Tag Archives: The CIA and the Media

The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #86

In 1991 the CIA collaborated with some of the nation’s top public relations firms to sway public opinion toward supporting military action against Iraq. Photos of alleged atrocities committed by occupying Iraqi troops accompanied  testimony of “Nayirah,” later revealed as the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US, whose claims were later proven false.

“During the 1991 Gulf War,” Peter Phillips observes, “the world witnessed testimony to Congress about babies taken from incubators and left on cold hospital floors and the heartfelt please by the Kuwaitis to help liberate them from a ruthless Iraqi dictator. In truth, the CIA, using taxpayer money, funded these images, which were fabricated and disseminated by the Rendon Group, Hill and Knowlton, and other private public relations and crisis management companies.”

Peter Phillips, “Parameters of Power in the Global Dominance Group: 9/11 & Election Irregularities in Context,” in 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, eds., Northampton MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007, 182.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #84

Months after investigative journalist Gary Webb’s exposé “Dark Alliance” on CIA involvement in the illicit drug trade was published online by the San Jose Mercury News (August 1996) Webb’s work was judged as “’irresponsible’” by an array of newspapers, including the CIA-linked Washington Post.

“The series was now described frequently as ‘discredited,’” Webb wrote in the early 2000s, “even though nothing had surfaced showing that any of the facts were incorrect.” In fact, a two-year internal investigation into the allegations encompassed in “Dark Alliance’s” by the CIA and Justice Department found that Webb’s reporting was fittingly circumspect. “The CIA’s knowledge and involvement had been far greater than I’d ever imagined,” notes Webb.

The drug ring was even bigger than I had portrayed. The involvement between the CIA agents running the Contras and the drug traffickers was closer than I had written … The CIA also admitted having direct involvement with about four dozen other drug traffickers or their companies, and that this too had been known and effectively condoned by the CIA’s top brass.

Notwithstanding the magnitude of these admissions that might have resulted in Webb’s exoneration, they were downplayed by major news outlets as “having uncovered no formal evidence of CIA involvement in drug trafficking and no evidence of a conspiracy to send crack to black neighborhoods.” These were claims Webb had never made in the first place.

Gary Webb, “The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On,” in Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, Kristina Borjesson (ed.) Amherst NY: Prometheus, 2002, 305-308.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #83

Newspaper publisher and venture capitalist John Hay Whitney. Image Credit: Alchetron.com

Among the most extensively distributed of CIA‐owned or subsidized news services within the United States was Forum World Features, established in 1958 as Forum Information Service, with headquarters in London. Through most of its existence Forum was apparently owned by New York Herald Tribune publisher and pioneer venture capitalist John Hay Whitney.

“According to several C.I.A. sources, Mr. Whitney was ‘witting’ of the agency’s true role,” a 1977 New York Times article series documents. “Though the C.I.A. has insisted that it never attempted directly to place its propaganda in the American press, at one time Forum World Features had 30 domestic newspapers among its clients, including The Washington Post.”

The selling of Forum content to The Post “and other American newspapers, one C.I.A. official said, ‘put us in a hell of a dilemma,’ The sales, he went on, were considered necessary to preserve the organization’s cover, and they occasioned a continuing and somewhat frantic effort to insure that the domestic clients were given only legitimate news stories.”

Worldwide Propaganda Network Built By the CIA,” New York Times, December 26, 1977.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #82

During President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress in Latin America “[t]he CIA used an entire news organization, Copley News Service, as a cover for its agents,” according to investigative journalists Joseph Trento and David Roman.

“’The Agency’s involvement with the Copley organization is so extensive that it’s almost impossible to sort out,’” one CIA official said of the Agency’s relationship with entity. Other CIA officials confirmed that James S. Copley, the news chain’s owner, was directly involved in making cover arrangements for Copley journalists to serve as CIA assets.

In the 1950s, Trento and Roman explain, Copley personally offered his news organization to President Eisenhower to perform as “the eyes and ears” against “the Communist threat in Latin and Central America” for “our intelligence services.” James Copley was also intimately involved in the InterAmerican Press Association, a CIA-backed entity with close relations to rightwing owners of South American newspapers.

Trento and Roman were among the first journalists to elaborate on CIA infiltration of news media in a 1977 article published in Penthouse magazine, “The Spies Who Came In From the Newsroom.”

Joseph J. Trento, A Secret History of the CIA, New York: Prima Publishing/Random House, 2001.

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CIA Communications to Corporate News Media Deemed Classified

In Key FOIA Case Judge Grants Agency Broad Discretion in Leaking Info to Select Journalists, News Organizations

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #81

In early 1967 free-lance journalist Fred Powledge travelled to New Orleans to report on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation of the JFK assassination for New Republic magazine.

In one interview with Garrison the embattled DA told of the “’tremendous pressure from some sections of the Eastern press, especially those with connections with the administration’… that was causing potentially important witnesses who had initially contacted his office to become reluctant to come forward.”

