The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #52

Editor’s Note: In August 2015 MHB published, “The CIA and the Media: 50 Historical Facts The World Needs to Know.” The present series seeks to augment this initial article with several dozen additional facts and observations on the relationship between the US intelligence community, the mass media, and public opinion. One historical fact will be released each day over the next month and beyond.


The CIA’s integration with mass media is especially insidious because it operates as a secret organization with its own rules and is answerable to no one. “’The National Security Act of 1947,’” in the words of Allen W. Dulles, “’…has given Intelligence a more influential position in our government than Intelligence enjoys in any other government of the world.’” As journalists David Wise and Thomas B. Ross wrote over a half-century ago,

The American people have not been in a position to assess these changes. They know virtually nothing about the Invisible Government. Its employment rolls are classified. Its activities are top secret. Its budget is concealed in other appropriations. Congress provides money for the Invisible Government without knowing how much it has appropriated or how it will be spent. A handful of congressmen are supposed to be kept informed by the Invisible Government, but they know relatively little about how it works.

Overseas, in foreign capitals, American ambassadors … are told they have control over the agents of the Invisible Government. But do they? The agents maintain communications and codes of their own. And the ambassador’s authority has been judged by a committee of the United States Senate to be a “polite fiction.”

At home, the intelligence men are directed by law to leave matters to the FBI. But the CIA maintains more than a score of offices in major cities throughout the United States; it is deeply involved in many domestic activities, from broadcasting stations and a steamship company to the university campus. The Invisible Government is also generally thought to be under the direct control of the National Security Council. But, in fact, many of its major decisions are never discussed in the Council. These decisions are handled by a small directorate, the name of which is only whispered. How many Americans have heard of the ‘Special Group’? The name of this group, even its existence, is unknown outside the innermost circle of the Invisible Government.

David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, The Invisible Government, New York: Random House, 1964, 4, 5.

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