June 10, 2009
Putin's Trojan Horse
For those who think the Cold War ended in 1991, this book will have you thinking again. Konstantin Preobrazhensky wants Americans to wake up to the ongoing agenda of the Russian regime, which he says under the rule of Vladimir Putin and the KGB has reverted to the intelligence-dominated repressive state of the 20th century. Preobrazhensky should know: he's a former Lieutenant Colonel of the KGB himself, who rose through the ranks to serve as advisor on Far East issues to Leonid Zaitsev, the Head of Directorate T (Scientific and Technical Intelligence) in the First Chief Directorate. As the Soviet Union collapsed around him in 1991, Preobrazhensky left the service, and worked as a journalist for the next 12 years before being forced to flee to the United States in 2003. Now he brings his insider's insight to this important new book about how Russian intelligence is operating inside the United States.
While the lessons of classic counterintelligence may have been forgotten by many today, those like Preobrazhensky who lived the life of an intelligence officer never lose that sense, that ability to recognize clandestine operations no matter how shrouded. The rise of the KGB president Putin marked a turning point in Russia's fledgling democratic experience, turning its halting progress towards a more open and lawful society into a rout when Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin in 1999. As Preobrazhensky makes clear, things have only gotten worse in the years since then.
In this, his newest book, Preobrazhensky describes in chilling detail how Russian intelligence uses the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) to extend Moscow's reach deep into America. He explains how Russian intelligence sends priests, who are in fact KGB recruited agents, into ROCOR churches across the U.S. in order to bring their congregations under the sway of Russian state interests and set up bases for KGB spy activity. Originally established by Stalin, the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) of the Russian Orthodox Church was a creature of the KGB from the start. To this day, its prelates have never renounced that association nor even sought to deny it. As Preobrazhensky says, "The collaboration of the MP with the KGB, unfortunately, is not a thing of the past, as many prefer to believe in the West." Now, Putin's KGB deploys its operatives under MP cover to penetrate ROCOR in an attempt to force it into the MP fold.
Once that foothold is established in the U.S. ROCOR churches, it becomes a "stronghold for Russian intelligence", as Preobrazhensky puts it. Given America's official squeamishness about monitoring activities, no matter how subversive, that are characterized as "religious," the potential for KGB influence and recruitment operations among ROCOR parishioners becomes all too real.
Part Two of Preobrazhensky's book is devoted to the destruction of free speech inside Russia under the Putin regime. For an all-too-brief time after the fall of the communist USSR, freedom of speech seemed to flourish in Russia. It was during the 1990s that Preobrazhensky himself began to write about the abuses of the Russian security services and became a columnist for the Moscow Times. He was well aware of the desperate history of journalism in his native country but writes of his determination nevertheless to make truth known.
Under communism, millions of Russians were exiled, imprisoned, and murdered for breaking the rules about state secrets-which could be anything at all, depending on the whims of the system. As Preobrazhensky explains, the fear of freedom of speech goes deep into the Russian psyche. Historically, since well before the Russian Revolution of 1917, journalists had to maneuver around police state controls on dissemination of independent thinking. Once the Bolsheviks took power, hatred for the very concept of free expression was institutionalized under control of the secret police. Newspapers and other media were commandeered to be the very tools of societal repression and journalists were co-opted to the purposes of the state.
It remained so for the next 70 years, until a brief window of freedom opened. But these days, as Preobrazhensky's last chapters report with the factual precision of the investigative journalist he is, Putin's Russia is dominated by a criminal capitalism, in which "the mafia plays a large role in economic life…They do not need freedom of speech." Because the top oligarchs favored by the Kremlin receive "privileges from the government by patronage, through criminal channels," Putin needs to protect them. According to Preobrazhensky, Putin delegated the battle with the independent press to the FSB (KGB). As quoted by Preobrazhensky at the start of Chapter 6, Putin's 2000 inaugural speech made quite clear that democratic institutions, such as the Fourth Estate, "must serve the interests of society." And so Russia's nascent independent media were destroyed. TV channels and radio stations were assaulted, litigated, shut down. Journalists were threatened, arrested, co-opted, prosecuted, recruited, and even murdered outright. Just like in the old days. In soul-smothering detail, Preobrazhensky recounts the stories of how television stations, once lively programming, and brave individual journalists, like the intrepid Anna Politkovskaya, were silenced across Russia.
In the final chapters of his book, Preobrazhensky describes his own experiences as a journalist, courageously writing exposes about FSB abuses. Few dared to tread this path, even in the heady, hopeful days of the 1990s. And those who did, like Preobrazhensky, ultimately had to make a choice between continuing to risk their lives on the inside or fleeing to places where they could still write the truth. In 1994, Preobrazhensky set off a firestorm when he published an expose of KGB operations in East Asia, The Spy Who Loved Japan. As he himself tells it, this book "revealed the hidden world of the Tokyo KGB station." Needless to say, this did not go over well with the Russian intelligence services. Payback was not long in coming and Preobrazhensky was harassed and surveilled, his son denied a much-sought-after university study term in Japan, and ultimately his apartment was assaulted and nearly broken into by police seeking to arrest him.
Realizing that life for him in Russia had become impossible, Preobrazhensky fled to the U.S. in 2003 and received political asylum in March 2006. Here, he joins the company of other fearless critics who speak truth to power, such as former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, who was head of Directorate K, the service's internal counterintelligence unit.
