Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare

Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare

by Thomas Rid


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This revelatory and dramatic history of disinformation traces the rise of secret organized deception operations from the interwar period to contemporary internet troll farms

We live in the age of disinformationof organized deception. Spy agencies pour vast resources into hacking, leaking, and forging data, often with the goal of weakening the very foundation of liberal democracy: trust in facts. Thomas Rid, a renowned expert on technology and national security, was one of the first to sound the alarm. More than four months before the 2016 election, he warned that Russian military intelligence was “carefully planning and timing a high-stakes political campaign" to disrupt the democratic process. But as crafty as such so-called active measures have become, they are not new.

The story of modern disinformation begins with the post-Russian Revolution clash between communism and capitalism, which would come to define the Cold War. In Active Measures, Rid reveals startling intelligence and security secrets from materials written in more than ten languages across several nations, and from interviews with current and former operatives. He exposes the disturbing yet colorful history of professional, organized lying, revealing for the first time some of the century’s most significant operations—many of them nearly beyond belief. A White Russian ploy backfires and brings down a New York police commissioner; a KGB-engineered, anti-Semitic hate campaign creeps back across the Iron Curtain; the CIA backs a fake publishing empire, run by a former Wehrmacht U-boat commander, that produces Germany’s best jazz magazine. Rid tracks the rise of leaking, and shows how spies began to exploit emerging internet culture many years before WikiLeaks. Finally, he sheds new light on the 2016 election, especially the role of the infamous “troll farm” in St. Petersburg as well as a much more harmful attack that unfolded in the shadows.

Active Measures takes the reader on a guided tour deep into a vast hall of mirrors old and new, pointing to a future of engineered polarization, more active and less measured—but also offering the tools to cut through the deception.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374287269
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/21/2020
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 88,529
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Thomas Rid is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He testified on disinformation in front of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What is Disinformation?

1921–1945: Deceive
1. The Trust
2. Japan’s Mein Kampf
3. The Whalen Forgeries
4. American Disinformation
5. The Kampfgruppe
6. LC–Cassock, Inc.
7. Faking Back
8. Kampfverband
9. Red Swastikas
10. Racial Engineering

1961–1975: Compete
11. Dezinformatsiya Rising
12. The Book War
13. Operations Plan 10–1
14. The X
15. The Fifth Estate

1975–1989: Escalate
16. Field Manual 30-31B
17. Service “A”
18. The Neutron Bomb
19. Peacewar
20. Nuclear Freeze
21. Nuclear Winter
22. AIDS Made in the U.S.A.
23. The Philosophy of “AM”

1990–2014: Hack
24. Digital Measures
25. First Digital Leaks
26. Anonymous
27. Sofacy

2015–2017: Leak
28. Election Leaks
29. Guccifer Two
30. Trolled
31. The Shadow Brokers

A Century of Disinformation

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