The Soviet Attack on Archbishop Marcinkus
By Tomasz Pompowski
During the cold war, the Soviet Union pursued its strategic goals using overt and covert measures. One of the most effective tools from the latter was dezinformatsia (disinformation). Richard Schultz and Roy Godson, experts in intelligence studies, described Soviet disinformation in their eponymous book:
Covert disinformation is a non-attributed or falsely attributed communication, written or oral, containing intentionally false, incomplete, or misleading information (frequently combined with true information), which seeks to deceive, misinform, and/or mislead the target.
The object of such action was often a foreign mass audience. The goal was to lead them to believe the veracity of the message and then act in accordance with the interests of the state that originated the disinformation.
One obvious example was Operation GLADIO, launched in 1976 to defame the Central Intelligence Agency in particular and President Ronald Reagan's administration in general. It markedly increased the level of anti-Americanism in Western Europe. Fortunately, Western experts helped to decode this lie.
Former KGB General Oleg Kalugin described another infamous episode in his memoir Spymaster. As an intelligence operative at the Soviet UN mission in New York, he participated in disseminating lies about the 1961 crash of the plane carrying UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. Kalugin wrote:
I and my fellow officers did everything we could to fuel rumors that the CIA was behind it. I reported the rumors on Radio Moscow, saying that sources believed the CIA wanted Hammarskjöld out of the way because he was promoting too much freedom for black African countries.
Kalugin also revealed that to show America was inhospitable to Jews, he and his colleagues from the Soviet embassy sent anti-Semitic letters to Jewish leaders. They also paid Soviet agents in the United States to paint swastikas on synagogues and to desecrate Jewish cemeteries. The objective was to portray America as a racist country and increase the level of anti-Americanism.
Although much is known about Soviet-era dezinformatsia, probably just as many false stories remain undetected. One of them is the defamation of the Vatican Bank president Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus. Pope John Paul II repeatedly stated the Marcinkus was one of his most faithful priests during a very difficult time. However, that opinion, which is almost never quoted, was and is not the prevailing description. Instead, Archbishop Marcinkus was frequently depicted in the media as a villain, liar, and thief.