The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued this press statement after releasing a declassified transcript of hearings held in July 1982. Representative Bill Young called for the hearings to better understand influence operations undertaken by the Soviets against the United States. These tactics, considered a separate category from espionage, included infiltration, exploitation, and manipulation of individuals and organizations to advance the Soviet cause. In this instance, some U.S. officials feared Kremlin influence on organizations advocating for halting the development, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.
In the early 1980s, heightened U.S.-Soviet Cold War tensions made nuclear war a legitimate threat. An international “nuclear freeze” movement gathered strength, and in America advocates were spurred additionally after accidents at nuclear power plants on Three Mile Island and Indian Point. Robust defense spending by the administration of President Ronald Reagan also motivated the movement’s followers. The group’s goal was to ban production and testing of nuclear weapons through an agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States. At its peak in 1982, the movement had national support and inspired large-scale protests.
Congress and the White House also addressed the issue. Freeze resolutions were introduced and voted on in Congress. The November elections saw freeze resolutions on 28 state and local ballots, and they passed in 25. Following the elections and the success of candidates supporting a nuclear freeze, Reagan remarked that he believed supporters were being manipulated by foreign agents, sparking anger and renewed legislative activity.
The Intelligence Committee, chaired by Edward Boland, discussed and interviewed witnesses about the spectrum of Soviet influence, including the possibility of their infiltration of protest movements, during the July hearings. However, Boland may have focused his December press release on the nuclear freeze movement in response to Reagan’s comments: “On the basis of my own review of the material submitted by the FBI, it is my personal assessment that Soviet agents have had no significant influence on the nuclear freeze movement.”