Tag Archives: Washington Post

The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #90

An early edition of the December 22, 1963  Washington Post carried an editorial by former US President Harry S. Truman, titled, “U.S. Should Hold CIA to Intelligence Role.” Echoing President Kennedy’s ambivalence toward the CIA, Truman cautioned the American people that the Agency needed to be confined to its intelligence-gathering role and restricted from wanton forms of espionage.

President Harry S. Truman. Image Credit: WIkipedia

“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” Truman wrote.

It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and many have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas. We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel we need to correct it.

JFK assassination researcher Ray Marcus recognized the publication’s significance and questioned why Truman’s observations, appearing exactly one month after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, failed to reverberate through the US body politic.

“According to my information,” Marcus explains, “it was not carried in later [Washington Post] editions that day, nor commented on editorially, nor picked up by any other major newspaper, nor mentioned on any national radio or TV broadcast.”

Truman’s observations are likewise entirely omitted from several critically acclaimed presidential biographies. “I have no reason to believe the authors were aware of it,” notes Marcus.

Can this be accidental? Can editors of all major newspapers, magazines, and news broadcasts have really been unaware of its existence? Can such individuals looking at the Truman article really have thought, no, this is of insufficient importance or interest to reprint, editorialize on, or even mention? Such an idea seems preposterously naïve. It is much more probable that the article was consciously suppressed by deliberate inattention, at decisive points of intervention. The pertinent question is—why?

“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, 237-238.

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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 #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 in 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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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #70

Katharine Graham. Image Credit: Wikipedia

“‘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.”

Norman Solomon, “The Real Story Behind Katharine Graham and The Post,Free Press, December 20, 2017.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #62

As the documented remarks of numerous established American journalists suggest, throughout the Cold War the news media’s relationships with the CIA were frequently often symbiotic in nature, if not friendly and intimate. For instance, famous Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus notes that in 1960 he was “offered a full-time overseas job with the CIA” while serving as “Washington correspondent for three North Carolina newspapers. I turned down the job,” he continues, “but that year did take two trips overseas to international youth conferences. The CIA arranged and paid the expenses for both trips. In 1967, I wrote of this CIA association in the Washington Post.”

Along these lines one-time Chicago Sun-Times Associate Editor Stuart H. Loory warmly recalls how “[d]uring the ten years of covering foreign relations and national security affairs I have traded information with CIA people and I have eaten at the excellent table in the CIA director’s private dining room (after taking a drink from a black-coated waiter in the director’s private sitting room). Has such access hurt or helped the pursuit of information? Naturally, I think it has helped. Not all of my colleagues agree.”

Vitaly Petrusenko, Trans. By Nocolai Kozelsky and Vladimir Leonov, A Dangerous Game: CIA and the Mass Media, Prague: Interpress, 1977, 7, 7-8.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #58

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.

The conventional logic concerning the violent suicide of Washington Post publisher Philip Graham in August 1963 is that Graham’s manic depression and alcoholism figured centrally in his death. In fact, Graham’s tragic death is only hinted at in the 2017 film, The Post. Yet as author Deborah Davis suggests, Graham’s death was immediately preceded by his increasingly public criticism of the CIA’s involvement with news media. “’He had begun to talk, after his second breakdown, about the CIA’s manipulation of journalists,” Davis observes. “He said it disturbed him. He said it to the CIA.’” His fellow journalists practiced the unspoken code of “keep[ing] Phil’s insanity ‘out of the papers’ as he had kept stories ‘out of the papers’ for his friends; but now the word was that Phil Graham could not be trusted, and his friends began to see very little of him.”

In the early 1990s Davis claims, “she ‘got a call from a woman who claimed that she knew for a fact that [Phil’s death] was murder.’” Subsequent research by clinical psychologist and author Peter Janney suggests how there are several conflicting accounts of Phil’s supposed “suicide.” Already a loose cannon, Phil Graham died just three months prior to President Kennedy’s assassination. Mr. Graham would have likely been reluctant to cooperate with the CIA by turning a journalistic blind eye toward the President’s murder and, even worse, being compelled to publicly promote the Warren Commission’s cover-up of the assassination.

Peter Janney, Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013, 265-270; Deborah Davis, Katherine the Great: Katherine Graham and the Washington Post, Bethesda MD: National Press, 1987 (1979), 161.

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Through The Post Darkly: The Ghost of Phillip Graham

By James F. Tracy

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. 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.” Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Langley Virginia, 1988.[1]

Steven Spielberg’s tribute to Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and modern American journalism is a major Hollywood endeavor marshaling the industry’s premier talent. A s of this writing The Post has been nominated for dozens of awards throughout the film community.[2] The movie itself, however, comprises a sort of tortured historical confirmation on exactly how the news media would like to view themselves and their industry. It does so by mixing verifiable truths alongside careful omissions to reinforce a deeper set of myths concerning notions of American press freedom and the Vietnam War era.

On a more immediate level, The Post was produced in under six months, and was at least partly motivated by the political allegiances of its creators, who seek to analogize the Richard Nixon administration’s pursuit of a court injunction against the US press’ publication of the Pentagon Papers to President Donald Trump’s bellicose attitude toward a corporate news media that has arguably become an increasingly partisan political force following Trump’s defeat of his Democratic Party rival.

Spielberg renders Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) as a somewhat awkward and isolated widow and among the first female publishers in the predominantly male-dominated business of newspaper publishing. Left unmentioned is the fact that Graham was the daughter of Eugene Meyer, one of the country’s most powerful bankers, who bought the Washington Post in 1933 while serving as head of the Federal Reserve.

Continue reading Through The Post Darkly: The Ghost of Phillip Graham

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