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison

“’I couldn’t  contradict that,” Powledge observed in his June 17, 1967 article.

I had known, since the assassination, that the most influential purveyors of news in the nation had gone out of their way to present the Warren Commission side of the story, and ignore or downplay those who dissented. One organ of communication, I later learned, even sought the CIA’s advice on how to treat the story about the investigation. This, if Garrison’s allegations about CIA involvement are correct, is roughly comparable to a newspaper’s asking “Bull” Connor how he would handle a story on the Birmingham Freedom Ride massacre, and then following his advice.

“The Work of Ray Marcus,” Appendix VIII, in E. Martin Schotz, History Will Not Absolve Us: Orwellian Control, Public Denial, and the Murder of President Kennedy, Brookline MA: Kurtz, Ulmer and DeLucia Book Publishers, 1996, 252.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #80

The CIA’s well-known MKULTRA mind control experimentation program that began in the early 1950s. Operation MKU was partly justified by the Agency and DCI Allen Dulles through a propaganda campaign using the news media to push the false notion that communist forces were carrying out similar tests on US prisoners of war.

Indeed, the term “’brainwashing’ was coined by Edward Hunter, a CIA-employed journalist who authored many emotionally-charged books and articles on the subject,” according to authors Martin Lee and Norman Solomon. During World War II Hunter worked with the Office of Strategic Services, in propaganda operations.

When he launched his crusade to bring “the facts about brainwashing … to the people,” Hunter was working for U.S. intelligence. Popularizing the concept of brainwashing was part of his job as a CIA operative, despite U.S. Army studies which”failed to reveal even one conclusively documented case of the actual ‘brainwashing’ on an American prisoner of war in Korea.” Indeed, it appears that the communist brainwashing scare was a propaganda ploy, a kind of “brainwashing” or mind control in its own right designed to dupe the American people.

Martin A. Lee and Norman Solomon, Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media, New York: Carol Publishing, 1992, 118.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #78

Chief executive of CBS broadcasting network, William Paley, was a close acquaintance of CIA director Allen Dulles. Much like New York Times editor Sulzberger, Paley made arrangements with the Agency for the network to provide cover for CIA officers. Paley’s chosen contact for the Agency was none other than Sig Mickelson—president of CBS News throughout the mid-to-late 1950s.

Sig Mickelson. Image Credit: AP

On one occasion, Mickelson protested to CBS President Frank Stanton “about having to use a pay telephone to call the CIA, and Stanton suggested he install a private line, bypassing the CBS switchboard, for the purpose. According to Mickelson, he did so.” Mickelson went on to become president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, both well-documented CIA-backed propaganda organs.

Fun Fact: As with other CIA-media operatives, Mickelson’s 2000 New York Times obituary makes no mention of his indisputable Agency affiliation.

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

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #77

Among the most admired and telegenic US presidents in recent history, William J. Clinton was also “a CIA asset” within the Agency’s infamous Operation CHAOS, according to CIA insiders. The CHAOS program violated the organization’s own charter by surveilling thousands of American political dissidents from 1959 to 1974 on US soil. This fact was largely ignored by former DCI and incumbent George H. W. Bush as he ran against Clinton in the 1992 US presidential election, as well as by US news media throughout Clinton’s eight years in the executive branch, and to this day.

“The time that Clinton was supposed to have gone to Moscow was the time when the CIA was very active recruiting American students and other students to go to Moscow,” former CIA officer Victor Marchetti observes. “Without revealing any secrets as to how I came to this conclusion, I would not be surprised to find out that Clinton was actually kind of working for the CIA.”

While successfully evading conscription during the Vietnam War, author Roger Morris argues that Clinton was a CIA informant operating within the peace movement both in the US and abroad. According to Morris, one former CIA officer recalls

going through archives of Operation CHAOS at Langley headquarters—part of an agency purge amid the looming congressional investigations of the mid-1970s—and seeing Bill Clinton listed, along with others, as a former informant who had gone on to run for or be elected to political office of some import, in Clinton’s case, attorney general of Arkansas. “He was there on the records,” the former agent said, “with a special designation.” Still another CIA source contended that part of Clinton’s arrangement as an informer had been further insurance against the draft. “He knew he was safe, you see, even if he got a lottery number not high enough and even if the ROTC thing fell through for some reason,” the source said, because the Company could get him a deferment if it had to, and it was done all the time.

Roger Morris, Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, New York: Henry Holt, 1996, 102-104, 234, 235.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #76

Phillip and Katharine Graham, circa 1953

In 1988 Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, the central character in Steven Spielberg’s 2017 film, The Post, declared to CIA staffers during a speech at the organization’s Langley Virginia headquarters that government agencies should employ the doctrine of prior restraint whenever they deem it necessary and appropriate.

We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.

Steven L. Vaughn, Encyclopedia of American Journalism, New York: Routledge, 2008, 201. Cited in Janney, Mary’s Mosaic, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013, 269.

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