FSBs New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent takes its place on the bookshelf of important intelligence chronicles.
The language we use in describing the world around us can be a powerful tool for shaping public opinion and even national policy.
In recent months, especially the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable change in the use of certain terminology that skews the meaning of language relating to terrorists and terrorism.
During Sunday services in a Kansas church, Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed late term abortions, was shot to death. The crime was unconscionable, a blatant act of murder in cold blood. Many people labeled his murder as an act of terror.
Not long before Tiller's murder, Tiller was himself labeled a terrorist, by anti-abortionists who considered his acts of aborting near-term babies (thus terminating their lives long after they have become viable) mass-murder. This use of a term to describe the both victim and the perpetrator brings to center stage the question of when the word 'terrorism' can be accurately applied and how its use can influence public opinion.
The term 'terrorism' carries more weight than the term murder and is therefore considered to be a crime of a higher order. But what is the real difference between a crime and an act of terror? Which use of the term terrorist is correct, either, both, or neither? Another recent event helps clarify the definition.
When Muslim convert Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 24-year-old resident of Little Rock, Arkansas (born Carlos "Corey" Bledsoe), shot and killed an Army recruiter, and wounded another, the press initially avoided the word 'terrorism'.
The dead soldier, Private William Long was 'murdered' and the police raced to assure the public that " Muhammad acted alone, and likely carried 'political and religious motives." Little Rock police chief Stuart Thomas said the gunman targeted the military but was not believed to be part of a broader scheme. Early reports failed to mention any motive, although the killer was outspoken upon his arrest. He told police that he was avenging Muslims murdered by the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Did that make him a terrorist?
The media initially gave the story little coverage or failed to cover it at all. In keeping with a pervasive if misplaced sense of political correctness, they typically refuse to use the word 'terrorist' for real terror events, particularly when Muslims are involved. More comfortable words such as "insurgents", "militants", and "rebels" are the nouns of choice, even when the acts are clearly linked to known terrorist groups.
The new administration in Washington has encouraged this new trend by abolishing the phrase: "War on Terror." Guantanamo Bay prisoners are no longer prisoners in the "War on Terror"; they are now prisoners of "Overseas Contingency Operations".
What then is the definition of terrorism?
Surprisingly, terrorism is still a topic of wide discussion, and there is little agreement on how it should be defined. International agencies like the United Nations have long been at an impasse when trying to find a definition that will be acceptable to a majority of its members. Clearly, terror-supporting states like Iran and North Korea have no interest in supporting any definition that may hinder their long-term goals. And they have many allies and states beholden to them who can be convinced or coerced to vote against an 'unacceptable' definition.
In the United States, every federal agency has its own definition. The term is codified in United States Law Code. This definition of terrorism is contained in the section that requires Annual Country reports on Terrorism to be prepared by the Secretary of State and presented to Congress every year. Here, terrorism is defined as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents."
The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms defines terrorism as, "The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological."
The operative words reflect the view that terrorists represent larger groups and often act as their agents. This clearly tells us that we too should consider even the lone-wolf as a terrorist because of his associative actions based on the greater whole of like minded large scale attackers.
The inability of the government to define the meaning of 'terrorism' creates confusion which, fed by widely diverse political agendas, cloud the primary issue. If we fail to recognize the significant difference between crime and terrorism, our sense of complacency will be sustained and encouraged by the overuse or misuse of the term to elevate less fearful acts to the same level of al Qaeda style terrorism. We will lose our ability to stay focused on preventing another 9-11. Since the primary weapon that we have against terrorism is vigilance, anything that causes us to lose our focus and fall into apathy puts us and our country at great risk.
True terrorism is not merely one ideologically-driven group disagreeing with another (as in the case of Dr. Tiller), but rather it is an existential difference between socio-cultural life views. It can be said that the murder of Dr. Tiller has struck fear in the minds of doctors who practice late term abortions, because there is a real and proven threat against them. However, this does not meet the basic criteria of an act of true terrorism.
True terrorism bears hallmarks that cannot be overlooked, all of which are meant to evoke fear in everyone not aligned with the terrorists themselves. Dr. Tiller's peers may be in fear, but they do not represent a broad target of a general threat. Dr. Tiller was murdered because of his own specific actions, while no one else in the church was targeted. This is what separates a murder, even an ideological murder, from terrorism. Terrorism has at its focus on the threat of massive and indiscriminate loss of life.
In the case of Dr. Tiller, however, while there was a thread of ideology that drove the murderer to perform such a heinous act, it was an attack by one man against one man, it was not indiscriminate murder, and it was unsupported by any larger group.
In Private Long's case, however, the attacker was motivated by ideology against the whole of our culture, his goal was to kill as many soldiers as he could. There was no individual target. It is on these differences that we must not lose our focus.
When 3,000 people lost their lives on 9/11, fear lay heavy in all of us. As in any terrorist attack, there was no such thing as an innocent bystander. The bystander was the target.
In finally understanding the difference between the crime of murdering Dr Tiller, and the terrorist act perpetrated against whoever was standing at the recruitment center, two things become clear. It is the indiscriminate nature of the terrorist attack that differentiates them. The terrorist organization that trained Mohammad authenticates the terrorism.
Scott W. Winchell is Executive Vice President at Gerard Group International.
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