The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #63

The venerable New York Times. long a self-proclaimed bastion of truth and moderation, established its reputation in this way at the turn-of-the century by contrasting the Times brand with William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer-style sensationalism and what was often genuinely embellished or contrived “fake” news. Given its standing in this regard the Times has vigorously supported and benefited from Agency prerogatives since the 1950s . As Carl Bernstein explains in his largely ignored yet seminal investigative piece, “The CIA and the Media,” the CIA’s “relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials.”

Between 1950 and 1966 around ten CIA personnel were given cover as Times employees under plans endorsed by the newspaper’s then-publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. “The cover arrangements were part of a general Times policy—set by Sulzberger—to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible,” observes Bernstein. “Sulzberger was especially close to Allen Dulles. ‘At that level of contact it was the mighty talking to the mighty,’ said a high‑level CIA official who was present at some of the discussions. ‘There was an agreement in principle that, yes indeed, we would help each other. The question of cover came up on several occasions.  It was agreed that the actual arrangements would be handled by subordinates…. The mighty didn’t want to know the specifics; they wanted plausible deniability.’”

Carl Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media,” Rolling Stone, October 20, 1977.

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