The Deception Game

Title:                  The Deception Game

Author:                 Ladislav Bittman

Bittman, Ladislav (1972).The Deception Game. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press

LCCN:    72000682

UB251.C95 B58 1972


Date Updated:  March 7, 2017

Gone are the days when the secret service agent was above all a highly sophisticated political connoisseur. The paladins of international intrigue have been superseded by a species of cynical bureaucrat and these repentant memoirs of a defector, a former officer in the Czech secret service who left after the 1968 invasion, describe politico-spy warfare as conducted by the crudest of agents.

Bittman worked in Prague’s bureau of “black propaganda” as a “disinformation officer,” concocting schemes and hashing out bogus rumors intended to embarrass the West. His function was to carry out a “diversionary public relations program” aimed at fomenting dissension in the enemy camp. In Argentina in 1965 Bittman oversaw an operation whereby Czech agents, under Soviet tutelage, forged documents verifying U.S. imperialist aspirations. One wonders why forgeries were needed when a day’s research in a public library would have served better.

International incidents were manufactured, likewise, in Africa when Czech agents produced documentary evidence of other imperialist cabals. The forgeries were crude, the game obvious to all; Bittman takes these machinations all too seriously. Other pseudo-exposes were just as unimaginative, e.g., Operation Neptune, where planted papers imported from the USSR were “discovered,” bringing to light the names of Nazi war criminals at liberty. The West Germans were chagrined: but wouldn’t a press release have served equally well? Bittman exaggerates the influence of cold war “disinformation” – as perhaps will his pro-Cold War reviewers–and as expose the book’s principal merit is that it unintentionally underscores the poor performance of “diversionary public relations.” Prague was not, after all, Madison Avenue.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

In recent years there has been a great increase in public knowledge of and interest in Soviet deception operations and efforts to cause dissension in the non-Communist world. Bittman is uniquely expert on these matters because he actually was involved in these efforts. With Czech intelligence for fourteen years (1954-1968), he was in 1964 deputy chief of its special operations department, also known as the disinformation/active measures section. Bittman defines and describes what the Soviets and their allies call special operations-disinformation, black propaganda, and influence operations-as well as explaining the Czech organizations for conducting them and their role in the overall Communist intelligence efforts. He is careful to note that what he says of such Soviet operations he deduced from Czech operations as they were guided by the Soviets. This is probably the best available treatment on Soviet and Czech deception operations on a tactical level in peacetime. It could have been even more thorough had the author written less on the events of 1968 in Czechoslovakia and more on such matters as agent of influence operations. His unqualified conclusion that the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was an example of top-level Soviet strategic deception and surprise is debatable.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[2]

The author of this curious political warfare hybrid is a Czech defector who served “as a farmer Czechoslovak disinformation officer” for his country’s intelligence service. Under a 1970 copyright the original manuscript by Lawrence M. Martin was entitled “Department D: The Disinformation Center of Soviet Bloc Intelligence.” Content analysis of the “Department D” text indicated that it was partly original material and in part a team product, and the manuscript was rejected for publication by the Syracuse University Press and other publishers. The-new version contains a lengthy autobiographical preface in which the author indicates the political warfare motivation behind the publication and predicts “without hesitation” that Prague and Moscow “will call it a fraud and literary espionage written at the direction of the CIA.” The use of such barbarisms as “literary espionage” for disinformation indicates the kind of confusing cold war terminology which characterizes the entire book.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[3]

This important, interesting, and provocative book provides a rare “insider’s” views into deception and disinformation operations as practiced by the Soviet and Czech intelligence services. Written by a former Czech intelligence officer, whose assignments in intelligence included one as deputy chief of the Czech Intelligence Service Department D from 1964 through 1966, and who defected to the West in 1968, it is probably one of the best available sources on Communist deception operations.

See also U.S. CONGRESS. SENATE. INTERNAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE. Hearing. Testimony of Lawrence Britt. (pseud. for Ladislav Bittman). (5 May 1971, pp. 1-19).

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 84

[2] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 219

[3] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 7.


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One Response to The Deception Game

  1. Pingback: Disinformation, Deception, Frauds, And Forgeries, Chapter 21 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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