Every national government, like every major corporation, has to make a concerted effort to control perceptions—both internally and externally. For a government, internal communications are often ripe with propaganda. Whether it’s encouraging you to support a war effort, steering you toward a specific political party, or trying to convince you that the people in power have your best interests at heart, an integral part of domestic communications is swaying the populace toward the policies of the powerful. It’s not as evil as it sounds—it’s literally the basis of our political system.

OK, so maybe it is as evil as it sounds, then.

But what about external communications? How do you sway a populace in another country—one that’s already subjected to the propaganda of its own complex political infrastructure—to see things your way? Even more difficult, how do you manage the perceptions of people that live in a nation that sees you as the enemy? Russia has found itself facing these very questions time and time again when it comes to controlling American opinions. That’s right, Russia didn’t just start attempting to manipulate Americans in the 2016 election. International misinformation campaigns are as historically Russian as apple pie is American—and they’ve been successful.

What was Russia’s answer to those difficult questions? Easy. Convince the American people that their own government is the real bad guy.

The JFK assassination

Everyone has heard a conspiracy theory tied to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For those who were alive at the time, the day JFK was shot would be permanently branded into their consciousness by tragedy, but it didn’t take long for some people to start worrying about how the details of the case added up, and to start looking for alternate, more malicious theories to explain the horrible events that took place in Dallas that fateful day. Soon, people began tossing about ideas involving any number of America’s three-letter agencies, accusing the CIA or FBI, in particular, of having something to do with the death of the president.

Theories involving Soviet involvement are somehow less popular, despite the fact that his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, taught himself the Russian language and spent time within the communist state. The Soviets were America’s biggest boogeymen at the time, so it seems a bit odd that people would look first to the agencies tasked with protecting our nation when grasping for a malicious secret, rather than the country that prompted school kids to practice hiding under their desks in case of a world-ending nuclear attack…but it turns out there’s a pretty good reason for that.

In 1992, Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB archivist who served in the foreign intelligence service for more than 30 years, defected to the U.K., and he brought the Mitrokhin Archive with him. This archive of handwritten notes contained documents that laid out a number of the Soviet Union’s clandestine intelligence operations from all over the globe. Christopher Andrew, MI5’s official historian, would use the information contained in the archive to write two books, “Sword and the Shield” (1999) and “The KGB and the Battle for the Third World” (2005).

The information contained within the archive was bounced against what British and American intelligence agencies were able to confirm, prompting the FBI, the U.S. Air Force, the American Historical Review, and the British Parliament to confirm the archive’s authenticity.