bureaucracybusters

WHEN NEGOTIATIONS FAIL, TRY “THE KGB METHOD”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2022 at 12:12 am

On December 8, the United States and Russia swapped convicted criminals.

The Americans were holding—and gave up—Victor Bout, a notorious Russian international arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death.” 

The Russians were holding—and gave up—Britney Griner, an American professional basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Bout had been arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2008, and extradited to the United States. The Justice Department charged Bout with:

  • Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization;
  • Conspiring to kill Americans;
  • Conspiring to kill American officers or employees; and
  • Conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.

Viktor Bout.jpg

Victor Bout

Bout was convicted on November 2, 2011, and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment

Griner was arrested on February 17 for possession of vaporizer cartridges containing hash oil. Although legal in In Arizona, “medicinal” cannabis is illegal in Russia.

On July 7, Griner pleaded guilty but said she had not intended to break the law. On August 4, the court found Griner guilty and sentenced her to nine years in prison. 

The December 8 prisoner exchange was widely attacked by Right-wing Americans, who argued that freeing Bout would lead terrorists to take countless more American hostages. 

There are three methods for securing the release of hostages. 

The first is to meet the ransom demands of the hostage-taker.

That was the method chosen in the above case. The Biden administration didn’t want to give up Bout, but the Russians–i.e., Russian president Vladimir Putin—refused to exchange Griner for anyone else.

The second is to wear down the hostage-taker(s) with patient negotiation.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings. They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD. 

Related image

A SWAT team

The third method might be called, “The KGB Method.”

This was not available to the Biden administration against a superpower armed with nuclear missiles. But against non-state terrorist groups it can reap powerful results.

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union. Its name (“Committee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB, KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness. The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30, 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies. Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump. He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body went a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In his 1987 bestseller, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that then-CIA Director William Casey “decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.”

Both the United States and Israel—the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings—have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones. They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials. The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.  And at the peril of those you most hold dear.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready. They require only the orders.

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