Did the Cold War affect Australia?

CIA versus KGB: The Intelligence Service War

Moscow and Washington are fighting for influence in the world with enormous espionage machines

A gentleman does not read someone else's mail, ”declared US Secretary of State Henry Stimson in 1929 and forbade his office to decipher the telegrams of foreign diplomats. Only in the emergency of the Second World War did the United States establish a central foreign intelligence service. But President Harry Truman distrusts the clandestine power, and in 1945 the service will be disbanded.

Moscow, on the other hand, has long had a powerful espionage apparatus that has managed to spy out the US nuclear program. In 1946 this fake game was made public - and made the proponents of a compromise with the USSR look naive.

This is one of the reasons why Truman called an agency into being again on July 26, 1947, which was supposed to bundle and evaluate the findings of the various, mostly military, reconnaissance departments: the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. Shortly afterwards, when the Communists were threatened with an election victory in Italy, Truman granted the CIA ten million dollars from black coffers, which they used to run covert campaigns, spread propaganda lies, and paid crooks to tear down KP posters. Italy's Christian Democrats beat the left by a clear margin.

The success of this method encourages the supporters of covert operations. In 1953 the CIA organized the overthrow of the Iranian government in favor of a pro-American monarch. In 1954 the Agency staged a similar coup in Guatemala. Seven years later, however, it spectacularly fails to overthrow the Cuban ruler Fidel Castro with the help of a rebel force. From then on, Castro is the target of sometimes adventurous assassination plans up to poisoned diving suits and cigars.

Industrial espionage is gaining in importance

On the opposing side, the “Committee for State Security”, or KGB for short in Russian, secretly supports revolutions in Latin America and the former European colonies in Africa and Asia, and later also terrorist groups such as the IRA in Northern Ireland or the RAF in West Germany. Although the USSR is acting more cautiously than many observers in the West assume, its agents repeatedly carry out sensational assassinations, often with poison.

From the Kremlin's point of view, industrial espionage is more important: In order to compensate for the deficit with replicas, Moscow agents steal blueprints for fighter planes, space shuttles, computers and military equipment. This is a risky business for spies on both sides. Only a few that are exposed are exchanged over the soon-to-be-famous Glienicke Bridge between West Berlin and Potsdam. How many perish in the quiet struggle that both sides fight with all the hardship remains uncertain.

USA relies on technology for spying

In the course of time, the USA in particular replaced scouts and defectors with technology: radar stations and radio listening systems, spy planes and satellites with high-resolution cameras; the National Security Agency set up by President Truman as a special service for the investigation of telecommunications becomes the largest foreign intelligence service in the USA.

By the end of the Cold War, gigantic espionage and defense empires emerged on both sides. The KGB, which, however, also has to monitor and discipline its own population, has a good 700,000 employees. The number of agents, senior officers, engineers, technicians and foreign speakers, administrators, scientists of all kinds employed by the various US intelligence services may be on a similar scale.

They don't just read other people's mail. They also tapped their phones, hacked their computers, bugged their bedrooms. Steal, kill, blackmail. Without scruples, hardly regulated: The Cold War gives the secret services greater power than ever before. Because the less the conflict between the nuclear powers can be carried out militarily, the more bitterly they duel in the dark.