SCOOPING THE SOVIET PRESS

Created: 12/1/1962

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STUDIES IN

INTELLIGENCE

A collccilon ol orllcles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.

All suiemenis of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence arc ihose of

ihe authors They do not necessarily rcfleci official positions or views of ihe Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.

Backgroundensitive overt source of information that has been publicly exposed in

SCOOPING THE SOVIET PRESS

John chahdieV h

idafternoon press conference onresident Kennedy said that the American representative at the Geneva talksuclear test ban would continue for another week his efforts to make progress with the Soviet delegation. But within minutes after the press conference was over, top US. officials were summoned to the White House for urgent consultation. The reason for the hasty meeting was soon revealed to the worldtatement read to assembled reporters:. Government hadransmission of the Soviet news agency TASS for the press and radio in Central Asia which indicated that the USSR had decided to resume the testing of nuclear weapons. In an otherwise routine "international review" not to be released by the regional press and radio0 hours the next day Moscow time. of Augusthe newsmen were told, TASS had included the following observation:

The decision adopted by the Soviet Government on carrying out experimental explosions of nuclear weapons also serves the Interests of strengthening Ihe security of our country and other states of the socialist camp. These forced measures taken by the Soviet Government are Inspiredtriving toasting peace and create an Insuperable barrier to the unleashingew war.

This revealing comment, filed by TASS almost five hourspublic announcement of the decision In order that the regional media might be prompt in attempting to shape public opinion, was the beginning of the USSR's massive propaganda effort to Justify its new testing to its own people and to the world.. officials could also take advantage of the advance filing to prepare their own stand before Radio Moscow began Its worldwide campaign was not accidental, but the re-

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suitegular watch on an Internal TASS circuitat Kyrenla. Cyprus, by Foreign Broadcast Information Service monitors. This circuit hadood deal ol useful information sincend the gain realized in publicly exposing the operation must be weighed against the hazards therein to the source.

Cyrillic characters,runk line, earrylng0ay from Moscow to the Soviet hinterland. The vast bulk of the copy ls routine material more easilyfrom TASS's International transmissions andbroadcasts, someercent international "news"the Soviet view of world events andercent domestic propaganda like production pledges and achievements. Theremall service file providing guidance on how the material Is to be handled, where It Is to be printed, and so forth. But the special value of the channel lies In lis prereleases-speeches, communiques, notes, announcements, and"embargoed" for publication or broadcasttated future time.

The FBIS bureau on Cyprus has been able to monitor aboutercent of the total ale, the figure varying with reception conditions. Its mode of transmission demanded at thethe solution of certain technical problems such as the modification of twtnplcx teletype converters and theof teletype "baskets" to reproducerillic alphabet. The twinplexthat carries two transmissionsthis case carries the same material on both sides, one transmission lagging behind the other, as aagainst garbling by bursts of interference. It hasbeen necessary to monitor only one side of the circuit if fading and drift are overcome by careful tuning.

The material received is scanned at frequent intervals by the bureau's Russian linguists and items of significancein consultation with editorial supervisors. Of these an accurate English-language version is rapidly produced for transmission to Washington. When thereevelopment of major Interest, Washington Is alertedrief message transmitted over special radiotelctype channelsatter

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of seconds. Short informational summaries or excerpts of critical passages are sent first, followedomplete textual translation when'required. Occasionally the entire Russian-language staff must be mob Hired to get an item processed quickly, and frequently the Initial portionsengthy note or speech arc in the hands of the Interested offlcers Inbefore TASS has reached the end. The selection for processing Is coordinated rapTdJy withLondon, which receives material from BBC's monitoring of Moscow broadcasts and TASS International beams, In order to avoid duplication.

Value of the Take

On numerous occasions speeches written for subsequentby Soviet leaders have been carried In advance over the TASS Cyrillic circuit. Khrushchev's speeches, for example, have sometimes been filed as much asours before actual delivery and thus made available to the intelligenceand policy officesubstantial timeroblem In utilizing the prereleaseatter of Interest to the propaganda analyst lies In the fact that TASStransmits an extensive series of corrections to bring the advance text Into line with the speech as delivered or sometimes to eUrainate passages that may be sensitive

An unusual departure from prereleased material occurred during Khrushchev's visit to France Inhe circuit carried three speeches to be delivered by the Soviet premier, all embargoed "until furthers it turned out. one speech was delivered by OTomyko. and another was apparently discarded by Khrushchev out of displeasure with ungratlfying aspects of his reception. Such cancellations could give us evidence of contemplated Soviet gambits that never materialize, and knowledge of unsurfaced instances of accommodation or stiffening in Soviet positions could be of considerable value to the analyst probing areas of Sovietor lntransigcance.

A frequent advantage of the monitoring of this internal press transmission Is advance receipt of such materials asdiplomatic notes, which may be disseminated by TASS In clear text for releaseater date. During the Cubanof lastetter from Khrushchev warning Presl-

dent Kennedy againsthighly dangerous road" was intercepted and delivered to the White House before it reached the President through normal channels.

The TASS service file, although constitutingmall segment of the circuit's traffic. Is often revealing as to Soviet methods of manufacturing "publicomesticand republican press agencies are frequently told what

material "notnASS-asked forreports on public meetings denouncing"lights. Just before Premier Khrushchev torpedoed the summitIn Paris the same month, TASS carried numerous commentaries for use by the regional radio and press, but then suddenly advised recipients that "where possible, the various commentaries transmitted in connection with the summit conference are not recommended forajor Soviet Internal development was foreshadowedessage that the celebration ofh anniversary ofArmenia had beenact not formallyby Moscowumber of days.road shakeup In the Armenian party organization occurred.

TASS instructions accompanying items serve to control the content of regional publications and broadcasts. Copy Isprecededflag" Indicating what papers should use the material. The wordage is tailored to the level of therepublican papers, for example,ordshrushchev return to Moscow, territorial and regional (oblast), and district, town, andome items are accompanied by instruction on what headline to use, for example "Interference of the United States in the Affairs of the Dominicannsidelight is that when Khrushchev is scheduled toationwide talk, the papers are told that theis "not to be published on the front page orrominenteflection of efforts to hold down the "cult of personality."

Hazards to the Source

The monitoring operation, like all others in FBIS, Is done overtly, Intercepts from Soviet Internal circuits arewith the designation "Official Use Only" and not given

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to the press as much of the FBIS product is; but foreignare used in processing them, and they are radioedtext to Washington. It is to be assumed that Soviethas long been aware, through monitoring If lnway. that FBIS systematically intercepts andTASS Circuit. Presumably the need for rapid,dissemination of news and guidance to the regionalradio has overshadowed any

. scoop in being able to express dismay over theresumption of testing before Moscow could begin Its own worldwide propaganda Justification may. however, have brought the vulnerability of materials carried on the circuit dramatically to the attention of the top Soviet leaders and soeexamination of press copy disseminationThere are already tentative and inconclusivethat practices have been modified: no ImportantItems have been Intercepted since the White House announcement, and In one case only alternate takestory were carried on the circuit monitored. These anomalies may have occurred by chance, but additional equipment Isshipped to Kyrenia to check out the other half of the twln-plex circuit and branch circuits that hitherto carried only duplicate material. If the Russians were sufficientlyto avoid interception they could switch sensitiveto landlines, VHF circuits, or more complex modes of radiotcletype transmission that would make monitoring at least more difficult.

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