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One, to create a vehicle for talented researchers and political writers among defectors for their smoother integration into American society; and the second objective, to collect information about media manipulation, about propaganda, disinformation from refugees and defectors from Communist countries, people who were directly involved in anti-American activities, just like I was 20, 25, 30 years ago.
This summer, the idea became a reality when the J.M. Olin Foundation decided to support this proposal with a $20,000 grant. A month ago, the first J.M. Olin Fellow for the Study of International Propaganda and Disinformation came to Boston. He will spend twelve months at Boston University working on a study concerned with current Soviet communication policies.
This is my small contribution to the resolution of problems of defectors, and I would like to encourage other universities to estab lish similar vehicles for helping talented researchers, writers, and teachers from among defectors.
I want to thank the chairman and all members of the subcommittee for giving me the opportunity to share with them my experience and recommendations on a subject of great importance to our national security.
Senator NUNN. Thank you, Dr. Bittman, for your very helpful and sightful testimony.
You already alluded to it in your statement to some extent, but could you summarize for us the primary psychological problems, the problems that occur with a defector in the first few months or a year or two after he or she defects?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Yes. Well, several witnesses mentioned the physical drama of defection, but it is, I think, nothing in comparison with the psychological drama that starts when the individual lands in the United States, when he realizes all consequences of his action; when he has to accept defection as a permanent solution. The individual goes into a very serious psychological crisis. He has to abandon the whole value system that had meaning in his life. In my case, for example, I was educated in a Communist society. For many years I sincerely believed in the ideology of the Communist society, Marxism/Leninism, in party directives.
The defector has to abandon the old value system and create a new one, but that cannot be done from one day to another; it is a very long, very traumatic process. Then, of course, the feeling of guilt. Most defectors have very strong feelings of guilt and doubts whether this was the right thing to do or not. This is something that they had to fight inside themselves and resolve, and again, it can not be resolved in a few weeks or months.
I would say it took me probably about four years to find myself and become more or less a normal member of this society.
Senator Nunn. What year was it that you came to the United States?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. I came in 1968, shortly after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Senator Nunn. What was the main reason you decided to come to the United States?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. The first few days, I didn't know where to go.
Senator Nunn. Why did you decide to come?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Yes; well, I decided, when I finally made this decision, I realized this was the only country that could use the knowledge I had about Soviet Bloc intelligence operations around the world and could do something about the Soviet penetration of the West. This was the major reason for me, why I came to the United States.
Senator Nunn. Why did you decide to leave Czechoslovakia?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. The ultimate, the most important reason was the fact of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was a political shock for me when I woke up on the morning of August 21, 1968. At the time, I was stationed in Austria under diplomatic cover as a press attaché of the Czechoslovak Embassy. I woke up and realized that Czechoslovakia was invaded. The same day, I made a statement on Austrian television against the invasion, and I stayed for another three weeks or so working, trying to communicate with liberal elements in Prague, supplying them with information, and so forth, but then, of course, I realized that this was
Senator Nunn. When you left, did you believe in Marxism at that stage; is that right?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. I wouldn't say that in August 1968 I was a Marxist or Leninist. I was not, no. Realistically, I would categorize my political thinking as a social democrat. I wouldn't admit it then at a party meeting, but I was not a Marxist/Leninist anymore.
Senator NUNN. Before the invasion, you had already stopped that belief?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. That's right.
Senator Nunn. What were the major problems that you encountered when you came to the United States in your own experience?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Insecurity of the future; how to start; where to go; how to start a new career; because I didn't know anybody.
Senator NUNN. Did you speak English then?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. No. I think that was a very important help that I received from the CIA during the debriefing period that they provided me with a tutor, and three years later, I was able to start teaching at a prominent American university.
Senator Nunn. Did you get help in getting your job at the university?
Dr. Martin-BITTMAN. No. I was lucky enought to meet a gentleman who had the courage to provide me with the first opportunity, the chairman of the Journalism Department at Boston University, with whom I drove for three and a half hours in a car and told him about myself and he said, "Well, okay, why don't I give you an opportunity. Next semester, you can start teaching on a part-time basis, one course dealing with international press problems."
He didn't call the CIA. He didn't call the FBI. It was just a gesture of an American who cared. I will be grateful to this individual for the rest of my life, that he had the courage to do that, and this is another side of what I call Americanism. You know, many people say Americans are naive, politically naive. Yes, many are, but this is the other side, to believe, to give a chance to a newcomer who comes under very difficult circumstances and conditions.
Senator Nunn. What do you teach at Boston University?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. The first ten years, everything far away from my previous specialization. Courses like History and Principles of American Journalism; Methodology of Journalism Research; Public Opinion Formation; International Press Problems. It was in 1980 that the University asked me to offer a course on Disinformation of the Press, something that I was involved in for nearly 14 years, including two years as a deputy commander of the Czechoslovakian disinformation department. I have been teaching that course for the last five years, and I think that now it is a very popular course now among journalism students.
Senator Nunn. What is the name of that course?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Disinformation in the Press, dealing with the techniques of mass media manipulation.
Senator NUNN. That is what you were charged with? That was your responsibility before you defected?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. That's correct, yes.
Senator Nunn. You were head of the disinformation desk of the Czechoslovakian intelligence?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Yes, yes. Deputy Commander of the Department.
Senator Nunn. So you now teach a course in that. That is an unusual course, isn't it?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Well, a little unusual, but I want to emphasize, in order to prevent any misinformation
Senator Nunn. About disinformation--[Laughter.]
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. We are not offering a course teaching young American journalism students how to deceive anybody. This is a course designed to help them realize how mass media are being manipulated, what are the objectives, what are the mechanisms of these games, because we believe that solid, broad knowledge is the best protection of press freedom in the United States against foreign manipulators.
