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False Flags, Ethnic Bombs and Day X
Alexander Kouzminov was an intelligence operative in the 1980s and early 1990s for the KGB and its successor, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. He is the author of Biological Espionage, an inside account of his work within the top secret “Directorate S” where he helped implement Russia’s plans for biological espionage and biological warfare. He currently lives in New Zealand with his wife and family.
The California Literary Review recently spoke with Dr. Kouzminov about his past work and the dangers he foresees in an age of genetic engineering.
- During the 1980s and early 1990s, you worked for the KGB (later the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service) within Department 12 of their Directorate S. What is the purpose of these organizations?
Directorate S is the elite inner core of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) which carries out special operations in target countries primarily through the activities of so-called ‘illegals.’‘Illegals’ are a network of Russian (formerly Soviet) intelligence operatives, who are secretly deployed to the West and covertly operate under assumed names, masquerading as citizens. We prepared our ‘illegals’ for work in target countries for a period normally of 15-20 years (or even more).
- In the period of the 1980s and early 1990s the key tasks of Department 12 were:
- international biological espionage;
- running of ‘illegals’;
- cultivation, development, recruitment and running of agents (citizens of the Western target countries);
planning and preparation for acts of biological terrorism and sabotage on the territory of target countries, carrying them out in an event of a war and/or a large-scale military conflict between the Soviet Union (then Russia) and the West;
- supporting the then existent Soviet and then Russian biological weapons program.
I think that since I resigned, the work of Department 12 has grown. It is possible that there has been a change in priorities and new tasks have been added to the previous ones. This is because of the amazing achievements in genetic engineering and genomics and the growing possibility of a new generation of biological warfare agents. Also, there is the dangerous growth of terrorism in the world, which originates not only in ‘traditional’ rogue countries (e.g. Near and Middle East, Arabic and Muslim countries) as it was conservatively thought in the past, but in the West also.
While ‘illegals’ will work in target countries for 15-20 years, our agents (citizens of target countries) continued to work with the SVR all of their lives. In some circumstances we may use so-called ‘sleeping agents.’ A ‘sleeping agent’ is one who has lost his or her intelligence opportunities, but who is still important for Directorate S, and with whom contacts have been stopped, but may be recalled even after a long period of non-operation.
- What does it mean to ‘run’ an ‘illegal’ or agent?
- It means ‘control.’ In my time we had several ways to control ‘illegals’ and agents. Each residency (rezidentura) of the Soviet (then Russian after 1991) Foreign Intelligence Service overseas had a so-called ‘Line N,’ meaning ‘support of illegals.’ There were ‘Line N’ officers in each KGB and then each SVR residency whose prime task was to support the operations of Directorate S that were carried out by ‘illegals.’ It included numerous important tasks and activities, for example, clandestine meetings with ‘illegals,’ their surveillance, financial support, checking their contacts, and many other trade-craft activities, – it’s hard to enumerate all of them in a few words! In addition, a Line N officer had to carry out other numerous tasks, including, for example, approaching and cultivating potential agents – citizens of the target country, and recruiting them.In my case, when I worked in the Moscow Centre, I helped to control several ‘illegals’ in target countries (mainly in Western Europe), communicated with them, helped to train them, organised a network of agents in Western Europe, controlled my agents in target countries, worked with agents when they arrived in Moscow, etc.
- Did you have other duties?
- I also participated in the training and deployment of new ‘illegals.’ Finally, I assessed intelligence information from our sources (‘illegals’ and agents) in the target countries, mainly in England, Germany, and Scandinavian countries, – countries of my ‘European’ geographical Sector, but also those in the USA, Australia, and occasionally from Central Asian, Near, Middle, and Far East countries.I also organised new ‘commercial’ covers, including new covers in Western Germany, England and Hungary, and used them during my short-term assignments in Germany and Hungary.
- Can you give us specific details of agents or ‘illegals’ that you controlled?
