“Espionage and Intelligence Services in Museums” and the 29th ACIPSS Conference

On 5 December, ACIPSS held two events on the topic of intelligence. During the morning, Dr. Christopher Nehring and Mag. Bernhard Vogel presented the different formats of spy craft and Intelligence services in museums, titled „Schattenwelt im Vitrinenlicht. Spionage und Geheimdienste im Museum.“ The afternoon was dedicated to the 29th ACIPSS conference, with a focus on HUMINT and targeted killings.

Mag. Vogel introduced the exhibition „Spionage! 39 Fälle”[transl. „Espionage! 39 Cases.], hosted by the House of History in the Museum of Lower Austria, where the world of espionage is presented to the interested public by displaying a diversity of exclusive exhibits. Afterwards Dr. Nehring of the German Spy Museum Berlin talked about the success of the permanent exhibition (open since 2015). Within this context the following discussion opened up several interesting glimpse about myths, the question of authenticity as well as the fact that there can be no espionage exhibition without James Bond.

The afternoon belonged to the 29th conference of ACIPSS. Together with the Ludwig-Boltzmann Institut für Kriegsfolgenforschung (BIK) two panels were dedicated to human intelligence (HUMINT) and targeted killings. After an introduction by the director of ACIPSS, MMag- 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 details 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.