It's, of course, typical active measures: it is the deliberate use of false information, be it forged documents, manuscripts, photos, or the spreading of malicious propaganda and fabricated intelligence.
In this case the disinformation that the CIA is transporting heroin out of Afghanistan with military aircraft.
In other words, the deliberate spreading of false information.You can see more about this here. We're not talking speculatively here: the link takes you to what a former KGB general says about the Soviet Union's active measures campaigns aimed at undermining the West, especially in the Third World. Active measures ("Активные мероприятия") was first and foremost a method of political warfare: the reason it was called "active measures" is that it involved actively setting up the means of spreading disinformation, such as the use of front organizations that would not exist otherwise. This wasn't some sort of side show: it was the heart and soul of Soviet intelligence efforts to weaken the West and, more fundamentally, to make the US look as bad as possible in order to discredit the enemy of the Soviet Union. Hence the spreading of the rumor by Jakob Segal that AIDS came from a biological war lab and is aimed at black people (see here).
But it didn't stop there: the Soviets were more than happy to use this to attack western allies in other countries, people who were true leaders and were, hence, obstacles to the triumph of Soviet politics, such as Masyrk of Czechoslovakia and the Shah of Iran; the attempt of Pope John Paul II was most likely an active measure as well.
What were other active measures? How about the training of terrorists, including the idea of hijacking airplanes. The Soviets actively backed the development of international terrorism: that is not speculation, that is what they, themselves have said (see here). Sure, they were able to build on resentments and prejudices, but the goal was, in the words of Andropov, "to install a Nazi-like hatred of Jews throughout the Islamic World, and to turn this weapon of the emotions into a terrorist bloodbath against Israel and its main supporter, the United States."
Well, that sure seems to have worked.
The point of disinformation and active measures isn't necessarily to support Soviet goals anymore: after all, the Soviet Union collapsed. But nowadays it is all about furthering Russian goals, and for the FSB, the follow-on of the KGB, the world is a zero-sum game that means that if the US and its allies are harmed, then Russia is helped.
Hence the stated goals of Soviet active measures have been adopted by the Russians. Fundamentally, these cover six points:
To influence America, European and world public opinion to believe that US military and political policies are the major cause of international conflict and crisis.
To demonstrate that the United States is an aggressive, militaristic, and imperialistic power.
To isolate the United States from its friends and allies, and to discredit those states which cooperate with the United States.
To discredit US military and intelligence establishments.
To demonstrate that the policies and objectives of the United States are incompatible with those of the under-developed nations.
To confuse world public opinion concerning Soviet global ambitions, creating a favorable environment for Soviet foreign policy
Replace "Soviet" with "Russian" and everything applies.
And the Soviets taught well.
The war with Iraq was based on a web of lies and disinformation, but not that of the West: see here.
The main tools of disinformation in the Middle East are as follows:
- Staged suffering and grief
- Co-location of military assets and civilians
- Restricting journalists' movements
- False claims or disclosures
- False man-in-the-street interviews
- Self-inflicted damage
- On-the-record lies
- Covert dissemination of false stories
- Bogus, edited, or old footage and images
- Fabricated documents
Disinformation and active measures continue today. If you take a look here you can see what the post-Soviet Russians were doing immediately after the end of the Cold War. The "new thinkers" saw that they had to learn how to dominate the political arena in order to gain power.
Astute thinking: it underscores, however, the direction that active measures have been taking and, to a large degree, the success that they have enjoyed.
Western societies are under attack not merely from islamists, but also from the radicalized environmentalists. Part and parcel of a disinformation campaign?