Where are you now my fingerprints? - Leonard Cohen
In Blowing Up Russia, Alexander Litvinenko writes that "Freelance conspiratorial military operations groups consisting of former and current members of special armed forces units and the structures of law enforcement began to be set up in Russia in the 1980s.... [E]ven if it does not always organize the groups in the formal sense of the word, [the FSB] has controlled their activity to a greater or lesser degree from the very beginning."
This is the essence of the case for the "rogue element," that unnamed "intelligence sources" tout as the most likely agent for Litvinenko's poisoning, and possibly Yegor Gaidar's as well. Also, its beauty. Even when a murder weapon can be traced to state actors - the polonium 210 to a Russian nuclear plant or, say, the anthrax to Fort Detrick - the state can deny institutional culpability by claiming its assets acted without consent. And there is even some truth to the claim, but only because a state's intelligence is structurally dissociative: compartmentalized concretions of unadmitted will, providing deniability to the regime while enacting its ugliest measures.
"Rogues" could also charitably describe the "assassination squad" which former intelligence officer Mikhail Trepashkin attests has been set up by the FSB to eliminate enemies abroad. "Rogues" is the "bad apples" argument. It's to say a state is accountable for the crimes of its henchmen only if it first calls "Simon says." And how often does that happen? It's frequently said by many still that it was "rogue elements" within the CIA that were responsible for the assassination of John Kennedy and its subsequent cover-up, and not the CIA itself, even though those rogues have included some of its most senior and celebrated officials. If a new David Kelly investigation ever actually investigates his death, you can expect the trial balloon of "rogue elements" to be floated to relieve the pressure on the institutions of intelligence.
A lot of smart people have said Vladimir Putin didn't benefit by Litvinenko's murder, because he too obviously benefited, making him and his government the perfect frames. But if the government of Russia's a suspect, who's to prosecute? British investigators have preemptively "ruled out any official involvement" by the Russian state, though they go on to say only those with access to state nuclear laboratories could have carried it out. Naturally Britain would provide Putin an out: the damage to relations makes anything less a prohibitive disruption. (Similarly, Putin hasn't blamed Washington for 9/11, though several Russian commanders have publicly expressed disbelief at its account of the attacks.)
No one but his allies in the West can harbour necessary illusions of what Berezovsky may be capable, but neither should we believe Putin a white knight because of his tactical role as a counterweight to the White House. The lesson of 1984 isn't Smile! You're in Eurasia.
Blaming "rogue elements" spares the institutions of state, which is why the institutions breed them. And who could blame them for that?
By the way, Lisa Pease has reposted her groundbreaking original RFK assassination articles as they first appeared in Probe Magazine. (Updated versions can be found in The Assassinations.) If you haven't read them, you can't imagine what you don't know.