How Russian Spies Played the Media

Thomas Rid traces the history of psychological warfare in 'Active Measures.'
April 28, 2020, 4:00pm
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Image: Alexey Druzhinin/Presidential press-service/TASS

When members of Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, hacked the emails of Democratic party heavyweight John Podesta and leaked them, it changed the course of the 2016 presidential election. Media outlets everywhere had a feeding frenzy reporting on the leaked contents of a party insider close to Hillary Clinton, which was a legitimate source of news content. But it was also evidence of a decades long strategy out of Moscow: Russian intelligence knowing just how to manipulate the media landscape of a liberal democracy to its advantage.


Thomas Rid, a world renowned academic and national security expert, wrote an excellent new book called Active Measures tracing the secret history of psychological warfare over roughly the last century. Rid carefully shows that in their disinformation campaigns, Russian spies have made use of the media as a player in their operations. But then again, as Rid writes, so has the CIA.

On this week’s episode we have Rid on the show to talk about his new book and what this November might look like and if coronavirus can be used in nation-state disinformation campaigns.