Originally published in Rolling Stone, October 20, 1977.
This story is EXPLOSIVE, but nevertheless, with all the denials, consider it an understatement of reality. Also consider that although the USSR did have nukes and a large military, fear of direct USSR aggression against the USA was largely hype for the USA military industry and entrenched Defense bureaucracy. It was an excuse for power abuse. The USSR was not that advanced compared to the USA, 15 years behind in computers according to CIA, and in any case did not seek a direct military tussle, but rather repelling US aggression. They needed to spend money on their domestic infrastructure, but the seven decades of US threats and belligerence predictably bled to death the much younger (1913 peasant farmers vs. 1700’s for America) Soviet economy. No secret conspiracy, outspending the Soviets and forcing them to waste resources was explicitly planned by Washington. This means that while any large power can pose a rival threat, the justifications for this CIA criminality was mostly bullshit, and largely aimed at terrorizing Americans.
WITH ALL THIS KNOWN SINCE 1977, HOW CAN WE ASSUME THAT ANYTHING THE MEDIA TELLS US CAN BE TAKEN AT FACE VALUE? -gg
excerpts (not necessarily in original order):
THE AGENCY’S DEALINGS WITH THE PRESS BEGAN during the earliest stages of the Cold War.
"One journalist is worth twenty agents. He has access, the ability to ask questions without arousing suspicion."
In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA. (CIA has been described as "Wall Street’s own paramilitary police force". In the hyper-capitalist USA, where founding democratic principles take a back seat to profit and power, this view of CIA is accurate.)
Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. (Those officials most knowledgeable about the subject say that a figure of 400 American journalists is on the low side of the actual number who maintained covert relationships and undertook clandestine tasks.) Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception for the following principal reasons:
■ The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence‑gathering employed by the CIA. Although the Agency has cut back sharply (really?) on the use of reporters since 1973 (primarily as a result of pressure from the media), some journalist‑operatives are still posted abroad. (see below, they were ramped up again by the 90’s)
■ Further investigation into the matter, CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing relationships in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most powerful organizations and individuals in American journalism.
Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service (cited by Birch wingnut Gary Allen as a source). Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune. (also, Readers’ Digest, Ladies Home Journal, and a host of other family publications)
By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.
In most instances, Agency files show, officials at the highest levels of the CIA (usually director or deputy director) dealt personally with a single designated individual in the top management of the cooperating news organization.
Time and Newsweek magazines. According to CIA and Senate sources, Agency files contain written agreements with former foreign correspondents and stringers for both the weekly news magazines. The same sources refused to say whether the CIA has ended all its associations with individuals who work for the two publications. Allen Dulles often interceded with his good friend, the late Henry Luce, founder of Time and Life magazines, who readily allowed certain members of his staff to work for the Agency and agreed to provide jobs and credentials for other CIA operatives who lacked journalistic experience.
During the 1976 investigation of the CIA by the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church, the dimensions of the Agency’s involvement with the press became apparent to several members of the panel, as well as to two or three investigators on the staff. But top officials of the CIA, including former directors William Colby and George Bush, persuaded the committee to restrict its inquiry into the matter and to deliberately misrepresent the actual scope of the activities in its final report.
… contrary to the notion that the CIA insidiously infiltrated the journalistic community, there is ample evidence that America’s leading publishers and news executives allowed themselves and their organizations to become handmaidens to the intelligence services. “Let’s not pick on some poor reporters, for God’s sake,” (fmr CIA Director) William Colby exclaimed at one point to the Church committee’s investigators. “Let’s go to the managements. They were witting.”
James Angleton, who was recently removed as the Agency’s head of counterintelligence operations, ran a completely independent group of journalist‑operatives who performed sensitive and frequently dangerous assignments; little is known about this group for the simple reason that Angleton deliberately kept only the vaguest of files.
Columnists and commentators. There are perhaps a dozen well known columnists and broadcast commentators whose relationships with the CIA go far beyond those normally maintained between reporters and their sources. They are referred to at the Agency as “known assets” and can be counted on to perform a variety of undercover tasks; they are considered receptive to the Agency’s point of view on various subjects. "The Founding Fathers [of the CIA] were close personal friends of ours. Dick Bissell [former CIA deputy director] was my oldest friend, from childhood."
… at least twenty‑three Copley News Service employees performed work for the CIA … Copley owns nine newspapers in California and Illinois—among them the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune.