- I can give you a few examples:First, two ‘illegals’ codenamed TREFY. They operated in Western Europe, especially in Western Germany. One of their tasks was to gather information about classified and secret military medical and biological labs in Western Europe, especially in Germany, and the research experiments that were carried out in them. Their other task was to seek out people who were involved in secret medical/biological experiments or who had access to them, who could be approached for co-operation with Russian Foreign Intelligence.
- In the UK was a husband-and-wife team codenamed ROSA and ROMAN. ROSA operated in England from the end of the 1970s under cover as a research-microbiologist. She worked in a scientific research institute in a town near London. The institute was involved in experiments with potentially dangerous pathogens of lethal human and animal diseases, and we justly presumed that it was also involved in England’s covert biological warfare program. Copies of reports about the results of experiments in her lab came from ROSA regularly. She also sent ‘live stuff’: test tubes and ampoules with cultures of new strains, media, samples of new vaccines, etc. ROMAN, a molecular biologist by training, was sent as her back-up. He completed his PhD in one of London’s universities, and became a member of the young scientific research community. His primary task at this stage was to help ROSA gain intelligence information about secret microbiological research experiments, and the secret study and cultivation of research-biologists and government officials with good prospects in areas of interest to Department 12. ROMAN died in a car accident in 1984, shortly after finishing his PhD while both ‘illegals’ were on holiday in Italy.
I helped to train an ‘illegal’ codenamed ANVAR who was deployed to Western Europe to work in Scandinavian countries and in the UK. His primary tasks were biological espionage and support in the development and cultivation of agents.
- One of my agents, codenamed RIO, was born in Brazil. He operated in Portugal and in France. His long-term assignment as a young research microbiologist included penetration into the Pasteur Institute in France, one of Department 12’s main targets in that country. We also planned to use RIO in the USA.
Another of my agents, YAN, was a young medical doctor from East Germany who operated in Western Germany. We planned to use him for the secret study of Western specialists – medical researchers, biologists and officials – with the ultimate goal being their recruitment. He was also directed to obtain information about German genetic-engineering research with dangerous pathogens, and the protective and preventive measures against them that existed in Germany. YAN was to learn the addresses of research laboratories, institutes, centers and military facilities in the countries of Western Europe that were undertaking covert experiments with recombinant micro-organisms, and to develop relationships with their researchers and officials.
- In addition, I would like to mention a few ‘illegals’ who I did not control, but about whom I write in my book. It is hard to name all of them in the interview, but if a reader is interested in more details about how Directorate S works with ‘illegals’ and valuable agents, he may find more details in my book.
- Another husband-and-wife team of illegals, Elena and Dmitry Olshevsky, operated in Canada in the 1990s. They were arrested in 1996 and sent back to Moscow in 1998. In Toronto, they lived under the names of Ian and Laurine Lambert.
- The ‘illegals’ Igor and Natalia Lyuskow, were documented as citizens of the UK under the names of James Peatfield and Anna Marie Nemeth. They were arrested with British passports during their training assignment in Western Europe in 1992.
- Before my time there was the famous husband-and-wife team of Moris and Leontina Cohen, aka Peter and Helen Kroger (codename DACHNIKI). They operated at the start of the 1940s in the USA and made enormous contributions to the Soviet efforts to obtain atomic secrets. Moris Cohen also was the head of an agent-network codenamed VOLONTERY (Volunteers) in the USA. Later, in the 1950s – till 1961, under new cover they operated in England. In England, this husband-and-wife agent team was put under the control of Gordon Lonsdale, aka Konon Molody, of the KGB Illegal network. Until 1961, these illegals gathered and transferred to the Soviet Union Britain’s most valuable secrets about the creation of biological weapons.
- There are many frightening aspects to your book, but I found the most chilling to be ‘Day X.’ Would you tell us what that is and what is scheduled to happen?
- The formula ‘Day X’ in our documents meant the beginning of a large-scale war against the West. Our Department 12 (together with Department 8, – in charge of preparing acts of sabotage and terror on the enemy’s territory in an event of war and/or a large scale military conflict) had to participate in this through so-called ‘direct actions,’ which were clandestine acts of biological sabotage and terrorism against ‘potential strike targets’ on the enemy’s territory.
