“‘I don’t believe that whom I was or wasn’t friends with interfered with our reporting at any of our publications,” wrote former Washington Post and Newsweek publisher Katharine Graham in her 1998 autobiography Personal History. Veteran investigative journalist Robert Parry disagrees. A Washington correspondent for Newsweek during the late 1980s, Parry claims to have witnessed “self-censorship because of the coziness between Post-Newsweek executives and senior national security figures.”
“On one occasion in 1987,” Parry explains, “I was told that my story about the CIA funneling anti-Sandinista money through Nicaragua’s Catholic Church had been watered down because the story needed to be run past Mrs. Graham, and Henry Kissinger was her house guest that weekend. Apparently, there was fear among the top editors that the story as written might cause some consternation.” According to media critic Norman Solomon, former CIA Director Robert Gates’ 1996 memoir “confirmed that Parry had the story right all along.”
Among the first major CIA clandestine operators and propagandists functioning abroad was OSS veteran and US Air Force Colonel Edward Lansdale. An early confidante of Allen and John Foster Dulles, Lansdale was an advertising executive-turned-spy and counterinsurgency expert, all the while projecting “a squeaky-clean, Boy Scout Image, behind which he masked his own perverse delight in atrocity,” writes historian Douglas Valentine.
In the prelude to America’s full-scale involvement in Southeast Asia Landsdale fulfilled a special role in the formation of the CIA’s infamous counterterror assassination program dubbed Phoenix, having successfully organized an anti-Communist movement in the Philippines. Acting in the 1950s as the Dulles’ emissary in Vietnam, Landsdale played an important role as US advisor to the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. And the slogan-savvy Lansdale coined the term “Vietcong”, forever denigrating Vietminh patriots in the Western mind.
Lansdale’s activities in the Philippines earned him the nickname the “Ugly American.” He brought those tactics to Saigon along with a team of dedicated Filipino anti-Communists who, in the words of one veteran CIA officer, ‘would slit their grandmother’s throat for a dollar eighty-five.’”
In one psychological warfare operation Landsdale sought to motivate Vietnamese government troops to vacate a village and engage Communist guerrilla fighters on the outskirts. The problem was that village’s leaders feared assassination by the same guerrillas if the troops left. As ad exec Landsdale recalls,
“A combat psywar [psychological warfare] team was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of a vampire living on the hill where the Huks were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to circulate among Huk sympathizers in the town and make their way up the hill to the camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along a trail used by the Huks. When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the vampire had got him and that one of them would be next if they remained on the hill. When daylight came the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.”
Lansdale deemed the operation “’low humor’ and ‘ an appropriate response … to the glum and deadly practices of communists and other authoritarians,'” notes Valentine. “And by doing so, former advertising executive Lansdale–the merry prankster whom author Graham Greene dubbed the Quiet America–came to represent the hypocrisy of American policy in South Vietnam.
Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990, 25-26.
As author Vitaly Petrussenko chronicles, following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion the CIA sustained significant negative impact. To help restore its luster “and his own image at the top of the Establishment” then-CIA Director “Allen Dulles authorized a big article in Fortune magazine, written by his friend Charles J.V. Murphy.” Classified documents intended to place CIA officials in a positive light and relieve them of responsibility of the failed invasion were turned over to Murphy “with Dulles’s consent.”
Shortly thereafter Dulles became the standard public spokesman for the Agency when he “began cultivating relations with television companies as suggested by Attorney General Robert Kennedy who himself was instructed by his President-brother to re-organize the Agency.” For example, “NBC television was offered the unique opportunity of producing a film about the CIA narrated by David Brinkley, NBC’s star commentator. Naturally, the film vindicated the CIA, and praised its cloak-and-dagger agents.
Vitaly Petrusenko, Trans. By Nocolai Kozelsky and Vladimir Leonov, A Dangerous Game: CIA and the Mass Media, Prague: Interpress, 1977, 23.
In 1967 public opinion polls indicated that two-thirds of the American public rejected the Warren Commission Report’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin of President Kennedy. Nevertheless top CIA officials were assured they could depend on US news media to assuage such widespread public skepticism.