Paley’s (CBS) designated contact for the Agency was Sig Mickelson, president of CBS News between 1954 and 1961. Mickelson is now president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, both of which were associated with the CIA for many years.
"It was widely known that Phil Graham (owner of the Washington Post, brother of Sen. Bob Graham of Florida) was somebody you could get help from," said a former deputy director of the Agency. "Frank Wisner dealt with him." Wisner, deputy director of the CIA from 1950 until shortly before his suicide in 1965, was the Agency’s premier orchestrator of "black" operations, including many in which journalists were involved. Wisner liked to boast of his "mighty Wurlitzer," a wondrous propaganda instrument he built, and played, with help from the press. Phil Graham was probably Wisner’s closest friend.
(After Graham’s suicide, his wife Katherine took over operations. At some point, she held conferences with a CIA audience, where she told them that keeping the public in the dark was a good thing for America. Katherine Graham also provided financial and PR assistance to arch-feminist Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine. Gloria Steinem was later outed by a legitimate feminist group called "Red Stockings" as a CIA operative in Europe. CIA reports with Steinem’s name on top later surfaced.)
In 1964 and 1965, Salant served on a super-secret CIA task force which explored methods of beaming American propaganda broadcasts to the People’s Republic of China. The other members of the four‑man study team were Zbigniew Brzezinski, then a professor at Columbia University; William Griffith, then professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and John Haves, then vice‑president of the Washington Post Company for radio‑TV5. The principal government officials associated with the project were Cord Meyer of the CIA; McGeorge Bundy, then special assistant to the president for national security (later head of the "liberal" Ford Foundation); Leonard Marks, then director of the USIA; and Bill Moyers, then special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson and now a CBS correspondent.
Like many CIA sources, this official said that the only way to end the uncertainties about aid furnished the Agency by journalists is to disclose the contents of the CIA files—a course opposed by almost all of the thirty‑five present and former CIA officials interviewed over the course of a year. According to an unpublished report by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike, at least fifteen news organizations were still providing cover for CIA operatives as of 1976.
After Colby left the Agency on January 28th, 1976, and was succeeded by George Bush, the CIA announced a new policy: “Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contractual relationship with any full‑time or part‑time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station” At the time of the announcement, the Agency acknowledged that the policy would result in termination of less than half of the relationships with the 50 U.S. journalists it said were still affiliated with the Agency. The text of the announcement noted that the CIA would continue to “welcome” the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of journalists. Thus, many relationships were permitted to remain intact.
DESPITE THE EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD CIA USE OF journalists, the Senate Intelligence Committee and its staff decided against questioning any of the reporters, editors, publishers or broadcast executives whose relationships with the Agency are detailed in CIA files. According to sources in the Senate and the Agency, the use of journalists was one of two areas of inquiry which the CIA went to extraordinary lengths to curtail. The other was the Agency’s continuing and extensive use of academics for recruitment and information gathering purposes.
Some members of the Church committee and staff feared that Agency officials had gained control of the inquiry and that they were being hoodwinked. “The Agency was extremely clever about it and the committee played right into its hands,” said one congressional source familiar with all aspects of the inquiry. “Church and some of the other members were much more interested in making headlines than in doing serious, tough investigating. The Agency pretended to be giving up a lot whenever it was asked about the flashy stuff — assassinations and secret weapons and James Bond operations. Then, when it came to things that they didn’t want to give away, that were much more important to the Agency, Colby in particular called in his chits. And the committee bought it.”
The Senate committee’s investigation into the use of journalists was supervised by William B. Bader, a former CIA intelligence officer who returned briefly to the Agency this year as deputy to CIA director Stansfield Turner and is now a high‑level intelligence official at the Defense Department. Bader was assisted by David Aaron, who now serves as the deputy to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser.
(CIA Director) Bush agreed to order a search of the files and have those records pulled which deals with operations where journalists had been used. But the raw files could not he made available to Bader or the committee, Bush insisted. Instead, the director decided, his deputies would condense the material into one‑paragraph summaries describing in the most general terms the activities of each individual journalist. Most important, Bush decreed, the names of journalists and of the news organizations with which they were affiliated would be omitted from the summaries.
Bader and others to whom he described the contents of the summaries immediately reached some general conclusions: the sheer number of covert relationships with journalists was far greater than the CIA had ever hinted; and the Agency’s use of reporters and news executives was an intelligence asset of the first magnitude. Reporters had been involved in almost every conceivable kind of operation. Of the 400‑plus individuals whose activities were summarized, between 200 and 250 were “working journalists” in the usual sense of the term—reporters, editors, correspondents, photographers; the rest were employed at least nominally) by book publishers, trade publications and newsletters.
