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Oh, that big 1982 Siberian explosion?
Fort Worth Star-Telegram / The New York Times ^ | 2/3/04 | William Safire

Posted on 02/03/2004 9:13:42 PM PST by Valin

WASHINGTON - Intelligence shortcomings, as we see, have a thousand fathers; secret intelligence triumphs are orphans. Here is the unremarked story of "the Farewell dossier": how a CIA campaign of computer sabotage resulting in a huge explosion in Siberia -- all engineered by a mild-mannered economist named Gus Weiss -- helped us win the Cold War.

Weiss worked down the hall from me in the Nixon administration. In early 1974, he wrote a report on Soviet advances in technology through purchasing and copying that led the beleaguered president -- detente notwithstanding -- to place restrictions on the export of computers and software to the Soviet Union.

Seven years later, we learned how the KGB responded. I was writing a series of hard-line columns denouncing the financial backing being given Moscow by Germany and Britain for a major natural gas pipeline from Siberia to Europe. That project would give control of European energy supplies to the Communists, as well as generate $8 billion a year to support Soviet computer and satellite research.

President Francois Mitterrand of France also opposed the gas pipeline. He took President Reagan aside at a conference in Ottawa on July 19, 1981, to reveal that France had recruited a key KGB officer in Moscow Center.

Col. Vladimir Vetrov provided what French intelligence called the Farewell dossier. It contained documents from the KGB Technology Directorate showing how the Soviets were systematically stealing -- or secretly buying through third parties -- the radar, machine tools and semiconductors to keep the Russians nearly competitive with U.S. military-industrial strength through the '70s. In effect, the United States was in an arms race with itself.

Reagan passed this on to William J. Casey, his director of central intelligence, now remembered only for the Iran-contra fiasco. Casey called in Weiss, then working with Thomas C. Reed on the staff of the National Security Council. After studying the list of hundreds of Soviet agents and purchasers (including one cosmonaut) assigned to this penetration in the United States and Japan, Weiss counseled against deportation.

Instead, according to Reed -- a former Air Force secretary whose fascinating Cold War book, At the Abyss, will be published by Random House in March -- Weiss said: "Why not help the Soviets with their shopping? Now that we know what they want, we can help them get it." The catch: Computer chips would be designed to pass Soviet quality tests and then to fail in operation.

In our complex disinformation scheme, deliberately flawed designs for stealth technology and space defense sent Russian scientists down paths that wasted time and money.

The technology topping the Soviets' wish list was for computer control systems to automate the operation of the new trans-Siberian gas pipeline. When we turned down their overt purchase order, the KGB sent a covert agent into a Canadian company to steal the software; tipped off by Farewell, we added what geeks call a Trojan horse to the pirated product.

"The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire," writes Reed, "to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space."

Our Norad monitors feared a nuclear detonation, but satellites that would have picked up its electromagnetic pulse were silent. That mystified many in the White House, but "Gus Weiss came down the hall to tell his fellow NSC staffers not to worry. It took him another 20 years to tell me why."

Farewell stayed secret because the blast in June 1982, estimated at three kilotons, took place in the Siberian wilderness, with no casualties known. Nor was the red-faced KGB about to complain publicly about being tricked by bogus technology. But all the software it had stolen for years was suddenly suspect, which stopped or delayed the work of thousands of worried Russian technicians and scientists.

Vetrov was caught and executed in 1983. A year later, Bill Casey ordered the KGB collection network rolled up, closing the Farewell dossier. Gus Weiss died from a fall a few months ago. Now is a time to remember that sometimes our spooks get it right in a big way.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