- The ‘potential strike targets’ were:
- army targets, including classified military biological and medical research labs/centers; biological warfare ammunition stockpiles; military garrisons and bases; and military biological (and other) defense commands, including those that were looking after surveillance of biological weapons activities;
- civil (or so-called ‘soft’) targets, including public drinking-water supplies, food stores, and processing plants; water purification systems; vaccine, drug and toxin repositories; pharmaceutical and biotechnological plants, etc; and
- the economy of a potential enemy.
- The list of potential targets could be extended.
Terrorist ‘illegals’ who were trained for ‘direct actions’ were to be used in the event of ‘Day-X.’ Among the ongoing tasks of Department 8 were the training of deep-core agents, ‘illegal’ terrorists, and fighters responsible for the preparation and carrying out of single and massive terrorist acts, acts of sabotage and diversion, and the assassination of key officials in important positions in various target countries in the event of a large-scale war or a local military conflict of the Soviet Union.
The close partnership of Department 12 and Department 8 began some years before they were joined. We (some officers of Department 12) were requested to advise them (Department 8) of vulnerable targets on foreign territory, the kind of targets the destruction of which – or even short-term disruption of which – could have severe ecological, agricultural and public health consequences. More details about our partnership I provide in my book.
Our ‘tools’ for these actions included first and foremost, terrorist ‘illegals’ whom we had planted in the target countries. These were the most reliable, well-trusted special agents.
- Were these ‘illegals’ in place during your employment and did they possess the biological weapons to unleash if asked to do so? What countries were they working in, and do you believe that a plan for biological terrorism still exists?
- ‘Illegals’ who worked during the period of my employment did not possess biological weapons, if you mean the Soviet-Russian biowarfare agents. They may have been provided with them in the case of war.I think that the plans for state-sponsored bioterrorism do not exist today, except probably for the bioterrorism threat from a rogue country. The main threat of modern time is bioterrorism and/or biosabotage, which may be performed by terrorist organizations, fanatic religious groups and sects, or by a not mentally or psychologically stable scientist (or scientists).
Just because a country is undergoing research in the area of biodefense (e.g. research experiments with highly pathogenic agents and biotoxins), doesn’t mean that this country is preparing for an attack on another. These could only be research and/or developments for its own defense. At the present time, it is very unlikely that any government (except probably rogue states) would launch a biological war and/or a big scale military conflict with biowarfare agents. This would require one country to be in hostile opposition to another, like was the case during the Cold War. Despite the present local military conflicts, the major atmosphere in the world has been peaceful. This is my belief, which may seem a little bit naïve.
- What is an ‘ethnic weapon’?
- ‘Ethnic’, or population-specific-weapons may be defined as weapons which will kill or damage only specific ethnic groups.Some genetic research experiments may lead to identification and isolation of specific traits of the unique genetic profiles of some ethnic groups. These research experiments show that ethnic specific genetic sequences (or target sequences) do exist in considerable high numbers. New modern genetic engineering methods are indeed available to translate specific genetic sequences into markers or triggers for certain biological activity. It appears that so-called ‘ethnic’ specific biological weapons may indeed become possible in the near future. Ethnic, or ‘genotype-targetable’ weapons, would employ differences in gene frequencies among specific human populations to incapacitate or kill selected target population groups with a selected genetic cluster. Future insights into the genetic basis (DNA ethnic groups’ profiles uncovered by the Human Genome and the Human Genome Diversity Projects) of biological differences between human beings are likely to uncover hereditary traits that could be used to military advantage.
- Do you know if research into an ethnic weapon is being carried out anywhere in the world?
- There have been several scientific research publications regarding research experiments on human genome and in the area of human genomics. They quite obviously show that this research may lead to the development of this new type of weapon, if not now, possibly in a foreseeable future.I don’t know the definite answer to the question whether this type of weapons already has been developed or not, because you, I believe, understand that it would be a top secret.
- You mention an interesting intelligence technique called ‘false flag’ recruitment. What is that, and can you tell us of any specific instances that you were aware of?