According to historian David Talbot, “An exchange of letters between CBS news director William Small and (CIA founder Allen) Dulles in July 1967 summed up the media’s lockstep allegiance to the officials story, no matter how many holes were punched in it by new research.” ’I hope you had a chance to view the four-part series on the Warren Commission,’ wrote Small, referring to his TV network’s massive apologia for the Warren Report. ‘We are very proud of them and I hope you found them a proper display of what television journalism can do.’ … After reviewing transcripts of the entire series that Small had obligingly provided him, Dulles assured the CBS news executive, ‘ If I have any nitpicking to pass on to you, I shall do so as soon as I have read them.’ The spymaster,” Talbot concludes, “was always happy to offer guidance to his media friends, down to the smallest details.”
David Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, New York: Harper Perennial, 2015, 597-598.
In the mid-to-late 1960s the CIA initiated concerted efforts to defame independent researchers of the Kennedy assassination that contested the Warren Commission’s findings, seeking to suppress their message at every turn. By 1966 the most prominent of these researchers was New York-based attorney Mark Lane. “As part of the campaign to smear Warren Report critics,” writes historian David Talbot, former CIA Director Allen Dulles “compiled dirt on Mark Lane, whom he considered a particularly ‘terrible nuisance’ because of his growing media visibility and his influence overseas, where he was often invited to speak.” One of Dulles’ moles claimed to have located photos of Lane engaging in “’obscene acts’” with minors. “’He is supposedly Jewish,’” the informant wrote, “’but there are those who claim he is half Negro or at least has Negro blood. He is very dark complexioned, wears horn-rimmed glasses and he’s always in a hurry. My own personal opinion is that he’s deranged.’”
As Lane’s popularity developed the CIA “pressured TV and Radio programs to cancel interviews with him. When he traveled to foreign countries to speak about the Kennedy assassination, the agency sent bulletins to the U.S. embassies there announcing that Lane’s local appearances had been cancelled.”
David Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, New York: Harper Perennial, 2015, 594, 595.
In 2017 publication of the English translation of German journalist and intelligence asset Udo Ulfkotte’s best-selling book, Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists) ceased when its publisher suddenly took down the book’s online promotional material without explanation or comment. A best-seller in Europe, the work is a powerful first-hand account by a mainstream journalist of how the CIA alongside other intelligence agencies influence the output of Western news media. In early 2017 Next Revelation Press, an imprint of US-Canadian-based publisher Tayen Lane, tentatively released the English version of Bought Journalists, under the title, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the New. Shortly thereafter Tayen Lane removed any reference to the title from its website.
When this author contacted Ulfkotte in early December 2015 to inquire on the book’s pending translation, he responded, “Please find the link to the English edition here. http://www.tayenlane.com/bought-journalists . The above address once providing Bought Journalist’s description and anticipated publication date now leads to an empty page. Tayen Lane would not respond to requests for an explanation of the title’s disappearance. As of April 13, 2018 the English translation of Bought Journalists sells for retail price of $997 at Amazon. As is suggested by previous posts in this series addressing CIA ties to the book publishing industry, Bought Journalists‘ subject matter and unexplained disappearance from the marketplace are cause for serious concern.
Daniele Ganser, the sole academic author thus far to have conducted comprehensive research on the NATO and CIA-supported Operation Gladio that terrorized Europe’s citizenry for two decades, describes how his pathbreaking work was stymied by the CIA’s unresponsiveness to numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. On December 14, 2000 Ganser “placed a FOIA request with the CIA, whereupon two weeks later the CIA replied to the author’s request “pertaining to ‘Operation Gladio’ in an evasive manner by stating that ‘The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request,'” Ganser explains. “By raising FOIA exemptions B1 and B3 the CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator, Kathryn I. Dyer, with her letter declined all information on Operation Gladio.”
Shortly thereafter Ganser appealed, maintaining, “’The documents that were withheld must be disclosed under the FOIA, because the secrecy exemptions (b)(1) and (b)(3) can only reasonably refer to CIA operations which re still secret today.’” In February 2001 the CIA responded:
“Your appeal has been accepted and arrangements will be made for its consideration by the appropriate members of the Agency Release Panel. You will be advised of the determination made.”
In 2004, just before Ganser’s book manuscript went to press, “the CIA Agency Release Panel had still not answered the author’s request for information.” Dr. Ganser confirmed to this author in early 2018 that close to 20 years later the CIA has still not turned over the responsive documents or even provided him with a response.
Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, London and New YorK: Frank Cass, 2005, 35.