William Safire writes for The New York Times.safire@nytimes.com


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Russia
KEYWORDS: 1982; cia; coldwar; communism; communists; computers; doubleagent; embeddedsystems; espionage; farewelldossier; farwell; francoismitterrand; godsgravesglyphs; kgb; methane; naturalgas; pipelineexplosion; piracy; presidentreagan; reagan; ronaldreagan; russia; safire; siberia; sovietunion; spies; stuxnet; teachyatosteal; technology; theft; trojanhorse; vladimirvetrov; williamjcasey; williamsafire; worldwariii; worldwariiistory
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1 posted on 02/03/2004 9:13:43 PM PST by Valin
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To: Valin
Sometimes they're NOT bumbling fools.
2 posted on 02/03/2004 9:14:40 PM PST by Valin (Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.)
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To: Valin
Interesting.
3 posted on 02/03/2004 9:27:11 PM PST by nuconvert ("Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else?")
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To: Valin
There are many war stories from the Cold War that we will likely never hear. I will say that the same is true for the current war against terrorism (WWIV) that is being waged.
4 posted on 02/03/2004 9:29:56 PM PST by weegee
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To: Valin
I live in an area where a disproportionately high number of people are intelligence analysts or have some other connection with intelligence work. Several of them have separately told me that there are reasons we only hear about the CIA's failures. For one thing, they want the bad guys to think the CIA is run entirely by bumbling jerks, so they will be underestimated; they don't try to cover up most of the snafus. Also, some of the so-called mistakes aren't mistakes at all. The successes are never publicized.
5 posted on 02/03/2004 9:31:01 PM PST by Capriole (Foi vainquera)
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To: Valin
Reagan set them up the bomb.
6 posted on 02/03/2004 9:36:14 PM PST by Brett66
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To: Brett66
That's a keeper. :)
7 posted on 02/03/2004 9:40:36 PM PST by explodingspleen
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To: weegee
As I've said before much of this war is being fought waaay below the radar screen. Much of it is being fought by mid-level bureaucrats(little gray men) sitting in small cubicles at various federal depts. following the money trail.
8 posted on 02/03/2004 9:43:41 PM PST by Valin (Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.)
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To: Valin
Duping the Soviets - The Farewell Dossier



"We communists have to string along with the capitalists for a while. We need their credits, their agriculture, and their technology. But we are going to continue massive military programs and by the middle 1980s we will be in a position to return to a much more aggressive foreign policy designed to gain the upper hand in our relationship with the West."
Leonid Brezhnev. Remarks in 1971 to the Politburo at the beginning of détente.

http://www.videofact.com/english/farewell_dossier.html

9 posted on 02/03/2004 9:49:11 PM PST by Valin (Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.)
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To: Valin; Grampa Dave; NormsRevenge; BOBTHENAILER; Dog; Dog Gone
Great story!
10 posted on 02/03/2004 9:50:12 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got!!!!)
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To: Valin
Bump
11 posted on 02/03/2004 9:57:21 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi Mac ...... /~normsrevenge - FoR California Propositions/Initiatives info...)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
When was Red Storm Rising written, maybe it was a secret explosion as you think.
12 posted on 02/03/2004 9:58:33 PM PST by dts32041 (I am voting for grid lock, and a defender of the constitution.)
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To: Valin
"The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire," writes Reed, "to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space."

Gotta love it. Good find Valin.

13 posted on 02/03/2004 10:01:22 PM PST by SAMWolf (Elevators smell different to midgets.)
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To: dts32041
Found this at Amazon.com

Publisher: Putnam Pub Group; (August 1986)

14 posted on 02/03/2004 10:41:35 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got!!!!)
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To: dts32041
Red Storm Rising. August 1986.
15 posted on 02/03/2004 10:41:46 PM PST by DeepDish (This space for rent.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; Valin
Great Story!

By the time his second term as president was underway, President Reagan had all types of Trojan Horses underway for the Russians.

Remember the mean ole Bear lost in Afghanistan and basically everyplace they should not have been.
16 posted on 02/03/2004 10:51:49 PM PST by Grampa Dave (John F' Kerry! You are not John F. Kennedy!)
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To: DeepDish
All your computer chip are belong to us.
17 posted on 02/03/2004 10:53:56 PM PST by GOPyouth (De Oppresso Liber! The Tyrant is captured!)
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To: GOPyouth
Gosh! I lose out to ernest at the beach by 11 seconds and you want all my chips. LOL
18 posted on 02/03/2004 11:11:55 PM PST by DeepDish (This space for rent.)
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To: DeepDish
HeHe!