- As a rule, this method of recruitment was used by the Soviet and then Russian Foreign Intelligence Services when it (on the basis of secretly studying the ‘object of cultivation’ – a citizen of a target country) was sure that it would be impossible to approach and recruit in the name of the Soviet-Russian intelligence service. We would instead let the person believe they were providing intelligence to another organization.Normally, Directorate S would recruit in the name of the following types of organisations:
- non-harmful ones, for example an ‘ecological’ and/or ‘free-trade movement’, ‘fighters for world peace’, ‘for clean environment’, ‘for clean genetic technologies’ or ‘a GE-free society’, ‘medical doctors for peace’, a religious group and/or sect, and many other similar ones, – a reader may imagine the rest;
- in the name of another (Western) country’s secret intelligence service and/or police;
- or even in the name of a terrorist or extremist organisation.
I mention in my book that for such serious operations (recruitments using ‘false flag’) Directorate S usually used its Special Reserve Officers which are active ‘illegals’ still operating in target countries, former ‘illegals’, and career professionals, who, after lengthy years of overseas work, were recalled to the Moscow Centre and assigned to the staff of Directorate S in order to carry out the most important assignments in target countries.
In the case of ‘false flag’ recruitment, Russian intelligence carries out recruitment in such a way that it cannot be found out that in reality he or she has agreed to work for Russian Intelligence, rather than for, for example, say Islamic Fundamentalists, Interpol, MOSSAD, MI6, MI5, FBI, CIA, or Chinese Intelligence (GRI), several philanthropic organisations, ‘research centres,’ etc., under which names the person might have been approached ‘for help.’ Through all the years of their ‘co-operation,’ Directorate S would continue to preserve the source’s belief that he or she is being controlled by people from ‘overseas ecological’, ‘economic’, ‘free-trade’, centres; or from ‘terrorist’, ‘religious’ centres, or from Lyon, Jerusalem, London, Washington or Beijing, and not from the Moscow Centre.
- During your tenure were you aware of any specific ‘false flag’ recruitments. Can you tell us what country it took place in and what organization they thought they were working for?
- Directorate S used ‘false flag’ recruitments during my tenure in the Illegal Intelligence but I don’t know details of such highly secured and secret operations. These are known only to a very closed circle of operatives of Directorate S. Namely they are limited to a maximum 4 people: (a) the head of Directorate S, (b) the head of the Special Reserve Department (Department 1), (c) an ‘illegal’’ who carries out this recruitment, and (d) an officer who controls the ‘illegal.’ I have heard from my experienced colleagues, who had been involved in that type of recruitment, that several recruitments of valuable sources in target countries were performed by ‘illegals’ using ‘false flag.’
- There have been virus outbreaks throughout the world in recent years that you suspect may have originated in laboratories. What are some of those, and why do you find them suspicious?
- Let’s talk, for example, about an outbreak in the Oblivskaya village in the Volgograd-Rostov region of Russia in July-August 1999.Experts of the secret Center of Virology of the Russian Defense Ministry located in Sergiev Posad have failed to identify (or were not allowed to publish their results?) and characterise the agent which caused the outbreak. According to an official theory which was put forward by the Center of Virology, the single thing which they could establish, is that the agent doesn’t belong to the first pathogenic category (category A) – meaning a category, which contains agents that were considered to be the greatest threat in terms of producing casualties.
- It is hard for me to believe that experts from this secret centre – in which there are more than 60 grand-PhDs and more than 300 PhDs, and in which there worked and continue to work virologists with world experience and international fame, and in which there are carried out classified and secret experiments on deadly bio-warfare agents – couldn’t identify the agent!