Senator Nunn. What do you suggest to the United States government, if anything, about the way we handle defectors now, both those who have intelligence backgrounds and those who would have governmental backgrounds that would not be of particular interest to the intelligence community?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. There are a number of things that I would recommend. First of all, I think that people who are involved in handling defectors, should be experts not only in their field, intelligence, counterintelligence and so on, but also, I think, well educated in the field of human psychology.
They have to realize that the individual they are dealing with goes through the most traumatic experience of his life and that he may suddenly, his crisis may become a tragic crisis. So the field of human psychology is one thing that the people should be educated in.
Second, we should establish a system that would help the defectors to find suitable jobs in the United States. I know that it is a complex problem, but one of the solutions, and that is what I am trying to do, is to establish a system of fellowships across the country with various research institutions, think tanks, universities, and so forth.
If we establish, let us say, ten, fifteen or twenty fellowships for talented writers, researchers, it would help very much, and also work study programs with various business companies, institutions where the individual would work let us say, for three years, learn this new job, and then, after three years, the company could say, yes, we are happy with his performance, and we will keep him. Or the defector would say, “I will try something new.” I know how to live in this open, competitive society, and he would be on his own.
But what is necessary is to keep him in the transition period. The first three or four years are very, very difficult for defectors.
Senator Nunn. Do you have any words of advice relating to the Yurchenko case, the way that was handled? Do you have any particular insights into that?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Of course, I haven't had access to any secret information, but from what I learned from the press, I am very convinced that Yurchenko wasn't sent here as an agent with some kind of a special mission.
Senator NUNN. Was not?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Was not, no. No. He is an individual who went through a very deep personal crisis and he couldn't handle it, and he went home knowing that he would be severely punished. He knew that this was a very, very difficult decision, and he would be severely punished, but he went home to something he knew. That is, he knew how they would treat him; he knew that he would be either executed or sentenced to a long prison term.
Let us not think that because he has been seen in Moscow a few times after his defection that they are not going to punish him. The KGB knows that he defected, that he betrayed the Soviet Union. What we have seen, the press conferences, for example is the propaganda show, but Mr. Yurchenko will be put before the military trial and sentenced as a defector sooner or later.
Obviously, the crisis was so deep for him here in the United States that he couldn't handle it and he went back to what he, what were for him the known elements, familiarities of behavior. He knew how he would be handled. I think it is a very tragic case, because obviously, we could have learned much more from Mr. Yurchenko. He could have been much more useful than he was.
There is another aspect of this case; namely, his return to the Soviet Union discouraged quite a few potential defectors. Very many people in the Soviet Union think about defecting, but a case like the Yurchenko case has a reverse impact, “Well, if I do, maybe it will end like him.”
So this was, I think, this really turned against our interests.
Senator NUNN. Has there been any real changes in the way the Sovet Union handles defectors over the last few years?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Yes. I think that there is a visible change in strategy, in Soviet handling of defectors. Until about 1984, 198384, all emigrants from the Soviet Union, Soviet Jews, everybody who left the Soviet Union, Soviet Bloc countries were considered basically traitors. There were a few Russian Jews who wanted to go back ten years ago, twelve years ago, but they were rejected. The Soviets didn't want to let them in.
And it was in the last two years that they changed their strategy. They opened the door for individuals who left the Soviet Union or even defected, like Oleg Bitov, a writer for Literaturnaya Gazeta. Now the Soviets say, “Well, the door is open for you. Now you can come home.
Of course, this creates great opportunities for Soviet propaganda, for using this new situation for intelligence purposes, propagandistic purposes. They are much more skillful in misusing the phenomenon for their own purposes.
Senator Nunn. Do you believe those people are going to be punished down the road when they come back, or is this for real, that they aren't going to be punished?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. That depends on the position of that individual, what kind of job, what kind of position he had before defecting. An intelligence officer, there's no doubt, will be severely punished. An individual, regular Soviet Jew who left the Soviet Union and then realized that he couldn't adjust to the American society and goes back, I don't think that they will put him in jail, but certainly there will be some stigma attached to him for the rest of his life. But I don't think that they will send him to prison.
Senator Nunn. What are the major differences, if any, between the Soviet KGB operation intelligence-wise and eastern European country intelligence operations? You were in the Czechoslovakian intelligence. You probably had close liaison with the KGB.
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Yes.
Senator NUNN. Should the United States consider both of them to be one in the same?
Dr. MARTIN-BITTMAN. Well, all socialist intelligence services are, of course, under the supervision and command of the Soviet intelligence operatives. There is not a single operation that would be unnoticed by the Soviets. They control the whole process of initiating, conducting intelligence operations, and getting the results.
As far as handling defectors is concerned, there are certain differences. Hungary, for example, for years has been much more flexible in dealing with defectors, actually opening the door before the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia established a policy that was mainly designed not only to use or misuse defectors or refugees for political purposes, but also to get western currency from them because they encourage refugees to normalize their relations with the mother country.
The refugees have to pay something between $2,000 and $10,000 for the education they received in Czechoslovakia, and for that, they get the permission to travel freely to Czechoslovakia, visit their relatives and eventually come back to the United States.
It means that Czechoslovakia receives millions and millions of dollars from former refugees, now American or Canadian citizens, who pay $8,000, $10,000 for the permission to travel to visit their relatives at home. There is another condition attached; if the refugees want to belong to the category of individuals who can travel to Communist countries, they shouldn't get involved in any antiSoviet or anti-Communist activities. That means political restriction on their activities in the United States and Canada or in other countries.
Senator Nunn. Dr. Bittman, do you have any other suggestions for the subcommittee or for the U.S. government that you would like to give us at this time?