I got an AMD64 under the hood!
19 posted on 02/03/2004 11:14:38 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got!!!!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
Still puttering along with 500Mhz slot A on a FIC SD-11. I am green with envy. I live in dial-up territory, so the speed of the box is not an issue.

As far as tricks played on the Soviets go, I always liked the tap the navy put on a cable in the Arctic Ocean which linked the Northern Fleet bases. The Sovs thought that line so secure that they hardly ever bothered to encode anything. Go Bubbleheads!
20 posted on 02/03/2004 11:46:55 PM PST by DeepDish (This space for rent.)
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To: DeepDish
I have high speed cable but this box mostly just idles.
21 posted on 02/03/2004 11:55:13 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got!!!!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
Outstanding! Thanks for the ping.
22 posted on 02/04/2004 5:37:17 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: Valin
Completely shameless bump
23 posted on 02/04/2004 6:47:42 AM PST by Valin (Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.)
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To: Valin
Amazing story!

Thanks for posting.

24 posted on 02/04/2004 6:50:12 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Constitution Day
It makes you wonder just what else they did. I guess it would fall under "I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you."
25 posted on 02/04/2004 7:02:40 AM PST by Valin (Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.)
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To: Capriole
Good post. Thus being the case, hard to "tout" one's success, is know by the liberals who have decided to politicize our intel gathering.

Appears that many have been frozen out on that oh so cherished intel and are "running" in the dark. The politicals are acting very scared, as though they have something to HIDE.

26 posted on 02/04/2004 7:10:48 AM PST by Just mythoughts
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To: Valin
The Eighties were a great time to be involved in the dreaded Military/Industrial Complex.

Too bad most of these stories will never be declassified. Many were better than any Hollywood thriller ever made ...

27 posted on 02/04/2004 7:23:06 AM PST by LTCJ (Gridlock '05 - the Lesser of Three Evils.)
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To: Valin
We will probably never know even a small fraction of all the things they've done.

It's amazing, really.

28 posted on 02/04/2004 7:26:00 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: dts32041
I believe I read a Tom Clancy interview some years back in which he said a fictional account of sabotaged computer chips was based on true events. He didn't give any details.
29 posted on 02/04/2004 7:37:14 AM PST by js1138
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To: Valin
well they new in 81 that the soviets were doomed.
30 posted on 02/04/2004 7:39:39 AM PST by Walkingfeather
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To: Walkingfeather
I can't say about others, but I always assumed they were.
31 posted on 02/04/2004 7:44:49 AM PST by Valin (Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.)
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To: Capriole
true dat!
32 posted on 02/04/2004 7:49:57 AM PST by CJ Wolf
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To: Valin
"In our complex disinformation scheme, deliberately flawed designs for stealth technology and space defense sent Russian scientists down paths that wasted time and money".

I'm really glad that Bill Safire outlived Gus Weiss, if only to be able to let the world know that it's one more positive thing/momentous event that happened during the Reagan Administration.

33 posted on 02/04/2004 3:31:52 PM PST by Pagey (Hillary Rotten is a Smug and Holier- than- Thou Socialist)
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To: Valin
People only believe this because they see the name Reagan and doing something against the evil, evil Soviet Union. If you actually start thinking about it: the plan allegedly dates from January 1982, the explosion from the summer of 1982. Is there anybody here who believes you successfully build a pipeline under 6 months? Or if they are not building it and it is already there, that they replace existing software with American software without knowing what it does or testing it for several months on a test platform to get accustomed to it and see how it works when applying it to Russian equipment?
34 posted on 03/04/2004 6:20:32 AM PST by Simon666 (Think for yourself instead of letting people do it for you.)
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To: Simon666
The catch: Computer chips would be designed to pass Soviet quality tests and then to fail in operation.
35 posted on 03/04/2004 7:44:13 AM PST by Valin (America is the land mine between barbarism and civilization.)
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To: Valin
Look, the pipeline was probably already there in January as you can't built a pipeline in Siberia in the winter for the simple reason it is freezing the soil rock hard. You don't build that thing under 6 months. That means also there was already hardware and software on it. So I really doubt the Soviets would change existing software/hardware with something unproven you bought from dubious sources unless the existing stuff was really bad.

