Friday, August 27, 2010

Mockingbird: Controlling Opinion

Early government efforts to control what the press reported grew out of a desire to enlist maximum support for US positions in the cold war. The vast information control mechanism that grew up after World War II was not essentially designed to cover up covert and illegal actrivities. Former agent Paul Kangas, listed people and agencies that were used by the C.I.A., and like others, was particularly critical of the very close ties between the C.I.A. and the Washington Post under both Philip and Katherine Graham.

• William Paley (President, CBS)
• Henry Luce (Publisher, Time and Life magazine)
• Arthur Hays Sulzberger (Publisher, N.Y. Times)
• Jerry O'Leary (Washington Star)
• Hal Hendrix (Pulitzer Prize winner, Miami News)
• Barry Bingham Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal)
• James Copley (Copley News Services)
• Joseph Harrison (Editor, Christian Science Monitor)
• C.D. Jackson (Fortune)
• Walter Pincus (Reporter, Washington Post)
• ABC
• NBC
• Associated Press
• United Press International
• Reuters
• Hearst Newspapers
• Scripps-Howard
• Newsweek magazine
• Mutual Broadcasting System
• Miami Herald
• Old Saturday Evening Post
• New York Herald-Tribune

C.I.A. director William Colby said, "The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media." In the agency, Colby was known as “The Dicttor of Dent Place.” In 1975, the Church Committee discovered Operation Mockingbird, a C.I.A. program to shape information that appeared in the foreign and domestic media. This name was assigned to the agency’s disinformation program by outsiders, not the agency itself.

Its official name was the Propaganda Assets Inventory. Agents called it “Wisner’s Wurlitzer.” Frank Gardiner Wisner established it in 1948, and it would run out of the Office of Policy Coordination. It was to focus on counter-intelligence and propaganda. It later came under the Directorate for Plans. Wisner was in and out pf psychiatric treatment for years and finally shot himself on October 29, 1965. An early recruit was Philip J. Graham of the Washington Post; he was a graduate of the Army Intelligence School.


William Paley of CBS, a former army colonel, had a good working relationship with the agency, and it is not known if he ever required payments. Paley admitted working for the agency in the 1950s. CBS became the agency’s most reliable media asset. Other right wing media moguls like Henry Luce willingly cooperated with the C.I.A.. Richard Mellon Scaife, a right winger, permitted the C.I.A. to use his Forum World Features to spread sotries around the world. Walter Cronkite, a liberal and former intelligence officer, was probably recruited even though it is known that he eventually withdrew his support of the Vietnam War. Wisner was able to prevent the American press from covering C.I.A. efforts to overthrow the governments of Iran and Guatemala. Allen Dulles, Richard Helms and Graham were to also head this propaganda operation.

Wisner soon employed people at the New York Times and the television networks, particularly CBS. An agent once told Phil Graham, "You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month." Phil’s wife, Katherine Graham, told C.I.A. employees in 1988: "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." The C.I.A. also entered book publishing in a big way. By 1967, it had subsidized the printing of 1000 books, 25% of which were in English.

Wisner killed himself in 1961. In the fifties, Cord Myer became its principle operative, entrusted with spying on liberal organizations. Labor leaders were also on the payroll and used to limit the influence of communists in the international labor movement. In those years, the agency ran a program to train its agents to become journalists and “to make noises like reporters," The agency also bankrolled foreign newspapers, magazines, and press services.

Important journalists on the C.I.A. payroll were Joseph and Stuart Alsop, James Reston, Ben Bradlee . As a boy, Bradlee’s best friend was Dick Helms. Bradlee was with ONI during the wear and he married the daughter of Governor Saltonstall, who was also an intelligence operative. After the war, he was sent to infiltrate the ACLU and eventually went to work for the Washington Post. From there he went to the State Department and then to a posting in France.

These and others received payment for their writing and were given classified information to support their stories. By 1953, they influenced the policies of the wire services and 25 major newspapers. It has been estimated that 3000 to 6000 journalists were on the C.I.A. payroll. In 1978, the cost of spreading disinformation had reached $265 million.

A year before, Copley News Service admitted that 28 of its employees were full time C.I.A. operatives. But most C.I.A. connected reporters did not require a full-time salary. The Luce pubnlications workeds closely with the C.I.A. and Mrs. Luce later became an officer of the organization for retired intelligence officers. Some have thought it odd that Life purchased and locked away the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination. It is curious that the frames it printed were shown out of sequence to buttress the Warren Report’s conclusions.

A ranking official once told Carl Bernstein that “One journalist is worth twenty agents.” Their job was essentially to support the government line in foreign affairs and the cold war. Academi C.I.A.ns were influenced through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, founded by Tom Braden.

J. Edgar Hoover resented the influence of the OPC and made fun of Wisner’s ”gang of wierdos.” The F.B.I. investigated Wisner’s assets and often found that these people had been leftists in the 1930s. Hoover blocked Cord Myer from receiving a security clearance. With the help of Hoover, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed the agency was a haven for communists.

The early Mockingbird people were tied to a circle of Georgetown intellectuals were fairly liberal and had C.I.A. ties. That is partly why Hoover resented these people. In the fifties, the agency reached out to the right to expand its media influence. According to John Loftus, it established the Crusade for Freedom to raise money and support for resettling rightists and former Nazis in the United States. Actor Ronald Reagan became involved in this activity. Through a business arrangement with Reagan and others that gave the mafia part interest in MCA studio, the C.I.A. also gained influence in Hollywood. Historian C. Vann Woodwrd wrote in 1987 that Reagan "fed the names of suspect people in his organization to the F.B.I. secretly and regularly enough to be assigned 'an informer's code number, T-10.' His F.B.I. file indicates intense collaboration with producers to 'purge' the industry of subversives." Cap Cities, another media giant, emerged with the help of money from the C.I.A.’s drug operations. Other investors were Thomas E. Dewey and Lowell Thomas. Somehow Myer Lansky money also was involved.

Frank Church’s Senate Select Intelligence Committee learned of the operation and decided to bury most of its findings. In 1976, C.I.A. Director George H.W. Bush prohibited the future employment of journalists as C.I.A. assets. Finally, in 1982 the agency admitted to the public that it had hired reporters and had even used them as case officers. The Bush prohibition only covered “accredited” journalists and thus probably extended to about half the people it had working in the media field

In the late 1980s, former C.I.A. deputy director Ralph McGehee said that in his time at the agency, it always had at least six reporters at the New York Times and another six at the Washington Post. Another former C.I.A. official tghen told about hhe and his colleagues were able to create atrocity stories in Angola and easily place them in the mainstream press. Abroad, in the 1980s, the C.I.A. sometimes simply purchased newspapers and radio stations to make sure the right stories got out.

Today, the agency supports several hundred people around the world who have the ability to get C.I.A. views into newspapers, magazines and journals. There was talk in 1989 about the old C.I.A. subsidy to CBS being transferred to ABC A 1992 C.I.A. report suggests that the C.I.A. still uses reporters and media people. .. In 2001, it was reported that American reporters were threatened with loss of Secret Service and other credentials in they reported on French reports about interviews given by the late F.B.I. anti-terrorism expert John O. Neill. Very little of this story got into the US press. At the same time, foreign press services were threatened with loss of C.I.A. subsidies if they aired the O’Neill story. As late as 1996, in a conversation with Gregory Douglass, former operations expert Bob “Crow” Crowley said: . I think you can say that the Company pretty well controls the media in this country now.”

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