The Murder Bureau

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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Alexenia Dimitrova, a writer with a 25 year-long career in journalism. She has worked for one of Bulgaria’s biggest dailies, 24 Hours Daily, for the last 15 years. She is the author of 4 documentary books based on her intensive research in the Bulgarian and American secret service archives from the Cold War era. Since 2002 she has her own column in 24 Hours Daily about finding and reuniting long-lost family members and relatives all over the World. For this series, which is extremely popular in Bulgaria, she received in 2004 the most prestigious award for Journalism in Bulgarian named Tchernorizets Hrabar. The is the author of the new book, The Murder Bureau, a book describing a total of ten cases of covert foreign operations of the Bulgarian Communist-era secret services against dissident émigrés. She can be contacted at:

FP: Alexenia Dimitrova, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Murder Bureau and what it is about.

Dimitrova: Thanks Jamie.

Let me begin by defining the meaning of SMERSH for your readers: it is a Russian abbreviation and it means “Smert Shpionom” — Death to Spies. This was the name given to a counter-intelligence unit that was responsible for the neutralization of Soviet spies that existed within the Soviet Army in the early 40’s.

The inspiration to write my book came from the suspicions and rumors circulating many years in Bulgaria that a similar SMERSH unit also existed within the Bulgarian Intelligence Services during the Cold War.

For many years I tried to determine whether these rumors were true or not. I have been digging into the Bulgarian and American secret archives from the Cold War era for more than 20 years. But only 2-3 years ago I had the chance for the first time to read some of the inventory lists of the Bulgarian Intelligence from the Cold War. Many of them were and still are not open to the public. The first time when a tiny portion was opened I went to read these inventory lists. After long hours digging and looking steadily at them I saw 3-4 abbreviations – OM, SM, AM, DM, which attracted my attention. It turned out that these abbreviations mean sharp measures, special measures, active measures and disinformation measures. When I ordered the documents I saw that a unit responsible for sharp measures existed since 1963. The name of the unit was Service 7. Under sharp measures the officers meant kidnapping, poisoning, neutralization, liquidation of Bulgaria émigrés.

FP: Tell us about the killers and the victims.

Dimitrova: First let me be clear that not all of the cases ended as assassinations — though they may have been prepared for such. So it is more precise to ask who are the performers and the answer is: Bulgarian officers and agents from Service 7.  The targets between 1963 and 1974 were 10 Bulgarian emigrants in UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ethiopia, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland.

All the cases are very interesting. The first operation prepared was against the Bulgarian Blago Slavenov, who escaped to Italy in the late 40’s. The operation was under code name Libretto. Slavenov had to be kidnapped and violently returned to Bulgaria from a ship accosted in Trieste. The means needed for the operation were prepared with the aid of the Hospital of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior in Sofia. In the operation, according to the documents, there was the participation of 3 collaborators and 2 officers of the Bulgarian intelligence.

Slavenov became the target of the super-secret department because he was one of the leading members of the Bulgarian National committee – a prominent émigré organization abroad.

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  • DogWithoutSlippers

    These guys were the Murder Incorporated of Spies.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    I just finished re-reading "Thirteen Days that Shook the Kremlin", an inside account of Hungary's 1956 uprising. One of the most insidious aspects of Soviet totalitarianism was the falsification of history and the effective use of the "big lie." This vile tactic is alive and well today in the world of the liberal/left.

  • PhillipGaley

    "The Big Lie"? And would "The Big Lie" include such as: "Yes, absolutely, in this day and age, our nation absolutely can spend its way to a tremendous prosperity—those who decry our totally new innovations are simply wrong, like a stick-in-the-mud; the reason why the fruits of the stimulus package are so weak is because it was about 1/5 the size it should have been. And if people wanna work, if someone really wants to work, there's always something somewhere they can do. But the point is, they don't really absolutely HAVE TO work. Think about it: people need money to spend—because, after all is said and done, spending money is what an ECONOMY is all about—how can any one in their right mind deny that?".

  • Ghostwriter

    I've got a question. Did this agency,this Service 7 have any operations in the United States? Were there any deaths of Bulgarian defectors in this country like there were in Europe?

  • Gideon Isaac

    During the war in Iraq, allied forces came across a note from Russia to Saddam, offering the services of their assassins in the West. That didn't happen with the old Soviet Union, that happened with new Russia.
    Here is another scary item – this one from the time of the USSR:
    "Colonel Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov (aka Ken Alibek), was deputy director of Biopreparat, a large Soviet biological warfare development program prior to his defection in 1992 to the United States. He published his memoirs, Biohazard, in 1998. In his book, he describes a top secret covert KGB development program, codenamed Fleta (Flute). He learned about the project but could not penetrate it because of its extreme secrecy. Nevertheless, he was able to learn enough to establish its mission: the development of psycho-active drugs and neuro-toxins to "alter personalities and modify human behavior".

  • TF Conley

    The Bulgarian program was just a continuation of the first Soviet intelligence wet operations after the Revolution, which were in turn a continuation of the Czarist efforts to eliminate emigre anti-Czarist opposition in France and other European countries. The assassination of Trotsky in Mexico was a more recent case. 9Nothing new and still continuing, but not PC.