The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder Update #79

June 10, 1988

June 10, 1988 | Backgrounder Update on

At the U.N. Library — Nothing Changes

(Archived document, may contain errors)

6/10/88 79


(Updating Backgrounder No. 487, Me United Nations Library: Putting Soviet Disinformation Into Circulation," February 18, 1986)

The Soviet intelligence services have conducted significant penetrations of the Dag Hwnmarskjold Library (DHL) of the United Nations Secretariat and, in fact, the Soviets have reaped significant rewards fiom having one of their representatives occupy the post of director of the DHL since 1964.

-Federal Bureau of Investigation Lengvard Khitrov will not comment on the FBI report. Khitrov, the Soviet national who has served as director of the United Nations Dag Hammarslqold Library since 1985, sits in his expan- sive office overlooking U.N. Plaza. "Ask the [U.N.] spokesman," he suggests. Nor will Khitrov comment on his upcoming retirement, scheduled for this September, or answer any questions about himself.

Khitrov's pending departure provides an opportunity to break the Soviets' 24-year stranglehold on one of the U.N.'s chief information gathering and dissemination facilities. While America's U.N. ambassador, General Vernon Walters, privately has been assuring mem- bers of the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee that another Soviet will not be appointed head of the Library, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar has not made a final decision.2

Soviet Advantages. The Heritage Foundation first reported how the Soviets have turned the Library into "a front for Soviet disinformation and covert operations" in 1986.3 Then a Heritage Foundation study explained how control of the Library allowed the Soviets to:

corroborate espionage materials obtained from other sources; gain easy access to selected U.S. data bases and materials through inter-library loans; complement Soviet activities in other U.N. offices and departments; and, perhaps most serious, influence the delegations from Third World countries, many of whom rely on the Library as their primary information source.

The FBI report, issued earlier this year, corroborates and amplifies these findings. Says the report:

An important link in the SIS [Soviet intelligence services] targeting of America's specialized scientific and technical libraries has been the simultaneous penetration of the DHL ... Since 1964, Soviet nationals have occupied the position of director of the DHL with additional Soviet nationals occupying subordinate positions within the DHL. Control of the DHL cloaks and therefore legitimizes the SIS presence in an influential position; strengthens the SIS foundation to gain access to the nation's databases which enhance the KGB intelligence collection process; and allows the SIS to send officers and co-optees to library conferences world wide, at the expense of the United Nations. At these conferences, the SIS can spot and assess potential sources, thereafter advising the appropriate KGB residency of the identity of those individuals so that additional assessment and development can occur. 4 The Library's 1986-1987 annual budget amounted to $13,256,000,5 of which the United States contributed 25 percent. As such, American taxpayers directly subsidize Soviet espionage inside the U.S. and propaganda efforts around the world. While nothing in the Library's general collec- tion of 400,000 books, 15,000 periodicals and annuals, 200 newspapers, and 80,000 maps is clas- sified, control of the Library offers the Soviets many advantages.



On May 17, 1988, FBI Director William Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that 21 scientific and technical libraries located in the New York City area are key targets of Soviet intel- ligence. Some U.S. intelligence officers believe that Soviets employed by the U.N. Library assist in coordinating this activity. While the FBI will not discuss cases not in the public domain, public evidence supports this assumption.

In 1973, Anatoliy Andreyev, a Soviet intelligence officer who worked as a U.N. librarian, made contact with a civilian U.S. military employee at a librarians conference on Long Island. 6 Andreyev offered to help the military employee financially in exchange for specific documents.

On August 23, 1986, Gennadiy Fedorovich Zakharov, a Soviet assigned to the United Nations Center for Science and Technology, was arrested by the FBI for espionage after bribing a college student to steal microfiche from several New York area libraries.


The FBI reports:

To avoid the cumbersome and time consuming process of collecting, reproducing and re 'turning some information to the libraries, SIS officers have stolen, or caused to be stolen by their agents, hundreds of thousands of items of microfiche from specialized scientific and technical libraries. This practice has been condoned and encouraged by KGB headquarters in Moscow. 7

The Senate Intelligence Committee, in 1985, uncovered abuses of U.N. Library photocopying and data retrieval services. 'The Soviets use the U.N. copying facilities and have shipped boxes of technical literature back to the USSR at no cost to the Soviet government. A By its own account, the U.N. Library produced more than 500,000 photocopies in 1985. 9 Past evidence suggests that the Soviets are responsible for a substantial portion of these reproduc- tions.


A 1986 Heritage Foundation investigation concluded that the U.N. Library's card catalogues were if a triumph of Orwellian Newspeale'and materials in the Library as a whole were charac- terized with "'low-grade' Latin American and East bloc publications rife with anti-Western views."10 Speaking about the Library as a whole, Khitrov told The Heritage Foundation that lit- tle has changed since he assumed the Library's helm.

