I was interviewed regarding a security clearance for a job applicant not long ago. I can't say for whom, of course, or for what job or agency. I was curious and questioned the security clearance investigator. He was forthcoming in his basic description of the process. But I can say that based upon his answers that indicated thoroughness and sophistication, in some areas, our government is not as incompetent as in others (like, uh - stopping and cleaning up oil spill disasters, preventing public benefit fraud, etc.).
I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to watch much, if any, television, but thanks to the magic of my #!!@%!! TiVo, I watched the CIA v. KGB episode of Deadliest Warrior in two segments - Wed. night and last night.
To the left is a small picture of the flash animation from the CIA's "Kids Page." That's just the hat, because it's a flash capture, but they have games, pages for kids of different ages, and information for parents and educators.
I ask you right now, before we even begin to discuss weapons or capabilities? Do you think there is anything remotely similar available from the "officially" defunct KGB?
Well - yes, but minus the cartoons and "kids page." Since I can't even vaguely read Cyrillic, all I can determine is that the chap in this picture is important and might even be the head of the former KGB, now FSB. Jolly looking guy, huh? I can hear him now. "Just take picture and have done with it. I have important business to attend to."
It is well-known that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, he of the manly physique and shirtless fishing prowess, is a former KGB agent, as is, apparently, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Oh, but these are modern internet representations of the organizations that inspired the epic Deadliest Warrior battle that matched the KGB's Skorpion SMG-61 automatic pistol with the CIA's MAC-10, a much superior weapon, beloved of gangsters everywhere.
This Deadliest Warrior episode will probably be remembered best for their choice in featuring the "exploding cigar" as a CIA weapon. Also, it was more notable than many episodes in that it was obvious that the two "warriors" demonstrating CIA tactics, Michael Baker and Frank Dowse, knew exactly what they were doing. I'm not sure which of the two guys demonstrated the briefcase gun, which was a simple, yet effective device incorporating a Walther PPK inside an ordinary briefcase, with triggering available via a simple ring and pulley system. But whoever that guy was, was so good at it that he not only unobtrusively fired and "killed" the blood-filled test dummy, he didn't even break his businesslike stride or alter his movements. As I had seen the Deadliest Warrior casting calls, I think that they can't get "authentic" representatives in all cases, and as many Russians as there are in the US, I'm not sure that the two KGB reps were the best, most experienced practitioners. One of them was a descendant of a real KGB agent, and the other former Russian military special forces (already featured in a previous show). As is common with the show, the more competent practioners in the show tend to represent the winners of the computer-simulation that is depicted in the final battle.
Deadliest Warrior isn't remotely "realistic" in many respects, but in this case, I think they really captured the flavor of the Cold War covert conflict that played out in real life similarly to the way that is portrayed here. For example, I bet most people reading here would assume that the US was severely compromised by many spies everywhere, and that our "loose" system and democratic ways meant that the KGB were the genuine badasses, etc.
Au contraire - there is such a thing as hiding in plain sight and sleight-of-hand, as evinced by today's open, pleasant, informative CIA website. Out of the many craptastic US government websites, this one is one of the best.
I also detected another important difference between the two forces. While I know that Vladimir Putin is highly intelligent and well-educated, as is Mr. Medvedev, visiting the US right now as I type, I also know that the CIA, much like the FBI, recruits from colleges and universities. Neither service is interested in people who haven't shown the capacity to successfully complete higher education. I got the impression that "cold-blooded killer willing to chew on cyanide capsules" was the more preferable qualification for the KGB.
And that may well produce an asset that will get the job done, and the KGB can point to a number of assassinations and subversions that were successful over the years. But they also flat-out lost the Cold War.
As the KGB guys explained while demonstrating the classic "camera gun," the gun might have had only one shot, but it also contained a cyanide capsule, which the operator would immediately swallow if he were unable to escape the scene of an assassination.
Pretty harsh and hardcore? Absolutely. In the minds of these KGB reps, that was their advantage.
However, any student of the great texts of warfare will tell you that suicide missions aren't a preferable strategy. The best strategy for winning the regrettable, real violent conflicts that continue to arise in the world is to successfully deceive your enemy, and it is to not sacrifice one's warriors blindly just in order to achieve a single objective. He who fights best, is he who lives to fight another day.