The centrality of a strong state security apparatus to the maintenance of authoritarian rule via the threat or use of repression has been highlighted in classic studies of single-party regimes as well as in more recent analyses of authoritarian resilience in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This article focuses on two other fundamental questions related to the operation of state security forces in single-party autocracies during the Cold War. First, how did the state security agencies of East Germany and Saddam Hussein's Iraq collect information? Second, how was this information used? The article underscores the importance of the recruitment of informants for the state security apparatus, and it also reveals how information affects decisions about the deployment of repression. These single-party autocracies continuously extracted information by recruiting ordinary citizens to participate (voluntarily or involuntarily) as informants in the state security networks and used the information gathered to mete out repression.

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