There is a documentary film being privately shown in New York and Washington these days, and it is a pity you will not see it. It is called "The KGB Connections," and it illuminates the exciting work of the thugs from No. 2 Dzerzhinsky Square.
Dzerzhinsky, incidentally, was a Polish Bolshevik who founded the Cheka, the first of the KGB's three predecessors. Polish wags today call him the "Great Pole," explaining wryly that no other Pole has killed so many Russians. The joke is rooted in history; during the '20s, the '30s and the '40s, Dzerzhinsky's Cheka and its successors, the CGPU and AVN, killed about 30 million Russians. Uncle Joe Stalin slept easier if he knew that his upright internal security forces were dutifully slaughtering peasants, slothful workers, "parasites" and exalt,es of the new order.
After the war, the boys at No. 2 Dzerzhinsky Square sensed that times had changed. There were precious few Russians left to kill, millions having been slaughtered by the Nazis and the Soviets themselves. It was time to look outward. Sensing the spirit of internationalism abroad in the world, the KGB went international, too. It became a gigantic multinational corporation, a huge beehive of bureaucracies, all devoted to bringing KGB products to the people of the world: disinformation for some, terrorism for others.
Today the KGB is larger and globally more far flung then ITT. Its work is infinitely more exciting and nefarious. There are fine books on it like John Barron's "KGB" and Claire Sterling's "The Terror Network," and there is this film, "The KGB Connections." The film has been seen on Canadian, English and Swedish television. The Swedes saw it twice. The French and Germans will see it soon. Produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. with partial funding from both the CBC and our own ABC, it is a fascinating account of the KGB's activities in the United States and Canada. Yet ABC has decided against broadcasting it, presumably believing that Americans would find it boring.
Well, I believe that to see a documentary on the KGB most Americans would sit through a dozen toothpaste commercials, possibly two dozen. Americans find neither the Mafia nor the infamies of giant corporations boring. The KGB's activities show traces of both. Furthermore, KGB mischief is better documented. It has suffered a lot more defections than either the Mafia or the giant corporations. In "The KGB Connections," 20 defectors are allowed to tell their tales, sometimes before hidden cameras, sometimes with paper bags over their heads.
Their tales are engrossing. For instance, there is Arkady Shevchenko, a cheerful, well-fed man who tells viewers that, though he was a member of the supposedly non-political U.N. bureaucracy, he had nine KGB agents on his staff. None did a lick of United Nations work, leaving it all for poor Shevchenko while they ran harum-scarum throughout New York, gathering intelligence, stirring up mischief and tasting the delights of the Big Apple. Shevchenko's testimony is supported by a former FBI official who believes that the United Nations is a "nest of spies," suggesting to me that if my friends in the American Civil Liberties Union were truly desirous of ending the surveillance of American citizens, they might join with the John Birch Society to "Get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S.," as the phrase has it.
Then, too, there is a series of interviews with the suave Ladislav Bittman, formerly a high-ranking Czech intelligence agent. Disinformation was his specialty. He once rekindled European animosity against Germany by dredging up bogus Nazi war documents from a Czech lake while Western television cameramen credulously filmed away. And there was the time he and his colleagues published "Who's Who in the CIA," a bogus collection, to be sure, but one that was sold in Western book stores and used as a source for network news stories on the CIA.
"The KGB Connections" is a mother lode of fascinating scenes: a KGB agent employed by the United Nations calls an American military man telling him where to drop pilfered defense secrets, unaware that his telephone is bugged and that the transaction is being recorded on hidden cameras. Another hidden camera records a series of shots exposing how American businessmen circumvented the law to sell high technology to the Russians. As a consequence of this swinish commerce, the Soviets perfected the accuracy of their missiles, thus necessitating our expensive MX program.
It is all exciting stuff, and there is no doubt that much of it is true. If American television--commercial or public --believes "The KGB Connections" is dull stuff, why not produce an American documentary on KGB activities? My guess is that it would sell a lot of toothpaste, even in Sweden.