Tag Archives: CIA

The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #96

Douglas Valentine has critiqued the progressive-left’s uncritical stance toward public luminaries, such as longtime CIA operative Daniel Ellseberg, or the functioning deity of American liberals, the New York Times itself. According to Valentine, political progressives demonstrate crucial blindspots in their adoration of such figures and institutions. Works and authors that shed light on the contradictory nature of this adoration are either ignored or derogated by what CIA official Cord Meyer termed “the Compatible Left,” notes Valentine.

Upon The Phoenix Program‘s publication in 1990 “the word went out to ignore the book, not just because it revealed CIA secrets,” observes Valentine,

but because it identified the media, and the Times in particular, as the reason why the public can’t see the CIA clearly for what it is: a criminal conspiracy on behalf of wealthy capitalists.

I had also noted that the release of the Pentagon Papers distracted attention from Congressional hearings into Phoenix. In subsequent books I added that it distracted attention from reports on CIA drug trafficking as well.

Indeed, Valentine argues that he was effectively “neutralize[d]” by CIA media assets, and even his allies responded in chorus that he’d “crossed the line and would never get another book published in the United States. So I learned the hard way,” he continues, “that the CIA has a strategic intelligence network of management level people in the information industry who know, through instruments like the Times Book Review section, what books and authors to marginalize.”

Valentine explains how author Peter Dale Scott was similarly marginalized as a result of his landmark books, The War Conspiracy (1972) and Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993). “Peter supported me,” Valentine recalls,

and a few years after the Phoenix book was published, I mentioned to him that I was writing an article based on my interviews with [CIA officers Frank] Scotton and [Lucien] Conein, about Ellseberg’s deep state political association with the CIA. Peter is Ellsberg’s friend, and even though the article had the potential to embarrass Ellsberg, he arranged for me to interview him. Peter gave me Ellsberg’s number and I called at a pre-arranged time. And the first thing Ellsberg said to me was, “You can’t possibly understand me because you’re not a celebrity.

CIA Operative and Progressive-Left Darling, Daniel Ellsberg. Image Credit: Huffington Post

If you want to understand the critical role celebrities play in determining what society accepts as real and valuable, read Guy Debord’s books The Society of the Spectacle and its sequel, Comments. Debord explains the symbolic role celebrities play (at times inadvertently) in maintaining the illusions we confuse with reality.

Debord cites the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, who famously said: “But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence… illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.”

When Ellsberg told me he was a celebrity, he was saying that he underwent a symbolic transformation the moment he leaked the Pentagon Papers, and landed  in a social realm that alienated him from non-celebrities like me. He became an icon, and nobody on the left is about to say, “Oh, my god! Valentine had this revelation about Ellsberg. Let’s rethink everything we believe is true.”

Like its doppelgängers on the right, the management class on the left is invested in celebrity heroes who represent their business interests. they focus on the symbol and ignore any contradictory but essential facts, the way [journalists Glenn] Greenwald and [Jeremy] Scahill] ignore Pierre Omidyar’s funding of the Center for the United Action in Kiev, which was a Phoenix-style coordination center for covert political action.

Douglas Valentine, “How William Colby Gave Me the Keys to the CIA Kingdom (based on interview with James Tracy),” in The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, Atlanta GA: Clarity Press, 2017, 31-32.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #95

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.

Former CIA official and Senate Committee censor William B. Bader

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.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #92

The CIA played a leading role in orchestrating propaganda efforts in the lead up to the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of April 17, 1960, particularly via its broadcasting front organization, Radio Swan.

“Project officers … consulted with Voice of America and the United States Information Agency on propaganda operations,” Agency internal documents reveal.

“There were many discussions with the Federal Communications Commission on the licensing of Radio Swan and with the Defense Department concerning its cover. The State Department was regularly consulted on political matters.”

 

As the actual Cuban invasion approached “Radio Swan and other outlets were broadcasting 18 hours a day on medium-wave and 16 hours on short-wave. Immediately after D Day, these totals were increased to 55 hours and 26 hours, respectively. Fourteen frequencies were used. By the time of the invasion a total of 12,000,000 pounds of leaflets had been dropped on Cuba.”

Peter Kornbluh (ed.), The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba, New York: New Press, 1998, 27, 28, 38.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #91

Immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the CIA used its own disinformation conduits to link the event to Cuban President Fidel Castro. The Nov. 23, 1963, special edition of the magazine, Trinchera (in English: Trenches), was published by members of the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE), a CIA-funded organization operating out of Miami.

