The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #54

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.


A historical episode along the lines of the US Democratic Party and corporate media’s feigned concern over “Russian meddling in US elections” arose in 1964 when then-CIA Director John McCone sought to suppress publication of journalists Wise and Ross’ The Invisible Government, an exposé of the CIA’s influence corrupting influence. McCone and his second-in-command, Lieutenant General Marshall Carter, placed phone calls to Random House, the book’s publisher, objecting to its publication. Another CIA official approached Random House with an offer to buy up the book’s entire first printing—15,000 copies. “Calling this action ‘laughable,’ Random House’s president, Bennet Cerf, agreed to sell the agency as many books as it wanted, but stated that additional printings would be made for the public,” former CIA officer Victor Marchetti notes.

“The final chapter in the agency attack against The Invisible Government came in 1965 when the CIA circulated an unattributed document on ‘The Soviet and Communist Bloc Defamation Campaign” to various members of Congress and the press. This long study detailed the many ways used by the KGB to discredit the CIA, including the ‘development and milking of Western journalists. Americans figure prominently among these.’ The study singled out as an example of KGB disinformation a Soviet radio broadcast that quoted directly from The Invisible Government. The agency’s message was not too subtle,” Marchetti concludes, “but then the CIA never put its name on the document.”

Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, 359-360.

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