The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

For­eign gov­ern­ments are con­duct­ing covert op­er­a­tions against Amer­i­can think tanks in a bid to in­flu­ence U.S. gov­ern­ment poli­cies, ac­cord­ing to a veteran in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst.

Dar­ren E. Tromblay, a U.S. in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst, writes in the new is­sue of the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of In­tel­li­gence and Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence that think tanks are vi­tal el­e­ments of U.S. pol­i­cy­mak­ing and thus for decades have been tar­geted by for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and other gov­ern­ment agents.

Mr. Tromblay said China and Rus­sia — along with the Soviet Union be­fore it col­lapsed — are among the most ac­tive for­eign pow­ers work­ing to ex­ploit Amer­i­can public pol­icy groups. Ex­am­ples in­clude a covert Soviet ef­fort in the 1980s un­cov­ered by the FBI to dis­credit the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Strate­gic De­fense Ini­tia­tive by co­op­er­at­ing with the lib­eral think tank, the Cen­ter for De­fense In­for­ma­tion.

“Rus­sia has con­tin­ued to seek out sym­pa­thetic think tank-af­fil­i­ated in­di­vid­u­als who will pro­mote Rus­sian nar­ra­tives, which Mos­cow pro­motes in con­cert with a va­ri­ety of other sub­ver­sive mea­sures,” Mr. Tromblay wrote.

China, too, is ag­gres­sive in seek­ing to in­flu­ence think tanks to sup­port Bei­jing’s poli­cies. A Wash­ing­ton think tank that was not named “has main­tained a strate­gic part­ner­ship with an en­tity that be­longs to the Chi­nese Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity and spon­sors a fel­low from that in­sti­tu­tion,” Mr. Tromblay wrote.

In a third case, the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, a ma­jor Demo­cratic-ori­ented think tank, in 2015 was paid up to $199,000 by a U.S. sub­sidiary of the Chi­nese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant ZTE, Mr. Tromblay wrote. A House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee re­port later iden­ti­fied ZTE as “a se­cu­rity threat to the United States and to [U.S.] sys­tems.”

The United States “needs to pro­tect these re­sources from for­eign ex­ploita­tion by fos­ter­ing coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence aware­ness,” Mr. Tromblay con­cluded.

For­eign in­flu­ence op­er­a­tions against think tanks also should be dis­rupted to pre­vent sub­vert­ing gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion mak­ing, he said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the op­er­a­tions can be mon­i­tored and ex­ploited to sup­port U.S. in­ter­ests. “The U.S. can seek to in­tro­duce its own dis­in­for­ma­tion via chan­nels that gov­ern­ments per­ceive to be au­thor­i­ta­tive,” Mr. Tromblay said. “Pro­tect­ing think tanks and other re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions from for­eign ma­nip­u­la­tion con­trib­utes to se­cur­ing the United States’ in­for­ma­tion ad­van­tage and to Wash­ing­ton’s abil­ity to pro­tect and pro­mote Amer­i­can in­ter­ests.”

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