- Several independent experts, medical doctors and virologists, as well as experts from the Center of Virology in their non-official viewpoints, made the following important conclusions and statements:
- The official diagnosis (which was made straight after the first blood tests – which is already suspicious) was Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic fever. For this kind of verdict there is a need for more detailed analysis;
- According to a list of characteristics, the disease in the village was quite similar to the Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic fever. However, the symptoms of the disease were not typical for this fever or other well-known diseases, which are typical for this Volga region;
- In the disease, which had spread in the Oblivskaya village and other closely located regions, there were also found strange anomalies, which weren’t typical for this region;
- Before this case, there was never such a large number of people affected by previous Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic fevers in the region;
- The Chief Infections Officer of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Victor Maleev, expressed his view that the virus had no relation to the Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic fever;
- A pathogenic agent, which caused the disease outbreak in the village was an unknown engineered virus with characteristics that, according to a list of traits, most closely resembled the characteristics of the West Nile Virus;
- They concluded that in the village there was an accidental release of a synthesised virus. Among the reasons for their conclusion:
- during the analysis of the genetic structure of the virus, there was a shocking result – in the RNA structure of a virus from the Oblivskaya samples was found a fragment, which was identical to the Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic virus; however all the other fragments of the virus’ structure were not like any other viruses;
- the first people affected were only policemen who worked on the freeway and who confiscated strange canisters, as it was presumed, with chemicals, which were transported without necessary documentation through Oblivskaya;
- the disease had other clinical characteristics, which were different from the Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic and West Nile fevers, that are described in the medical literature;
- West Nile virus is not particularly deadly and causes only mild flu-like symptoms in most people.
- There were other suspicious claims, including:
- presence of army guarded troops and presumably FSB operatives;
- an attempt to hide the true information from the public;
- incorrect and misleading statistical data, etc.
- I have planned to publish a more detailed analysis of this mysterious outbreak in the future.
- How many people were affected by that outbreak, and how many died?
- In the Oblivskaya village, according to official data, 69 people were hospitalized and 6 people died during July 1999 (the peak of the outbreak). It is believed (based on research by independent experts) that this statistic was falsified. In the Volgograd region there were 700 people hospitalized and 36 people died. The outbreak also affected neighboring regions, including the Stavropol and Astrakhan regions.
- How do you envision a bioterror attack being executed?
- If there would be a planned bioterror attack, I think, it would happen in such a way so as to obtain a maximum effect. In my book I give some potential scenarios as to how it may be achieved. Even in 1970 experts of the World Health Organisation put out a report. According to the report, if 5 kg of anthrax were to spread above a city with a population of 5 million, about 250 thousands would be infected (affected) and 100 thousand of them would die if there were not preventive urgent measures against the disease. According to other data presented in 1993 in a report of the US Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, 100 kg of anthrax spread above Washington D.C. may cause deaths of from 130,000 to 3 million people.In March 2005 the Chief Executive Officer of Interpol, Mr Ronald Noble mentioned in his exclusive interview with the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News that (I quote): “al-Qaeda plans to use biological and chemical weapons; and its statements claim ‘the right to kill up to 4 million people’.” In the interview, Mr Noble warned that the potential cost of a biological terror attack left no room for complacency. He said that “How could we ever forgive ourselves if millions or hundreds… or tens of thousands of people were killed simply because our priorities did not include bio-terrorism?”
- I would like to provide you with some figures to show how a bio-terrorism attack may harm the country’s economy. For example, according to one of the expert commissions of the US Congress, if terrorists could cause an epizootic disease outbreak (an epidemic among animals of a single kind within a particular region), it may cost the USA economy from $10 to $30 billions. If we take into account the inevitable loss of exports, this figure may increase to $140 billion.
- You mention other suspicious outbreaks in your book including the “Navajo Syndrome” in New Mexico in 1993. When reading a non-scientific report of such outbreaks, what information will make you suspect a laboratory origin for the virus? Is there anything about the current Marburg epidemic in Angola that you find suspicious?
- Regarding Angola and other recent outbreaks, as well as suspicious cases with anthrax in the USA in 2001, this is a very sensitive issue, and I am not prepared to comment on it “off the cuff.” I don’t want to speculate about this; however I will perhaps state my views on this later in my future articles and/or possibly in a new book.Some words about recent events with SARS in 2003. According to the viewpoint of Professor Sergei Kolesnikov, academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, made at his press-conference of April 10, 2003, the virus was artificially created. He believes that the genetic makeup of the new virus is a combination of two well-known viruses. Kolesnikov also mentioned that their natural, but not man-made, combination in the natural environment is impossible. Academician Kolesnikov believes that this engineering may be made only in a laboratory, but not in a natural environment. He does not exclude that SARS was an accidental release from a lab.
