Spies, poisonings, Russian election meddling, collusion: the use and abuse of intelligence are some of the most contested subjects in today’s headlines. However, the overwhelming majority of current affairs commentators and policy-makers address them in an historical vacuum. In the “United States of Amnesia”, our ignorance about the past activities of intelligence agencies has produced dangerous public-policy misconceptions about their present-day role.
In this public talk, Dr. Calder Walton, who helps to run Harvard Kennedy School’s Applied History Project, will explore the long history of KGB “active measures”, which involved disinformation attacks against Britain and the United States, and London and Washington’s clandestine activities to counter them during the Cold War. Drawing on a wealth of recently declassified British and US intelligence records, as well as recently opened KGB material, Dr. Walton will reveal that the Cold War’s covert information warfare provides valuable policy lessons for countering disinformation, and “fake news”, today.
Calder Walton is an Ernest May Fellow in History and Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is general co-editor of the forthcoming Cambridge History of Espionage and Intelligence (3 vols, Cambridge University Press).