Russia and Eastern Europe

Active Measures Working Group

By Paul Rosenzweig
Monday, January 16, 2017, 11:35 AM

In the 1980s Soviet disinformation operations were running around the globe. They were not fueled (as they are today) by botnets and troll factories, but they were nonetheless effective. I was reminded, recently, of the U.S. response—the creation of an Active Measures Working Group to counteract Soviet disinformation. It operated by exposing operations and educating/sensitizing allies and citizens to the ongoing operations. Back in 2012, the National Defense University published a fascinating case study of the operations of the AMWG, entitled "Deception, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications: How One Interagency Group Made a Major Difference." From the Executive Summary:

This study explains how one part-time interagency committee established in the 1980s to counter Soviet disinformation effectively accomplished its mission. Interagency committees are commonly criticized as ineffective, but the Active Measures Working Group is a notable exception. The group successfully established and executed U.S. policy on responding to Soviet disinformation. It exposed some Soviet covert operations and raised the political cost of others by sensitizing foreign and domestic audiences to how they were being duped.The group’s work encouraged allies and made the Soviet Union pay a price for disinformation that reverberated all the way to the top of the Soviet political apparatus. It became the U.S. Government’s body of expertise on disinformation and was highly regarded in both Congress and the executive branch.

The entire case study is well-worth a read—especially these days.