Still, the summaries were just that: compressed, vague, sketchy, incomplete. They could be subject to ambiguous interpretation. And they contained no suggestion that the CIA had abused its authority by manipulating the editorial content of American newspapers or broadcast reports.
…attempted to get more information from the CIA, particularly about the Agency’s current relationships with journalists. He encountered a stone wall. “Bush has done nothing to date,” Bader told associates. “None of the important operations are affected in even a marginal way.” The CIA also refused the staffs requests for more information on the use of academics. Bush began to urge members of the committee to curtail its inquiries in both areas and conceal its findings in the final report. “He kept saying, ‘Don’t fuck these guys in the press and on the campuses,’ pleading that they were the only areas of public life with any credibility left,” reported a Senate source. “The danger of exposure is not the other side,” explained one CIA expert in covert operations. “This is not stuff the other side doesn’t know about. The concern of the Agency is that another area of cover will be denied.”
A senator who was the object of the Agency’s lobbying later said: “From the CIA point of view this was the highest, most sensitive covert program of all…. It was a much larger part of the operational system than has been indicated.” He added, “I had a great compulsion to press the point but it was late …. If we had demanded, they would have gone the legal route to fight it.”
… reached a decision not to pursue the matter further. No journalists would be interviewed about their dealings with the Agency—either by the staff or by the senators, in secret or in open session.
“gray area” in which there were no moral absolutes. Had the CIA “manipulated” the press in the classic sense of the term? Probably not, (ex-CIA) Bader concluded; the major news organizations and their executives had willingly lent their resources to the Agency; foreign correspondents had regarded work for the CIA as a national service and a way of getting better stories and climbing to the top of their profession. Had the CIA abused its authority? It had dealt with the press almost exactly as it had dealt with other institutions from which it sought cover — the diplomatic service, academia, corporations. There was nothing in the CIA’s charter which declared any of these institutions off‑limits to America’s intelligence service. And, in the case of the press, the Agency had exercised more care in its dealings than with many other institutions; it had gone to considerable lengths to restrict its role to information‑gathering and cover.
… concerned that his knowledge was so heavily based on information furnished by the CIA; he hadn’t gotten the other side of the story from those journalists who had associated with the Agency. He could be seeing only “the lantern show,” he told associates. […] “It was smart of the Agency to cooperate to the extent of showing the material to Bader,” observed a committee source. “That way, if one fine day a file popped up, the Agency would be covered. They could say they had already informed the Congress.” […] It was possible that CIA case officers had written self‑serving memos for the files about their dealings with journalists, that the CIA was just as subject to common bureaucratic “cover‑your‑ass” paperwork as any other agency of government.
Bader’s findings on the subject were never discussed with the full committee, even in executive session. […] At 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. “It was as if we were on trial—not the CIA,” […] 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. A similar decision was made to conceal the results of the staff’s inquiry into the use of academics. “It hardly reflects what we found,” stated Senator Gary Hart. “There was a prolonged and elaborate negotiation [with the CIA] over what would be said.”
Obscuring the facts was relatively simple. No mention was made of the 400 summaries or what they showed. Instead the report noted blandly that some fifty recent contacts with journalists had been studied by the committee staff—thus conveying the impression that the Agency’s dealings with the press had been limited to those instances. The Agency files, the report noted, contained little evidence that the editorial content of American news reports had been affected by the CIA’s dealings with journalists. Colby’s misleading public statements about the use of journalists were repeated without serious contradiction or elaboration. The role of cooperating news executives was given short shrift. The fact that the Agency had concentrated its relationships in the most prominent sectors of the press went unmentioned. That the CIA continued to regard the press as up for grabs was not even suggested.
WITH ALL THIS KNOWN SINCE 1977, HOW CAN WE ASSUME THAT ANYTHING THE MEDIA TELLS US ABOUT WAR OR SEPTEMBER 11 OR ANYTHING ELSE CAN BE TAKEN AT FACE VALUE? THOSE REPORTERS AND EXECUTIVES, WHO FORMERLY WHORED THEMSELVES AND THEIR BUSINESSES FOR THE CIA AND IT’S DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGNS, HAVE REFORMED THEMSELVES??!! (See the CIA’s Public Affairs Office 1991 report below.)