The famous Senate committee led by Idaho Senator Frank Church tasked to review the CIA’s internal affairs and relationships with mass media was in fact overseen by former CIA officer and Ford Foundation staffer William B. Bader. Bader proceeded to effectively censor a multitude of the committee’s most damning revelations concerning Agency-media liaisons. After his service in this regard he became an upper-echelon intelligence official at the Department of Defense and chief of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Later in his career Bader was appointed by President Clinton to be Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Bader’s assistant in the Senate committee investigation was David Aaron, who previously served in Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council and went on to become a career diplomat after being deputy to President Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. In the 1990s Aaron was appointed ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by Clinton.
One CIA official who sought to convince committee members that the Agency’s relationship with journalists was insignificant argued that the files under examination were “filled with puffing’ by case officers,” according to investigative reporter Carl Bernstein.
“You can’t establish what is puff and what isn’t,” he claimed. Many reporters, he added, “were recruited for finite [specific] undertakings and would be appalled to find that they were listed [in Agency files] as CIA operatives.”
The same CIA officer suggested that these files included descriptions of several “‘famous'” reporters and correspondents. “The files show,'” according to this official, “‘that the CIA goes to the press for and just as often that the press comes to the CIA …There is a tacit agreement in many of these cases that there is going to be a quid pro quo’” which means the reporter in question can expect to receive important stories and information from the Agency and in exchange the CIA will obtain helpful services from the reporter.
The upshot was that the Senate committee’s inquest on the Agency’s use of journalists were purposefully suppressed “from the full membership of the committee, from the Senate and from the public,” Bernstein notes.
“There was a difference of opinion on how to treat the subject,” explained one source. “Some [senators] thought these were abuses which should be exorcized and there were those who said, ‘We don’t know if this is bad or not.’”
In fact, former CIA officer Bader’s findings on the CIA’s relationship with the media were withheld froth committee, even behind closed doors in executive session because the senators were afraid that, “[a]t the slightest sign of a leak the CIA might cut off the flow of sensitive information as it did, several times in other areas), claiming that the committee could not be trusted with secrets.” As one committee staff member pointed out, “’It was as if we were on trial—not the CIA.’”
To describe in the committee’s final report the true dimensions of the Agency’s use of journalists would cause a furor in the press and on the Senate floor. And it would result in heavy pressure on the CIA to end its use of journalists altogether. “We just weren’t ready to take that step,” said a senator.
The committee also decided “to conceal the results of the staff’s inquiry into the use of academics,” and Bader himself wrote those portions of the committee’s final report. Pages 191 to 201 of that document were entitled, “Covert Relationships with the United States Media.” “’It hardly reflects what we found,’” Senator Gary Hart stated. “’There was a prolonged and elaborate negotiation [with the CIA] over what would be said.’”
Carl Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media,” Rolling Stone, October 20, 1977.