[Fsf-friends]CIA’s flawed software caused 1982-Siberia gas explosion

V. Sasi Kumar vsasi@hotpop.com
Sun Feb 29 12:42:35 IST 2004

Here is an interesting bit of news about how a piece of software can be
used to sabotage a country's economy. This is from
http://jang.com.pk/thenews/feb2004-daily/28-02-2004/world/w17.htm. A
Google search would give a number of pages on this issue, including an
article by William Saffire (the guy who writes about the English
language in Frontline) who gleefully narrates the background of the
incident which "was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire
ever seen from space."

Can we trust their software?

    ‘CIA’s flawed software caused 1982-Siberia gas explosion’

WASHINGTON: The CIA exploited the Soviet Union’s desire to pilfer
western technology to send it flawed software that resulted in a huge
explosion on a natural gas pipeline in Siberia in 1982, The Washington
Post said on Friday.

Nobody was killed in the blast, but it did significant damage to the
Soviet economy, said the daily quoting the memoirs of Thomas Reed, a
former Air Force secretary who served in the National Security Council.

Approved by then US president Ronald Reagan, the plan was part of
‘cold-eyed economic warfare’ against the Soviet Union that the Central
Intelligence Agency conducted under Director William Casey, said Reed,
whose book, ‘At the Abyss: An Insider’s History of the Cold War,’ will
be published next month.

Reed said the Soviets in 1970 had created a special KGB section to plumb
Western research and development for badly needed technology. The secret
programme was later disclosed by a Soviet engineer to French
intelligence, who in turn alerted the Reagan administration in 1981.

Shocked by the knowledge the Soviets were stealing abundant Western
technology and aware the United States at the time was trying to block
Western Europe from importing Soviet natural gas, the CIA came up with
the idea of slipping the Soviets technology that would work for a while,
then fail.

"In order to disrupt the Soviet gas supply, its hard currency earnings
from the West, and the internal Russian economy, the pipeline software
that was to run the pumps, turbines, and valves was programmed to go
haywire, after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve
settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline
joints and welds," Reed writes.

The resulting explosion in the summer of 1982, said Reed, was observed
from space by US satellites and caused concern for the US military who
feared it was a missile liftoff. A CIA agent quickly told the military
what had happened.

"While there were no physical casualties from the pipeline explosion,
there was significant damage to the Soviet economy," Reed writes adding,
"Its ultimate bankruptcy, not a bloody battle or nuclear exchange, is
what brought the Cold War to an end."

V. Sasi Kumar <vsasi@hotpop.com>

More information about the Fsf-friends mailing list