Western intelligence has been a target of Kremlin spies for penetration and disruption for a full century now, since the Bolshevik coup took power in Russia. For a hundred years, Russian spies—Chekists, to use the proper term that’s cited proudly by President Vladimir Putin, the chekist-in-chief—have sought to win the SpyWar against the West by besting our spies in the endless, dimly lit struggle between espionage agencies. Moscow’s victories in recent years, above all the Snowden Operation and the resulting espionage-propaganda offensive against the Democrats in our 2016 election, have been without precedent in the annals of Kremlin espionage.
Nevertheless, triumphant Chekists aren’t resting on their laurels. Their dishonest propaganda (properly termed disinformation) aimed at harming and discrediting Western intelligence continues unabated. As the head of counterintelligence for the U.S. Intelligence Community recently explained, Edward Snowden’s stolen trove of more than a million classified documents continues to be released, bit by bit, nearly five years after the defector landed in Moscow, doing more damage to American and Western intelligence than ever.
Western counterintelligence—that is, the people and agencies who protect Western secrets and try to prevent foreign espionage—have always been of high interest to the Kremlin and its special services. Throughout the Cold War, the KGB tried hard to penetrate Western counterintelligence agencies, frequently with an alarming degree of success, and it poured out a constant stream of vitriol and insults, often fact-free, aimed at discrediting Western counterspies.
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