And the time window is just too small if you consider the plan is from January 1982 and the "effect" is in the summer of 1982 already. That would require the plan to be executed in record time by both the American and Soviet bureaucracy. Now the American bureaucracy is feasible, but passing the Soviet bureaucracy at such speed as well? If it would have been the 1989 explosion of a pipeline that killed 600 people on passenger trains, I might have believed it.
36 posted on 03/04/2004 8:04:58 AM PST by Simon666 (Think for yourself instead of letting people do it for you.)
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To: Valin
Anybody else reminded of Fred Pohl's The Cool War?
37 posted on 03/04/2004 8:05:42 AM PST by steve-b
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To: Simon666
Gee you don't suppose the hradware and software were upgraded do you? Nah, no one ever does that, particularly the soviets as they always produced state of the art hardware and software.
38 posted on 03/04/2004 8:08:55 AM PST by Valin (America is the land mine between barbarism and civilization.)
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To: Simon666
The pipeline was above ground.
39 posted on 03/04/2004 8:18:47 AM PST by Old Professer (“Dad, they’re just cigarettes -- give them up. Quit smoking: you’ll be healthier,” his son Angelo Jr)
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To: Simon666
Simon666
Since Mar 4, 2004

Welcome to FR, newbie

40 posted on 03/04/2004 8:46:06 AM PST by Freebird Forever
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To: Valin
Am I supposed to believe they translated operation manuals and completed testing on test stand and in the field all in under 6 months, and got approval? And the Soviets usually tried to do things with as little resources as possible, they wouldn't change an existing product if it was doing its job. And if it was NOT doing its job, it would probably have exploded anyway and you only gave them the opportunity to reverse engineer it, reaching the exact opposite of bringing the Soviets to a similar technological level.

Considering the pipeline to be above ground: what is the relevance of that? You still don't go building it in the winter as then you risk in the summer the ground will become unstable if thawing sets it.
41 posted on 03/04/2004 8:47:25 AM PST by Simon666 (Think for yourself instead of letting people do it for you.)
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.
42 posted on 05/07/2004 9:17:03 PM PDT by shadowman99
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To: Valin

The story that was broadcast on PBS was that the trojan horse triggered itself on a certain date.


43 posted on 06/10/2004 3:32:07 PM PDT by snopercod (I am still waiting for the rebirth of wonder.)
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To: Valin

Bump


44 posted on 06/10/2004 3:36:04 PM PDT by Straight Vermonter (06/07/04 - 1000 days since 09/11/01)
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To: Valin

Shortly before the first Gulf War IBM became aware that Iraq was buying computer printers through a third party in Brazil. IBM informed the US government and said they were going to put a stop to it.

The military told IBM to sell them specially modified printers. When our planes flew overhead we knew all of the places where the Iraqi government was operating these printers because they were emitting a radio signal.

Big boom.


45 posted on 06/10/2004 4:20:25 PM PDT by Straight Vermonter (06/07/04 - 1000 days since 09/11/01)
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To: Valin

LOL!

Reminds me of something I did with a client I was sure wasn't going to pay me for a system I developed. Nothing physically exploded, but ...


46 posted on 06/10/2004 4:28:07 PM PDT by gitmo (Thanks, Mel. I needed that.)
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To: Capriole

FBI works the same way. I remember during a murder investigation the FBI told the media one thing, while telling the family, "here's what's really going on." It was funny to see the media patting itself on the back all along.


47 posted on 06/10/2004 4:32:24 PM PDT by HungarianGypsy (Rest in Peace, Mr. President!)
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To: Straight Vermonter

I love it!


48 posted on 06/10/2004 8:10:22 PM PDT by Valin ("Well..there you go again" R. Reagan)
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49 posted on 04/15/2008 10:07:26 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_____________________Profile updated Saturday, March 29, 2008)
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To: Simon666

I’m an archeologist working pipelines at times here in the US, and, from what I’ve seen the pipe gets laid several years in advance of everything else. The Valve stations and other controlling areas get laid last. At least, from what I’ve seen...


50 posted on 04/15/2008 12:22:18 PM PDT by DavemeisterP (...)
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