Story of Gus Weiss

This is a long and fascinating article about Gus Weiss, who masterminded a long campaign to feed technical disinformation to the Soviet Union, which may or may not have caused a massive pipeline explosion somewhere in Siberia in the 1980s, if in fact there even was a massive pipeline explosion somewhere in Siberia in the 1980s.

Lots of information about the origins of US export controls laws and sabotage operations.

Posted on March 27, 2020 at 6:03 AM9 Comments


Sergey Babkin March 27, 2020 4:52 PM

I haven’t read the article yet, but there was a massive natural gas pipeline explosion, in the early Summer of 1988, or possibly 1987. But not in Siberia, it was in the Urals, on the section of Trans-Siberian railroad between Chelyabinsk and Ufa (although from America, I guess, the Urals don’t look much different from Siberia, and the railroad name adds to the confusion). The leaked gas collected in a depression of relief and got ignited by sparks from two passenger trains that were passing in the opposite directions. If I remember right, it was ruled to be caused by a welding defect on the pipeline that caused the weld to crack and leak, exacerbated by the monitoring not paying attention to the pressure drop on that section.

A lot of people from these trains were brought to the burn unit in Chelyabinsk. I’ve been in the grade school, we had a month-long summer military camp (part of the school program) at the time, and have been fortunate to have it in the city instead of in the field, where it was an 8-to-5 affair. We’ve been sent for a week or two to help carry the burned people around the hospital instead.

Dave March 27, 2020 11:46 PM

I’ve been hearing this Soviet pipeline explosion story that no-one can even prove happened let alone that it was caused by sabotage for years. Given the sometimes hit-and-miss nature of Soviet-era construction and industrial safety – look at Mayak for example – @Sergey Babkin’s version sounds far more likely.

La Abeja March 29, 2020 7:18 PM


His honors included the CIA’s Medal for Merit and the National Security Agency’s Cipher Medal.” France awarded him a Légion d’Honneur and NASA recognized him with an Exceptional Service Medal. The Post noted that the medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.

I wonder if that’s the same problem Alan Turing faced. In any case, too much rank, too many decorations, and too much hanging out at the VFW or American Legion, Oddfellows, I don’t know, Elks, Moose, Freemasons, some college fraternity or another, a bunch of good old boys spoiled rotten and corrupt to the core etc. etc. I am just sick to death of all that fraternization, can’t even for the life of me figure out which side of the war somebody’s on, what he’s trying to accomplish with all that spy tradecraft and intelligence $hit. An intelligence community boss riding a guy’s ass for the rest of his miserable life in the U.S. even if he’s 100% honorable and legit served his country etc. I would not pretend to know.


8:03 .. “there has been a plan for quite some time to use millimeter wave weapons systems on human beings, to induce disease symptoms that will be blamed on a pathogen.

12:35 .. “they are going to be broadcasting at the 60 gigahertz frequency which will be the cause of deaths not the virus, what is coming is an electromagnetic attack that has been planned for decades .. broadcasting at frequencies that can hurt the oxygen molecule.”

There’s some far-out stuff to those Russian conspiracy theories. How much of anything is true? Or is it a different way of explaining something, that we are not used to?

c1ue April 4, 2020 10:54 AM

@Sergey Babkin
Thanks for the anecdote.
It wouldn’t surprise me if either case was true – the problem with secrecy is that it can obscure both truth and lies.
The article though – it seems odd that the author didn’t try to consult the various Nuclear Test Ban monitoring networks: air and seismic – to verify potential areas/dates of massive explosions.

myliit April 5, 2020 6:51 AM

I enjoyed the article and comments and spent some time looking for a relevant photo of a compressor that I recalled seeing years ago, relevant to this thread, but was unable to find the photo.

IIRC the compressor photo was allegedly an example of what had been hacked and “caused” the “explosion”.

Did anyone else see such a photo?

Clive Robinson April 5, 2020 11:34 AM

@ myliit,

IIRC the compressor photo was allegedly an example of what had been hacked and “caused” the “explosion”.

There have been a number of “It’s been hacked” photos of infrustructure parts in the past, some look quite devastating.

But the reality is usually it’s the “controlers” of the motors to “pumps and valves” that are hacked, and the controlers do not themselves get damaged by the “hack” likewise the motors.

What is visable in such photos is the damage to either the “pumps and valves” or the associated process parts they are attached to.

Thus if you analyze the situation you realise that the root cause of the damage and destruction is not the “hack” but the poor design of the process system. That is if fully “independent fail safes” had been put at the design process, all a hacker could do would be to mess the process up a little before the independent fail safes triggered and in effect brought the process to a safe condition if not shut down.

Yes the hackers could mount a “Denial of Service” attack but that could usually be fairly easily solved in short order (disconnect from the hackers communication channel and run the process independently, or possibly manually as it once would have been).

In short “cyber-attackers” are no more powerfull than we alow them to be, and with a little forethought they can be “designed out” of any process (it’s one of the things I used to do some decades ago). Thus it’s either the designers of the “Process Control System” (PCS) in the “Industrial Control System” (ICS) that are at fault or those that are paying them…

The need for independent fail safe systems goes way beyond that of eliminating “cyber-attackers” it does a great deal to stop “Chernobyl” type mistakes and other human intervention errors.

You might remember there was a series of gas explosions and fires in domestic premises in three towns north of Boston around 18months back,

The root cause of the problem was replacing a gas supply pipeline/mains and not correctly changing the control system over. The result was preasure built up and gas escaped into many many homes where it ignited in some causing more than sixty fires, the evacuation of thousands and electrical power turned off to tens of thousands.

In essence two pipelines were in place but only one control system, that did not get moved over correctly from the old to the new. So as the preasure fell in one pipeline, the control system increased the preasure in the other pipeline.

In some ways they were lucky, because pipeline fails can be quite devistating. As were people with this failure,

When you think about the radius of the physical vibrations, noise heard and light seen, consider what might have occured if it had happened in a suburban or city housing density area…

The problem with gas and most other hydrocarbon pipelines is they don’t have a natural fail safe path, that is both too much preasure and too little preasure are both bad news and can result in explosions and fire. Worse a drop in preasure caused by “consumption” looks just about the same as a drop in preasure caused by a gas leak…

Perhaps the example that sticks most in my mind when it comes to pipeline fails is the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea. Due to contractual obligations, other platforms kept pumping hydrocarbons into the fire quickly turning it into an inferno that killed over a hundred people,

Gas pipelines are often made of steel and earlier ones of cast iron. Both steel and cast iron become brittle by “work hardening” giving rise to “metal fatigue” as well as other issues with hydrogen. When such pipelines are adjacent to heavy usage roads or train tracks with lots of vibrations they are particularly vulnerable. However colocating the pipeline with such a vibration source is fairly normal because it reduces the cost of “laying pipe”. But the economic trade off is transportation by pipeline or by containers on railway “flat-beds”… Either way, if you can live a good five to ten miles from a railway or pipeline it might be a consideration when locating a new home.

myliit April 7, 2020 6:53 AM

@Clive Robinson

“ … But the reality is usually it’s the “controlers” of the motors to “pumps and valves” that are hacked, and the controlers do not themselves get damaged by the “hack” likewise the motors. …”

As usual [1] thanks for your post.

iirc, the photo Vaguely looked like a black large horizontal undamaged train locomotive (roughly in shape and size) from a marketing or sales brochure photograph

[1] At other times, in general, sometimes I think my head might explode.

3lirium May 22, 2020 2:19 PM

The techno-disaster, mentioned by Sergey Babkin — happened on 3-4 June 1989.

It is completely unrelated to previous (alleged) “sabotage” story.

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