Fearing Soviet invasion, FBI trained Alaskan spies, files show

Russia, Alaska, CanadaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States government set up a secret network of citizen-spies in Alaska in response to concerns that the Soviet Union was planning to invade the territory, newly declassified documents show. The documents, dating from 1950, were given to the Associated Press by The Government Attic, a website specializing in publishing US government files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The news agency said on Sunday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided to set up the secret network of agents in the 1950s, after it was warned by the US Air Force that a Soviet invasion of Alaska was “a real possibility”. One FBI memo from the time stressed the likelihood that Moscow would stage an airborne invasion of what was then the US territory of Alaska, using “bombing and the dropping of paratroopers”. Responding to such concerns, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover authorized Operation WASHTUB, which involved the establishment of a “stay-behind” force of nearly 100 citizen-agents recruited from the local population. The operation, which was also known by several other codenames, including CORPUSCLE, STIGMATIC and CATBOAT, was headed by Hoover protégé Joseph F. Carroll, of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations. From 1951 to 1959, the OSI, in association with the FBI, recruited Alaskan woodmen, fishermen, pilots, and others, paying them up to $3,000 a year (nearly $30,000 in today’s currency), a sum which was to be doubled following a Soviet invasion. The “stay-behind” agents were to retreat to predetermined hideouts throughout Alaska, unearth hidden caches of food, survival supplies, and communications facilities, and transmit information about Soviet movements. The Associated Press report suggests that the concept of stay-behind agents in Alaska was novel in those early stages of the Cold War. But the report fails to mention Operation GLADIO, the stay-behind program instituted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe, which appears to have preceded Operation WASHTUB by at least two years. GLADIO, which was extensively written about by Swiss historian Daniele Ganser in 2005, was set up as a means of continuing armed resistance in the event of a Soviet military invasion and conquest of Western Europe. In one notable memorandum describing WASHTUB, the FBI warned that “Eskimo, Indian and Aleut groups in the Territory” should not be recruited in the program, because of “their fundamental indifference to constituted governments and political philosophies […]. Their prime concern”, said the memo, “is with survival and their allegiance would easily shift to any power in control”.

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