Khitrov is right. While subject categories listed in the United Nations Bibliographic Informa- tion System (UNBIS) appear value-free, a close examination of the entries reveals a continuing anti-Western bias. However, one important new trend has emerged. The Library now carries more American source publications that are liberal or far left. A Heritage Foundation re- searcher asked U.N. librarians to perform computerized searches in eight subjects of traditional interest to most U.N. delegations: refugees, emigration, chemical weapons, socialism, capitalism, human rights, disarmament, and international conflicts. The results confirm that the bias found in 1986 in the Library's card catalogue has continued in the new computerized database brought on-line gradually since 1980.

Refugees. Of the 34 English language entries, 22 dealt with Africa, four with Haiti, and two with Indochina. None mentioned Afghanistan in the title, even though the Soviet invasion of Af- ghanistan and the subsequent war have created the world's largest refugee group - the five miI- lion Afghans taking refuge in Pakistan and Iran. Representative U.S. authors included radical New York Congressman Ted Weiss and former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.


Of the 53 titles in this category, only two mentioned the Soviet Union in the title, while 17 referred to the U.S. These were predominantly hostile, focusing on the "sanctuary" issue for Central Americans. Others mentioned Africa, Cuba, Haiti, and Mexico.

Chemical Weapons.

Of the 70 entries in English, 12 mention the U.S. in the title or descrip- tion; only two list the Soviet Union even though Moscow has assembled the world's most modem and lethal chemical arsenal. One listed Afghanistan. Typical titles in this category in- cluded: "Yellow Rain: The Story Collapses," "Devil's Brew for Europe" (from the Soviet magazine New 7"Imes), and "Washington Torpedoing a Chemical Weapons Ban." Also, "Yellow Rain: Weapon of Disinformation!'by Soviet author Nikolai Antonov.


Of 97 entries, 28 were from overtly Soviet or East bloc authors. Only five entries had titles suggesting criticism.


Forty-seven entries, 22 from Western authors or sources. Eleven titles suggesting criticism.

Human Rights Violations.

A mere 23 titles; seven critical of the U.S. and West, with only three critical of the Soviet Union and East bloc.


The U.N. has devoted significant resources and agenda time to this topic, even though the vast majority of conflicts involve the Third World rather than the two principal nuclear superpowers, the U.S. and USSR. The category bulges with 506 entries. Only 51 are from Soviet sources, but 127 are from overtly leftist U.S. sources including the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist. Authors include American anti-war activist Robert Drinan.

International Conflicts.

No category better reflects the sorry record of the United Nations as an international peacekeeper. There are over 1,800 entries. Fifty-two titles suggest criticism of the United States; 23 appear to be critical of the Soviet Union.


Control of the U.N. Library is just one component of East bloc domination of three critical in- formation collection, processing, and dissemination positions in the U.N. Secretariat. The other two positions are the director of the Department of Conference Services (DCS), currently oc- cupied by Poland's Eugeniusz Wyzner, and the director of the Dissemination Division (formerly the External Relations Division) of the Department of Public Information (DPI), held by the Soviet Union's Vladimir Ustinov.

DCS has oversight authority over the U.N. Library system. It also controls all translation and interpretation services. The Dissemination Division of DPI, a post traditionally held by a KGB officer, conducts liaison with all U.N.-recognized non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in- cluding American public schools. Only a First Step. Even if Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar selects a non-Soviet or East bloc national as the new director of the Dag Hammarskjold Library in Manhattan, it will have limited effect unless these other two positions are also rotated away from Soviet dominance. Replacing the Library director, of course, would be only a first step in a reform that should be demanded by the U.S. In 24 years, Soviet monopolization of the Library has denied member states access to what they deserve, a first-class research facility free of ideological bias. This is the very least member states and American taxpayers should expect for their money. They do not deserve to have it used by the Soviets for espionage purposes in the U.S. Congress should act to ensure that the U.N. Secretary-General understands this. Until the Library is reformed and transformed from a Soviet propaganda instrument into a genuine library, the U.S. should withhold the remaining $44 million of America's current fiscal year U.N. assessment authorized by Congress.

Prepared for The Heritage Foundation by Mark Huber, a Washington consultant

About the Author

Show references in this report

"The KGB and the Library Target 1962-Present," Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C., January 1988, p. 4.

2 Testimony before the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee, April 28, 1988, Remarks of Senator Robert Kasten.

3 Mark Huber, 'Me United Nations Library: Putting Soviet Disinformation Into Circulation," Heritage Foundation Backgrvunder No. 487, February 18, 1986.

4 FBI report, op. cit., p. 28.

5 Budget for the Biennium, GA a/4216, Sec. 29, April 29,1987, p. 51.

6 See Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 99th Congress, First Session, May 1985.

7 FBI report, op. cit., pp. 5-6.

8 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, op. cit., p. 16.

9 "The Dag Hammarskjold Library at 40 Years," United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold 11brary, October 1985, Summary.

10 Huber, op. cit., p.