'Post-Cold War' Era 1988-1991
Two West German publications, Geheim and Top Secret, continued to circulate old-style, defamatory Soviet disinformation, including AIDS disinformation, throughout the entire "post-Cold War" era. Both magazines are edited by Michael Opperskalski and published in Cologne, Germany.
Opperskalski, who also heads the organization Media Pro, is the co-author of several anti-CIA books, CIA in Mittelamerika (Lamuv Verlag, 1983), CIA in Westeuropa (Lamuv Verlag, 1982), and CIA in Iran (Lamuv Verlag). In 1988, he coauthored the anti-CIA propaganda and disinformation book CIA: Club der Moerder: Der U.S. Geheimdienst in der Dritten Welt, also ,published by Lamuv Verlag. Opperskalski's co-author in this last book was Kunhanandan Nair, at the time the East Berlin correspondent for Blitz, an Indian newspaper that was identified by Soviet defector Alexander Kaznacheev in the early 1960s as having "close ties with Soviet intelligence" and which continued to carry Soviet disinformation and propaganda for decades. In the description of the authors in CIA: Club der Moerder; Der U.S. Geheimdienst in der Dritten Welt, Opperskalski was also listed as having worked for the Cuban news service Prensa Latina and as the West German correspondent for Soberania, a propaganda and disinformation magazine published by a Sandinista-affiliated Nicaraguan organization. Opperskalski also participated in the activities of the International organization of Journalists, long identified as a Soviet-controlled international front organization.
The German-language publication Geheim began in 1985 and has been published 2-3 times a year since then. Top Secret, which describes itself as the "international English-language version" of Geheim, has been published twice a year since 1988.
In the inaugural edition of Top Secret, Opperskalski explained its goals and purposes in an editorial. He wrote:
The technique of "Naming Names" of alleged CIA agents, in which Opperskalski took such pride, was a well-known disinformation technique pioneered by Soviet bloc intelligence services. In testimony before the U.S. Congress in 1980, Ladislav Bittman, the former deputy chief of the active measures department of the Czechoslovak intelligence service from 1964 to 1966, explained this technique. He was asked if he was familiar with the book Who's Who in the CIA by Dr. Julius Mader, published in Berlin in 1968. The book claimed to identify 3,000 U.S. intelligence officers serving in 120 countries. Dr. Bittman stated, in the 1980 hearing print Soviet Covert Action (The Forgery Offensive) (p. 58):
Through 1991, Geheim and Top Secret continued to refer to Who's Who in the CIA as a source for the "Naming Names" section of their publications, despite the fact that this book had long been identified as Soviet-bloc disinformation. In addition, Julius Mader was a regular contributor to both Top Secret and Geheim, with articles appearing in 1988 and 1989.
Top Secret continued to carry the most egregious Soviet disinformation long after even the Soviet press had avoided this subject. For example, the Summer/Autumn 1990 issue of Top Secret carried an article "AIDS - its Nature and Origins" by Jacob and Lilli Segal. The Segals' false claim that AIDS was created at a U.S. military laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland formed the centerpiece of the USSR's AIDS disinformation campaign since their views were first published in 1986. By 1990, Top Secret was one of the few publications in the world to give these totally discredited views a sympathetic hearing.
Interestingly, Geheim did not run the AIDS disinformation story. As a German-language magazine, Geheim was aimed at a European audience, where the AIDS disinformation story does not have much credibility. But Top Secret was aimed at Africa, which was the prime target audience for Soviet disinformation on AIDS.
As mentioned earlier, Opperskalski played a role in a complex disinformation operation in 1989 that included the surfacing of a forgery and involved a Soviet-controlled front group. Stories in the Namibian newspaper on July 19, 28, and 31, 1989 contained disinformation claiming U.S.-South African collusion to rig the upcoming November 1989 elections in Namibia, including a forged letter purportedly from South African foreign minister "Pik" Botha to former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker. Disinformation from Top Secret appeared in the Namibian of July 31, and Opperskalski himself appeared at a press conference in Lusaka, Zambia on July 31, stating that he had just been in Namibia on a "fact-finding" mission sponsored by the International Organization of Journalists (IOJ), a Soviet-controlled international front group. On September 19, 1989, Opperskalski and Nick Wright of Great Britain, the two journalists on the IOJ trip, gave a press conference in Prague, Czechoslovakia detailing their findings. The press conference was written up in the October 19, 1989 issue of the IOJ Newsletter.
In 1991, Top Secret suddenly became overtly anti-perestroika and more openly pro-Cuban, in a revealing shift of sympathies. In the lead editorial of Top Secret's summer 1991 issue, Opperskalski stated:
The inside back cover of the summer 1991 issue of Top Secret featured a large picture of Che Guevara, highlighting his calls for the destruction of the United States.
Thus, in 1991, Top Secret had announced its intention to become a vehicle for exposing and countering conciliatory Soviet policies, in addition to its usual role of spreading anti-American propaganda and disinformation. In making this move, it began to explicitly demonstrate strong pro-Cuban sympathies, a position compatible with that of Soviet hard-liners.
After the summer of 1991, no issues of Top Secret and Geheim appeared for one year. In June 1992, Geheim sent a letter to its subscribers, stating that a shortage of money was the main reason it had not been able to publish recently, and promising that it would beginning publishing four issues per year, starting in September 1992, now that it had reorganized on a sounder financial basis. It will be interesting to examine the content of Geheim Is future issues in light of their financial reorganization.