This startling history of secret psychological operations traces the century-long rise of organized deception from the Russian Revolution to contemporary internet troll farms
We live in an age of subterfuge. 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. Even 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.
In this astonishing journey through a century of secret psychological war, Rid reveals for the first time some of history’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 Berlin Wall; the CIA backs a fake publishing empire, run by a former Wehrmacht U-boat commander that produces Germany’s best jazz magazine.