29. ACIPSS Conference: “Espionage in Austria, HUMINT, and Targeted Killings”

On 5 December, ACIPSS organized two panels dedicated to human intelligence (HUMINT) and targeted killings, together with the Ludwig-Boltzmann Institut für Kriegsfolgenforschung (BIK). After an introduction by the Director of ACIPSS, Paul Schliefsteiner, and the head of institute of the BIK, Prof. Barbara Stelzl-Marx, Mag. Knoll explained the circumstances of the so called “Badener Group” and which fate these different individuals met in the immediate years after the Second World War, due to their involvement in espionage. It was shown clearly that parts of various families ceased to exist because of the incarcerations and executions by the Soviets. The following speaker, Mag. Bacher, went into detail about the assessment of British intelligence services regarding the significance of Austria when it comes to HUMINT. He illustrated the importance of Austria as a transit zone between the “east” and the “west”.

The second panel was dedicated to the topic of targeted killings and could not have been any more topical given recent events. Dr. Adrian Hänni compared targeted killings of former Soviet agents with those of today’s Russia. With the help of the examples of Alexander Litwinenko and Sergei Skripal, he demonstrated how Russian intelligence services transitioned to a way of violent and “theatrical” communication and demonstration of their operational reach. Prof. Sensburg elaborated on ongoing events and touched a wide area of security issues, besides the activities of intelligence services. The topic of targeted killings is testament to him that real political consequences for such activities are hard to find. The last speaker was Dr. Jaklin who gave insights about the private military company “Group Wagner”, their areas of operations as well as several killings of journalists connected to this topic. These are similar in ostentation, just like the killings touched by Dr. Hänni, and can be seen as a warning signal to Russian journalists, but also as pawn offers in political power plays.

Dr. Jeremy Stöhs and Mag. Bacher moderated the two panels and directed the following discussion and Q&A in interesting directions. As a result, the audience was given the opportunity to pose  detailed questions to the panelists.