... which isn't bad, as long as the ships belong to the other guy. In 1982 CIA scientists learned from a defector that the Soviet Union was intending to steal some software systems for operating its trans-Siberian natural gas pipeline. With President Reagan's approval they slipped some malicious code into the software and caused the largest non-nuclear man-made explosion in history.
"Reading the material caused my worst nightmares to come true," Weiss recalled. The documents showed the Soviets had stolen valuable data on radar, computers, machine tools and semiconductors, he wrote. "Our science was supporting their national defense."
The Farewell Dossier included a shopping list of future Soviet priorities. In January 1982, Weiss said he proposed to Casey a program to slip the Soviets technology that would work for a while, then fail. Reed said the CIA "would add 'extra ingredients' to the software and hardware on the KGB's shopping list."
"Reagan received the plan enthusiastically," Reed writes. "Casey was given a go." According to Weiss, "American industry helped in the preparation of items to be 'marketed' to Line X." Some details about the flawed technology were reported in Aviation Week and Space Technology in 1986 and in a 1995 book by Peter Schweizer, "Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy that Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union."
The sabotage of the gas pipeline has not been previously disclosed, and at the time was a closely guarded secret. When the pipeline exploded, Reed writes, the first reports caused concern in the U.S. military and at the White House. "NORAD feared a missile liftoff from a place where no rockets were known to be based," he said, referring to North American Air Defense Command. "Or perhaps it was the detonation of a small nuclear device." However, satellites did not pick up any telltale signs of a nuclear explosion.
"Before these conflicting indicators could turn into an international crisis," he added, "Gus Weiss came down the hall to tell his fellow NSC staffers not to worry."
This sort of counter-espionage helped strangle the Soviets' spy apparatus by casting all their stolen technology into doubt, contributing to their ultimate economic downfall. Alas, the Soviet turncoat who provided the information that made the sabotage possible was discovered and executed by the KGB in 1983.