Secrets of the KGB and Why It Fell Apart

Secrets of the KGB and Why It Fell Apart

The KGB, which stands for the difficult to pronounce, “Komitet gosu-dar-stvennoy bezo-pasnosti”, was the former Soviet Union’s main security agency from 1954 to 1991. It was the cause of widespread intrigue, fear, and gave no quarter to its enemies. On home turf, this might have meant crushing dissidents and sending them to labor camps, while abroad the KGB was said to have been involved in numerous kidnappings, assassinations, terrorist bombings, sabotage, and, of course, spying on the enemy. It had spies planted in the CIA and also had moles in the FBI as well as other global intelligence agencies and organizations. 

One treasure trove regarding KGB secrets came from one of its former officers, who went by the name of Vasili Mitrokhin. He defected to the UK in 1992 and handed over a massive cache of files. In those files were some eye-opening secrets. The collection has become known as the Mitrokhin Archive. They are said to be the largest known collection of secret KGB operations. So, if we are going to tell you some secrets, we should probably start there. What did those files tell us?

First of it all, it gave us the names of spies working for the KGB, one of whom was a British woman we featured in our most successful spies show. Her name was Melita Norwood, codename Hola, and she’d been passing on nuclear secrets to the KGB while working as a civil servant at the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association. Others named as spies where high-ranking detectives at Scotland Yard; a British journalist and later politician who said he was also moonlighting for the CIA, and a clerk working for the United States' National Security Agency. In fact, the KGB had spies infiltrating organizations all over the world.

Not surprisingly, a lot of their work was spying on and attempting to cause havoc in the USA. This included infiltrating the U.S. magazine Ramparts, which was a strong voice opposing war in Vietnam and was also famed for publishing Che Guevara's diaries. The files also show how the United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was bugged. If they couldn’t bug you, they somehow had people passing them files. Highly sensitive documents regarding defense were passed on to the KGB describing the activities of defense contractors such as Lockheed Corporation, IBM, and Boeing.

What’s perhaps more interesting to our younger viewers who’ve grown up in the age of disinformation is how the KGB spread fake news in America. Or at least they used sources to promote various opinions that the Soviet leaders thought Americans should be reading. The campaign to spread disinformation included having former New York attorney, author and conspiracy theorist, Mark Lane, write alternative theories about the JFK assassination. Lane has denied this connection, although a KGB informant for the CIA also said the same. The KGB was also partly responsible for spreading the rumor that the FBI director at one time, J. Edgar Hoover, was a homosexual. Speculation still persists about the man, although The Washington Times reported that there is no evidence supporting the claim Hoover was gay. It’s also said that the KGB had a hand in discrediting Martin Luther King Jr. and stirring up racial tensions in the USA in other ways. Lastly, the fake news went as far as to have a writer concoct a story that the AIDS virus was created by US scientists at an Army research station.

The documents also mention assassination plots of politicians and numerous traitors, plans to sabotage infrastructure all over the world, including the USA, and support of international terrorism. These files have been called the “crown jewels of Russian intelligence.”

One of the biggest ambitions of the KGB was to upset the power supply in the USA and leave many Americans without electricity. The plan was to destroy very big hydroelectric dams, the Hungry Horse Dam and Flathead Dam, in Montana. This would have had a devastating effect on the nearby regions and killed the power supply for the entire state of New York. On top of that, the Soviets planned to destroy oil refineries, as well as take out oil pipelines between the U.S. and Canada. It’s said once they had successfully done all this, under the name of Operation Cedar, the next step was to use the mayhem and darkness to plant explosives at the Port of New York to cripple commerce and exports. Christopher Andrew, a historian for MI5 who co-authored the book “The Mitrokhin Archive” with Vasili Mitrokhin, said much of the damage the KGB wanted to cause was aimed at the U.S. He told the BBC that Operation Cedar took over 10 years to plan, but he didn’t say why it never happened.

Let’s move away from the U.S. for a minute and head to Asia, where the USSR hoped to further spread communism. One of the countries on the list was of course Indonesia, and the country’s first president after liberation from the Dutch was President Sukarno. It was known this man had a love for the opposite sex, in numbers. It was also known that he had Communist sympathies. But the Soviets wanted leverage, so they attempted to blackmail him. They sent beautiful women to his hotel when he was on a visit to Moscow, all dressed as flight attendants, in order to lure him into a trap. What happened in that room was secretly recorded. According to reports, the president was not bothered at all by this, and even asked if he could get more copies from the Russians.

Another fairly amazing operation was to attract tourists to a rundown nation. That was the country of Estonia, and the KGB decided to build a very attractive hotel there and hope international tourists would take the bait. This was known as the Hotel Viru in the city of Tallinn, and if you were important, or on serious business, that’s where you’d stay in the country. Apparently after opening, it was often full of travelling foreigners, which was good for the KGB as they’d bugged much of the hotel. As the Daily Beast writes, “Unsuspecting guests were oblivious to the fact that their ashtrays and dinner plates came with electronic bugs, the sauna taped each conversation, and, of course, their hotel rooms were outfitted with secret microphones and cameras.” And this lasted for 20 years!

While that’s amusing in some ways, assassination isn’t. There were a lot of names on the KGB hitlist. One of them was Hollywood actor and tough guy, John Wayne, who it seems had rankled the Soviets with his outspoken, anti-communist stance. According to a book on the subject, when the FBI told Wayne about the plot, he replied, let them come, and I’ll deal with them. In an interview with the author in The Guardian, he said, “John shunned FBI protection and did not want his family to know. He moved into a house with a big wall around it." There was also a plan to kill Polish Pope John Paul II, who the Soviets saw as threat, especially to their power in Poland as this pope wanted to end Communist rule there. There were actually attempts to kill him, and one was almost successful. This has been blamed on the KGB, the Turkish mafia, the Bulgarian government, and even the CIA. He survived, and in the end, he did help bring down Soviet Communism.

Lastly, the KGB supported international terrorism, arming the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and also helping the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in their many plane hijackings. The KGB took credit for numerous attacks on Jews that killed scores of people, according to the National Review.

So, what was the end of this surreptitious and often violent organization? That came after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was taken over and transformed into what was called the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK). That only lasted four years, and became the current Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB). The main reason for getting rid of the name KGB forever was that its chief before it was taken over, Colonel-General Vladimir Kryuchkov, had attempted to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev. Of course, that didn’t work, and that was the end of this powerful organization.

So, does any of this information surprise you? Let us know why or why not in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called FBI vs CIA! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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