Dirty tricks: Harassments & Provocations studies 1967-1985

If you take a deep dive into the CIA archive, one thing that becomes apparent is the notable absence of material dealing with HUMINT tradecraft, save maybe for articles in ‘Studies in Intelligence‘. One document series does however shed a little bit of light onto the dirty tricks employed by the KGB.

In 1967, the Security Committee of the United States Intelligence Board (USIB) released the first study of ‘provocations and harassments’ against US citizens in the Soviet Union or Soviet satellite countries. The purpose of the studies was to aid various government departments sending personnel in those countries to prepare their staff for what kind of situations and attempts they might encounter, as organized by the KGB or its affiliate security services. Such attempts might have been part of attempts to recruit foreign citizens as agents through blackmail, or for the purposes of obstructing the work of e.g. military attaches and lowering overseas staff morale.

The original study had definitions for provocations and harassments:

PROVOCATION: Any action taken aginst a person, group or intelligence service to induce him or it to take self-damaging action. The provocation operation is most often the prelude to the recruitment pitch.

Examples of provocations given in the 1967 study were sexual entrapment (commonly known as honey traps), attempts to deal black market goods or volunteering by locals to commit espionage (also known as dangles), to mention a few. The study goes onto note that at the time in 1967, honey traps were most commonly employed against scientists, businessmen or other non-official visitors, while military attaches and government officials in turn were targeted with black market tricks.

HARASSMENT: Any action taken against a person or group to prevent or delay the achievement of the person’s or group’s objective. The action may be of an inconsequential or annoying nature escalating to one of major proportions. The harassment may also be a prelude to a provocation.

Harassments might for example take the form of cancelled travel reservations, physical searches by security services, sabotage of vehicles or obstructive physical surveillance.

The real beef of the studies are the examples of attempts or successful ploys that overseas personnel had been targeted with. Some are borderline comedy, such as the case of a military attache who received three walk-ins during one 2½ hour time period.

1967 study: three walk-ins in a few hours

Another case describes an incident which was triggered in an attempt to recruit an American official through coercion.

1967 study: honey trap sprung, which was followed by a recruitment attempt through blackmail by the local intelligence service

The later studies expanded coverage to incidents in Cuba and China. One example from China below.

1984 update: Chinese security officials soliciting information on American official’s  local contacts

Below is a list of all the related document I’ve found so far in this series. Not many of the reports are complete, but the cases are are interesting read, nonetheless.

Document description Pages Date
First report, 1967. (Mentioned in SECOM-D-342) 26p 1967
Report of July 1978. SECOM-D-342 9p July 1, 1978
SECOM-D-342, only page 18 9p March 9, 1981
Cases submitted to update in 1982 5p June 25, 1981
Report of June 1982. SECOM-D-222 10p June 24, 1982
Cases submitted to update in 1984 7p May 29, 1984
Cases submitted to update in 1984 5p July 26, 1984
Cases submitted to update in 1984 6p July 24, 1984
Draft of update to 1982 report, submissions spring of 1984 12p July 1, 1985
Cases submitted in 1985 4p August 8, 1985
Draft of update to 1982 report, incidents 1982-1985 25p September 24, 1985

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