- Your book implies that the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention has been consistently ignored by many countries including the United States and Russia. What steps can be taken to bring the development of biological weapons under some sort of control?
- Right now this is a serious and important question, and it can’t be answered in a few words. This question is currently discussed by many experts in the field of biological warfare. All of the experts have their own different viewpoints about this issue. In my book I give my own opinions from the view point of a former intelligence officer.
Some pre-publishing censorship by an authorised body might be also introduced. The key steps that I believe need to be taken are:
- There is a strong need for the creation of a new independent, internationally co-operative agency for biological security under the auspices of, for example, the UN – an organisation similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency – let us call it the International Biological Security Agency;
- Such an agency should deal with conventional, classified and secret biodefense research and clandestine biological weapons activities throughout the world and should have the power to enforce the active co-operation of all countries;
- There is a necessity of a good and active co-operation of the intelligence services to ensure that all possible future technological developments are assessed in terms of both their potential for what is good and what is harmful;
- I think that a need has emerged for an international law that would define personal liability for the results of molecular-genetic experiments, especially research experiments with highly pathogenic agents. This liability must be borne equally by the research scientist who produces new potentially harmful pathogens, and by the officials of the central government bodies that are responsible for the final decision to manufacture and use the organisms created in the research biotech lab. Acknowledging personal responsibility for the consequences of such experimentation should become one of the elements of a new code of conduct for microbiologists and geneticists;
- Within the framework of the new international law, an expert counsel from industry and academia might be established to spot evolving areas of risk in the biological sciences while using final products of their research;
- Some restrictions might also be imposed on the publication of the most sensitive outcomes (results of research experiments) in the field of the genetic-molecular research;
- Other possible specific ways, activities and technical measures are mentioned in my book.
- What is your biggest fear given the current state of biological science in both the private and governmental sectors?
- Lack of, or inadequate controls regarding gene-splicing technologies and experiments with potentially dangerous microbial pathogens.
- What is a worst case scenario without these controls?
- Thousands of ill people and/or hundreds of deaths would be the result if highly pathogenic microbial agents are accidentally released and it is not quickly identified and localized. There’d be deaths of tens of thousands even millions of innocent people in the case of a large-scale bio-terrorism act. There is also a high possibility of long-standing negative consequences of genetic disorders and illnesses in future generations, plus serious harm to the economies of many countries.I think, that bioterrorism and agro-terrorism (meaning agricultural terrorism and sabotage) will take a more covert and hidden, clandestine shape, becoming the secret strategy of terrorist groups, and possibly, rogue states. It is hard to catch and uncover who and from which side a bio-disaster was created.
- Why did you leave Russian intelligence?
- Corruption of my bosses. Moral grounds. I was happy to serve, but not to be subservient.
- Your book implies that the corruption came with perestroika. Can you briefly tell us about that?
- There was corruption in the Soviet Union as well, especially under the Brezhnev leadership. But it was corruption at the highest level of society.With perestroika, corruption from the highest penetrated into all state and government organisations, the courts and police. This did not exist under the Soviet Union.
- A large number of people want to gain political power and access to state funds, natural resources and use this public power for their private benefit. Authority figures often use their power to gain a financial interest in a business.
- What do you do now?
- I am currently a full-time senior environmental health science advisor (communicable disease and environmental health policy) of the Ministry of Health in the New Zealand Government. I have a Doctorate (PhD) in Molecular Biophysics from Moscow State University. I have completed and submitted my second Doctorate (PhD) in International Comparative Environmental Law (Biotechnology), which focuses on safety and risk assessment aspects, social, ethical, intellectual property and military outcomes relating to research on human genome and biological molecules.My current work is very specific and doesn’t have anything to do with my intelligence past. I would like someday to work in the academic world, in a university, sharing my experience and knowledge with young people and carrying out my own research. I would like to write another book on the issues which I have highlighted in Biological Espionage.
- Thank you for a fascinating book and for sharing this information with the California Literary Review.
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