Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 168–182 | Cite as

The ether war: hostile intelligence activities directed against Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and the émigré community in Munich during the Cold War

  • Richard H. Cummings


This article traces hostile intelligence service activity, ranging from espionage to murder, from the Warsaw Pact countries directed against exiles working for the American sponsored radio stations Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany, 1950–89.


Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty RFE/RL Cold War CIA Markov Carlos the Jackal KGB 


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  1. 1.
    This article is adapted from the author’s longer paper, ‘Attacks from the East Against RFE/RL’, presented at the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Intelligence History Study Group, 18–20 June 1999, Tutzing, Germany.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A detailed review can be found in the author’s ‘The Intelligence Underpinnings of American Covert Radio Broadcasting in Germany during the Cold War’, The Journal of Intelligence History 1 (2) (Winter 2001). An excellent source for declassified CIA and State Department documents can be found in ‘Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment’, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945–1950 US Department of State, 1996,, or in hard copy available through the US Government Printing Office, ISBN 0-16-045208-2, GPO Stock # 044-000-02413-6. Another prime source is the volume from the Center for the Study of Intelligence, CIA History Staff, Michael Warner, ed., CIA Cold War Records: The CIA under Harry Truman (Washington, DC: CIA, 1994). A superb historical overview of RFE/RL, including photographs, isGoogle Scholar
  3. 2a.
    Cissie Dore Hill, ‘Voices of Hope: The Story of RFE and RL’, Hoover Digest, No. 4 (2001), This article was published for the exhibition of the same name, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 24–April 28 December 2001. Many documents on RFE’s history also can be found at the Open Society Archives, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary: HU OSA 300 Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute (RFE/RL RI), 1949–1994. The records consist primarily of clippings, abstracts of media reports, and monitoring of television and radio broadcasts, with a total of 17,938 archival boxes, 2322 linear meters, Scholar
  4. 3.
    For more information on how the former Warsaw Pact countries are reviewing Cold War files and releasing files, the reader should refer to The Czech Office for the Documentation and the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism at: The Institute of National Remembrance — Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN) is In Romania, the National Council for Researching the Secret Police ‘Securitate’ Archives (CNSAS) is Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security are found at: Reports and documentation of The Nation’s Memory Institute Slovak Republic (UPN) can be found at:
  5. 4.
    A photocopy of this directive can be found in Warner, CIA Cold War Records, ‘Psychological Operations, NSC 4-A’, 175–177. Also, see Document 253, ‘Memorandum from the Executive Secretary (Souers) to the Members of the National Security Council’. NSC 4-AWashington, 9 December 1947, in ‘Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment’, Department of State, Washington, DC:
  6. 5.
    The Report of The President’s Committee (Jackson Committee) on International Information Activities, 30 June 1953, printed in Foreign Relations II (1952–1954), International Information Activities, US Department of State, 1831.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    The full text of the Eisenhower speech can be found on the Internet at the Eisenhower Memorial Commission web page:
  8. 7.
    For more details, see the author’s article: ‘The Killing of a Dissident — Twenty-five Years On: Bulgaria: The Murder of Georgi Markov’, Also, see RFE/RL’s Special Report, ‘25 Years Later: The Assassination of Georgi Markov’,
  9. 8.
    The information in this section is based, in part, on research by Nestor Ratesh, former RFE/RL Romanian Broadcast Service Director, has been given access by the Romanian Government to review declassified intelligence files. He presented some of his findings entitled ‘Radio Free Europe’s Impact in Romania During the Cold War’, at the Conference on Cold War Broadcasting Impact, Stanford California, 11–13 October 2004, in which the author participated as a Commentator on RFE’s Impact in East Europe.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    More details can be found in the author’s RFE/RL Special Report: ‘The 1981 Bombing of RFE/RL’, An excellent source for the hostile Romanian Service Intelligence activities against RFE’s Romania Broadcast Service is a paper presented by former Broadcast Service Director Nestor Ratesh at the Conference on Cold War Broadcasting, Hoover Institute, Stanford, California, 15 October 2004.
  11. 10.
    Operation SPOTLIGHT: Regime, Press and Radio, Western Press and Radio and Internal Reactions, 12 February–13 March 1955, Free Europe Committee, New York, March 1955, Free Europe Press both of which can be found in the RFE/RL archives at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University, California. More details on these operations, including photocopies of some propaganda leaflets are found in the author’s article: ‘Balloons Over East Europe: The Cold War Leaflet Campaign of Radio Free Europe’, Psywar Society,
  12. 11.
    Full details of the Swiatlo case are in L. W. Gluchowski, ‘The Defection of Jozef Swialto and the Search for Jewish Scapegoats in the Polish United Workers’ Party, 1953–1954’, Intermarium, Columbia University electronic journal of modern East Central European postwar history, And, the inside story of the Bezpieka and the Party: Jozef Swiatlo Reveals the Secrets of the Party, the Regime, and the Security Services, March 1955, Free Europe Committee files.
  13. 12.
    One such example where Lach was used in Soviet propaganda campaigns against RFE/RL can be found at:
  14. 13.
    Information on Czech and Slovak Intelligence Services operations came to the author’s attention after the collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia when the new Czech Interior Ministry made some file information available.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Priokop Tomek, ‘Target ALFA’, Czechoslovak Security Services against Radio Free Europe, Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism (UDV), Prague, 2006. This report includes photographs of the former spy Pavel Minarik, Agent Pley, that accompanied his bombing plans mentioned in the article above. At the time of this writing the author has not had the opportunity to read an English language translation of the full report. That is for future scholars studying the Cold War.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Full text translation of Yeltsin’s comments: ‘During the 3–4 days of this takeover, Radio Liberty was one of the very few channels through which it was possible to send information to the whole world and, most important, to the whole of Russia, because now almost every family in Russia listens to Radio Liberty — and that was very important. I think that by virtue of its work and its objectivity, Radio Liberty deserves that [the Russian Government] establish direct contact and invite the management of Radio Liberty to visit us. Of course, I cannot speak on behalf of the Soviet Union, but I can speak on behalf of Russia and say that we must accredit you’, Radio Liberty Interview, Country and the World, 23 August 1991.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Taylor & Francis 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard H. Cummings
    • 1
  1. 1.Germany

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