Central Intelligence Agency

Putin is heir to Russia's long disinformation experience

Vladimir Putin doesn't tweet and he claims he doesn't have a smartphone. At first sight, the Russian president's reluctance to adopt the hyperconnected world's technology might seem at odds with the widespread belief that he signed off on a campaign to undermine the United States via social media.

But he has something likely more important than gadgets — long experience in the KGB and its post-Soviet successor.

From the czarist secret police to the present, Russian operatives have adroitly exploited humans' biases and their capacity to believe the unlikely. The elaborate campaign of bogus identities and inflammatory statements alleged in last week's U.S. indictment of 13...