at a bank. He displayed early signs of intelligence, excelling in school and graduating at the top of his class. In 1975, a friend of his got him a Beatles record and he started the first rock band in his town, playing for 5 years at the University… songs about Lenin and the Communist Party.
"I wanted to be a spy since I was 10, maybe," he says. But first he had to get higher education and join the Communist Party. He quickly adds, "I never believed in Communism. The thing is - KGB officers were 100% Communists but KGB was very independent, it was a “state inside a state”. Communism is a dead-end project because if there’s no competition, there’s no quality and there’s no progress.”
He was then recruited by Chernovtsy, Regional KGB Department (2nd,counterintelligence division) and he states that it changed his personality a lot, “First, it gave me power”.
We will be discussing more personal aspects of my source shortly. I’m interested in who he is, what exactly changed and how did this effect his work in the KGB and how does it effect his life now, as he seeks political asylum in the U.S., to start a new life.
Above: My source in Kolomiya, Soviet Union, 1976.
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan still imprison dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. As a part of their stunning mutlimedia retrospective on the Soviet Union, RFE/RL reports on the Soviet roots of such a despicable practice.
When the KGB declares you insane. Your speaking my language with this post. So, of course I showed this to my ex-KGB counter intelligence source to get his off the cuff thoughts on this. And, as it’s becoming quiet routine with him, I get schooled and verbally paddled when it comes to thinking the psychology of the KGB is exclusive of the political environment. Honestly, I’m not sure how he puts up with me.
PD8: What do you know about this case, or instances of KGB putting people in mental institutions to keep them silent or tucked away… until they are truly insane?
xKGB: It’s a big question, bigger than you think. First, decent, intelligent people don’t go into politics and are not crazy about political power. Second, politics is all about economy of the country and money for political leaders. Third, both republics are just cards in a big geopolitical Russian and AMERICAN STRATEGIES - LOOK AT THE MAP. Fourth, if political opposition appears anywhere on this planet, they start looking for foreign support right away, mostry from USA (Russian opposition don’t even hide the fact that US Dept of State and different American foundations give them money.)
Now, about mental institutions: 1. Situation might be much worse- in Byelorussia, another former Soviet rep. people just disappear. 2. They don’t break your brain there - they just calm you down, mostly before and during elections. Some haloperidol, for example. It doesn’t mean that I approve this practice. And what about CIA holding suspects (“terrorists”) in secret prisons where they’ve been tortured ?
xKGB: Any wrongful act is subject to a psychiatricanalys, arguing that under socialism there are no social causes for criminal acts.Eskulpatsiya, is recognition of the insanity of dissidents, in one form or another expressing his disagreement with some moments of domestic and foreign policy of the Soviet government, carried out deliberately. For this purpose, mainly for psychiatric diagnosis: creeping form of schizophrenia and paranoid personality development.If and when I pursue this line, I’m certain for another stern “sit down”. Wish me luck!