The CIA funneled leaders of the Directorate $51,000 per month in 1963 dollars ($389,000 per month in 2013 dollars), or about $4.8 million per year, according to Agency records. Trinchera’s publication was paid for by the CIA officer George Joannides, who was chief of psychological operations at the CIA’s station in Miami.

In August 1963, agents in Joannides’s organization provided the public backdrop for their November 23 Trinchera publication by counter-protesting Oswald’s one-man chapter of the pro-Castro “Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”  Trinchera’s November 23, 1963 special edition also highlighted comments Oswald made during an August 1963 debate on a New Orleans radio program with DRE Delegate Carlos Bringuier. Drawing on this, the DRE argued that Oswald and Castro were “the presumed assassins.”

Joseph Lazarro, “First JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theory Was Paid For By the CIA,” International Business Times, December 5, 2013.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #89

The famous film of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination captured by amateur filmographer Abraham Zapruder was likely altered from its original with advanced technology in a CIA-owned laboratory within hours of the event. These are the observations of veteran JFK assassination researcher David S. Lifton.

“In 1971, I was permitted to study, in the L.A. offices of Time-Life, a 35mm print made from what Time-Life called the ‘camera original’ of the Zapruder film,” Lifton begins.

To my surprise, I found that those frames showed the large head wound situated toward the right front, not the rear of the head as reported by Dallas observers. The rear of the head gave the appearance of having been “blacked out”–or of having been in a deep shadow.

I also discovered splices on the film which had never been mentioned by Time-Life. I then began exploring the possibility that the Zapruder film itself had been altered sometime before it became Warren Commission evidence in 1964, perhaps even before it went to Life on November 23, 1963. (Life purchased the film on November 25, 1963 for $150,000.) But alteration of the film required a film laboratory with the sophisticated apparatus normally used by Hollywood to create “special effects.” Was the original Zapruder film at some point taken to such a laboratory? Officially, the film went only from Zapruder and Kodak in Dallas; then to Jamison Film Co. in Dallas, where three prints were made (two for the Secret Service, and one for Zapruder); then back to Zapruder, and then to the vault at Life. I suspected it had taken a secret detour, but I could find no directr evidence to prove that.

Then, in 1976, among records released by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act, Paul Hoch found CIA item 450, a group of documents indicating the Zapruder film was at the CIA’s National Photo Interpretation Center (NPIC), possibly on Friday night, November 22, 1963, and certainly within days of the assassination. NPIC is one of the most sophisticated photo labs in the world.

The CIA documents indicate that the film, when at NPIC, was not yet numbered as it was later by the FBI laboratory. CIA tables and frame numbers arranged in a multiple-column format bearing such headings as “frames on which shots occur” and “seconds between shots” explores various three-shot interpretations of the film. One document refers to the existence of either a negative or master positive–and calls for the striking of four prints from that item: one “test print,” and a second group of three prints. the total job, it indicated, would take seven hours. the making of four prints is significant–that number is exactly what existed in Dallas: an original, and three prints made from that original.

In 1976, I interviewed Herbert Orth, the photo chief at Life. Orth believed the film never left his custody in 1963. Yet the CIA documents establish that it, or a copy, was worked on at the CIA’s film lab in Washington. Indeed, the figures used in the CIA documents to describe the time intervals between shots–“74 frames later” and “48 frames after that”–are identical with those used in the first Life article about the film (Life, 11/29/63, “End to Nagging Rumors: The Six Critical Seconds”). Was the CIA supplying Life with data? Or did the agency have the film later, and was it reading Life for its information?

In my view, previously unreported CIA possession of the Zapruder film compromised the film’s value as evidence: (1) the forward motion of Kennedy’s head, for one frame preceding frame 313, might be the result of an altered film, and if that was so, it made the theory of a forward high-angle shot completely unnecessary; (2) an altered film might also explain why the occipital area, where the Dallas doctors saw a wound, appears suspiciously dark, whereaas a large wound appears on the forward right-hand side of the head, where the Dallas doctors saw no wound at all. Dr. Paul Peters, one of the Dallas doctors quoted in this book, when ashown color blowups made from the Zapruder film frames depicting these wounds, wrote, “The wound which you marked … I never saw and I don’t htink there was such a wound. I think that was simply an artifact of copying Zapruder’s movie … The only wound I saw on President Kennedy’s head was in the occipitoparietal area on the right side.”

David S. Lifton, Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Asssassination of John F. Kennedy, New York: MacMillan, 1980, 555-557f.

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