This is awesome. The Wall Street Journal has let reporter David Crawford spend three months reading through the recently-released papers of the old East German Stasi (Secret Police). Kudos to them for that kind of in-depth reporting. It’s paid off.

The murder of several West German industrialists got blamed on the Red Army Faction, which started out as the Baader-Meinhof gang–which was a bunch of Eurotrash Patty Hearst type anarcho-commie thugs. But these guys were good–too good. The sophistication of their methods and weapons led to a lot of speculation about how they were able to kill as precisely as they did.

What Crawford uncovered was a series of Stasi documents that did more than detail cooperation with the Red Army Faction. They describe plans and operational programs to study terrorists operating in “imperialist” countries, so Stasi agents could mimic their methods and carry out assassinations in the West–and then shift the blame onto terrorist groups:

This is a pretty frightening reminder: the Free World’s enemies think this way. If another country with a competent special forces outfit (e.g. Russia, Iran, China) wants to carry out a WMD attack or maybe just an assassination of an inconvenient politician or agitator, and make sure it’s done right, why not just carry it out themselves and let Al Qaeda or whichever anti-American group take the credit/blame for it? There are a lot of countries that would eff with us if they thought they could get away with it. This way the state escapes American retaliation, and the terrorist group gains prestige and membership–and perhaps a swift martyrdom at American hands.

It’s one more potential explanation that will inevitably be brought up in the wake of a terror attack on American soil. It’s still farfetched, but given the East German example, it sounds like one that would deserve some consideration.

I think this story means that containment of nuclear technology becomes all the more important. We must limit–at tremendous cost–the number of nations that have nuclear weapons to the ones who can be trusted with them. This is because our national defense depends on deterrence, which comes from a credible threat of overwhelming retaliation. And the sort of retaliation we’re contemplating is a little more serious than keeping the entire class in during recess until they fess up about who threw the spitball. We can’t retaliate against the whole world, and so deterrence becomes meaningless in a world where nukes are everywhere and we don’t know whom to retaliate against.

Sweet dreams!

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P.S. On the subject of state-sponsored terrorism, here’s a post I wrote yesterday about a likely example from this week: the Pemex pipeline bombing in Veracruz, Mexico.