Secret Intelligence in the Twentieth Century

By Heike Bungert; Jan G. Heitmann et al. | Go to book overview

9

US Intelligence and the GDR: The Early Years

Christian Ostermann

Even though the German Democratic Republic (GDR) vanished from the political landscape in 1990, and even though its archives are now largely accessible to researchers, much of its history is still hidden in far-off archives, those in Moscow and Washington. This chapter will attempt to develop some initial thoughts on US intelligence and the GDR, in particular the CIA’s views and involvement. Much of this effort, particularly with regard to the CIA’s covert operations in East Germany, is only scratching the surface due to the CIA’s (and the other intelligence agencies’) refusal to declassify documents that disclose ‘sources and methods’. I will approach the subject by trying to answer two questions: What were the main characteristics of the CIA analysis of the GDR between 1949 and 1955? What do we know about the CIA’s clandestine subversive operations against the GDR?

While public and scholarly curiosity—and Cold War propaganda - have focused on the clandestine subversive operations, it is often overlooked that, at the outset, the CIA’s main mission was to provide strategic intelligence on the Soviet Union, which, by 1947, was widely considered the only power with a capacity to threaten US national security interests on a global scale. A persistent argument in most memoirs by former intelligence officers, as well as journalistic and scholarly treatments, is the scarcity of information on the USSR available in the early years of the Cold War. It was this void that the CIA was to fill, an ominous, daunting task which, however, in Evan Thomas’s words, those Very best men’ took on eagerly and seriously.

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