Tag Archives: The CIA and the Media

The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #56

Editor’s Note: In August 2015 MHB published, “The CIA and the Media: 50 Historical Facts The World Needs to Know.” The present series seeks to augment this initial article with several dozen additional facts and observations on the relationship between the US intelligence community, the mass media, and public opinion.


Irwin Knoll, Image Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

Washington Post editorial page editor Bob Estabrook claims that one-time Post publisher Philip Graham “was in daily touch with people in the intelligence community and that he knew more about the Bay of Pigs, for example, than he would tell his own reporters,” writes Katharine Graham biographer Carol Felsenthal. Veteran journalist and former Progressive magazine editor Erwin Knoll recalls how Post editor Al Friendly “’had some CIA involvement. I know there was a pipeline to the CIA that provided occasional guidance on stories.’”

Knoll recollects the controversy that erupted in 1960 when a United States U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down by the Soviets in 1960. “’I found myself riding in the elevator with Bob Estabrook, and I said to him, ‘That’s a hell of a story out of the Soviet Union today, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve known about those flights for several years, but we were asked not to say anything.’ Now that just astonished me, that the paper knew about things it was asked not to report on, and it complied with those wishes.’” Shortly thereafter, when a US pilot in the employ of Indonesian rebels was grounded, “the Post’s foreign editor warned Knoll to be careful about reporting on the pilot, who, he said, was CIA. Knoll thinks the Post ‘was definitely on the team as far as fighting to cold war was concerned.’”

Carol Felsenthal, Power, Privilege and The Post: The Katharine Graham Story, New York: Putnam, 1993, 372, 373.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #53

By James F. Tracy

Editor’s Note: In August 2015 MHB published, “The CIA and the Media: 50 Historical Facts The World Needs to Know.” The present series seeks to augment this initial article with several dozen additional facts and observations on the relationship between the US intelligence community, the mass media, and public opinion. One historical fact will be released each day over the next month and beyond.


“The CIA is the only US government agency authorized to engage in black propaganda operations,” writes former CIA officer Philip Agee, “but it shares the responsibility for grey propaganda with other agencies such as [United States Information Agency].” Other lettered agencies “must obtain prior CIA approval before engaging in grey propaganda.” This is part of the National Security Council’s “grey law.” The purpose and design of Agency propaganda is inculcated as standard operating procedure in CIA officer training. In NSA and CIA parlance, “white propaganda” is communication overtly disseminated by the US government, frequently through one of its representative organs such as the USIA. The escape clause of “plausible denial” is integrated in to the Agency’s covert propaganda practices. “[G]rey propaganda is ostensibly attributed to people or organizations who do not acknowledge the US government as the source of their material and who produce the material as if it were their own; black propaganda is unattributed material, or it is attributed to a non-existent source, or it is false material attributed to a real source.” As Agee explains, the CIA officer’s training anticipates how journalists and editors will be used—wittingly or unwittingly—to plant information and stories in the public mind. “In propaganda operations, as in all other [psychological and Paramilitary] activities, standard security procedures forbids payment for services rendered to be made by a CIA officer working under official cover (one posing as an official of the Department of State, for instance) … The vehicles for grey and black propaganda,” observes Agee,

may be unaware of their CIA or US government sponsorship. This is partly so that it can be more effective and partly to keep down the number of people who know what is going on and thus reduce the danger of exposing the true sponsorship. Thus editorialists, politicians, businessmen and others may produce propaganda, even for money, without necessarily knowing who their masters in the case are. Some of the obviously will and so, in agency terminology, there is a distinction between ‘witting’ and ‘unwitting’ agents.

During formal instruction in covert operations CIA propagandists impressed upon Agee and other trainees the complex transnational execution of such information operations, which involved

the business of orchestrating the treatment of events of importance among several countries. Thus problems of communist influence in one country can be made to appear of international concern in others under the rubric of ‘a threat to one is a threat to all’. For example, the CIA station in Caracas can cable information on a secret communist plot in Venezuela to the Bogota station which can ‘surface’ through a local propaganda agent with attribution to an unidentified Venezuelan government official. The information can then be picked up from the Columbian press and relayed to CIA stations in Quito, Lima, La Paz, Santiago, and, perhaps, Brazil. A few days later editorials begin to appear in the newspapers of these places and pressure mounts on the Venezuelan government to take repressive action against its communists.

Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, New York: Stonehill Publishing Company, 1975, 71, 72.

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English Translation of Udo Ulfkotte’s “Bought Journalists” Suppressed?

 By James F. Tracy

The English translation of German journalist Udo Ulfkotte’s best-selling book, Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists) appears to have been suppressed throughout North America and Europe.  On May 15, 2017 Next Revelation Press, an imprint of US-Canadian-based publisher Tayen Lane, released the English version of Bought Journalists, under the title, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News.

Tayen Lane has since removed any reference to the title from its website. Correspondingly Amazon.com indicates the title is “currently unavailable,” with opportunities to purchase from independent sellers offering used copies for no less than $1309.09. The book’s subject matter and unexplained disappearance from the marketplace suggest how powerful forces are seeking to prevent its circulation.

Gekaufte Journalisten was almost completely ignored by mainstream German news media following its release in 2014. “No German mainstream journalist is allowed to report about [my] book,” Ulfkotte observed. “Otherwise he or she will be sacked. So we have a bestseller now that no German journalist is allowed to write or talk about.”{1]

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