Operation “Denver”: The East German Ministry of State Security and the KGB’s AIDS Disinformation Campaign, 1985–1986 – Journal of Cold War Studies – article

Operation “Denver”: The East German Ministry of State Security and the KGB’s AIDS Disinformation Campaign, 1985–1986

Douglas Selvage | Journal of Cold War Studies

2019-10-22

There has been much debate in recent years about the role of the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi) in the disinformation campaign launched in the early 1980s by the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB) regarding the origin and nature of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The KGB’s operation, codenamed “Denver” by the Stasi (not “Infektion,” as many online sources now erroneously assert), claimed that AIDS was deliberately devised by U.S. biological warfare specialists for the U.S. government to spread in minority communities in the United States. Based on the available evidence, the Stasi’s role in the AIDS disinformation campaign was limited in 1985–1986 to (1) keeping watch over Soviet-East German scientist Jakob Segal, who propagated a variant of the KGB’s thesis; (2) helping to arrange for the publication and distribution of a brochure with Segal’s thesis at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Harare in 1986; and (3) facilitating Segal’s interviews with certain journalists. Just as important for the ongoing formulation and spread of the KGB’s AIDS disinformation was a cycle of misinformation and disinformation that arose between U.S.-based conspiracy theorists—especially Lyndon LaRouche and his followers—and authors and publications espousing Moscow’s preferred theses regarding AIDS.© 2019 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Douglas Selvage Douglas Selvage is a senior research fellow at the Institute for History, Humboldt University (Berlin)

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