And The CIA:
The Mighty Wurlitzer
Daniel Brandt, NameBase NewsLine, April-June 1997
Alongside those Greek morality plays and Biblical injunctions,
we are also reminded by history itself that the use of unethical
means to achieve a worthy end can be self-destructive. Power,
by definition, is isolated from the correcting signals of external
criticism. Or perhaps the feeling of fighting evil fits so comfortably,
that it's difficult to shed even after objective circumstances
history of U.S. intelligence since World War II follows both
patterns. The Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor,
had jurisdiction over wartime covert operations and propaganda
in the fight against fascism. OSS chief William Donovan recruited
heavily among social and academic elites. When the CIA was launched
in 1947 at the beginning of the Cold War, these pioneers felt
that they had both the right and the duty to secretly manipulate
the masses for the greater good.
veteran Frank Wisner ran most of the early peacetime covert
operations as head of the Office of Policy Coordination. Although
funded by the CIA, OPC wasn't integrated into the CIA's Directorate
of Plans until 1952, under OSS veteran Allen Dulles. Both Wisner
and Dulles were enthusiastic about covert operations. By mid-1953
the department was operating with 7,200 personnel and 74 percent
of the CIA's total budget.
created the first "information superhighway." But
this was the age of vacuum tubes, not computers, so he called
it his "Mighty Wurlitzer." The CIA's global network
funded the Italian elections in 1948, sent paramilitary teams
into Albania, trained Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan, and pumped
money into the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the National Student
Association, and the Center for International Studies at MIT.
Key leaders and labor unions in western Europe received subsidies,
and Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were launched. The Wurlitzer,
an organ designed for film productions, could imitate sounds
such as rain, thunder, or an auto horn. Wisner and Dulles were
at the keyboard, directing history.
ethos of the fight against fascism carried over into the fight
against godless communism; for these warriors, the Cold War
was still a war. OSS highbrows had already embraced psychological
warfare as a new social science: propaganda, for example, was
divided into "black" propaganda (stories that are
unattributed, or attributed to nonexistent sources, or false
stories attributed to a real source), "gray" propaganda
(stories from the government where the source is attributed
to others), and "white" propaganda (stories from the
government where the source is acknowledged as such).
World War II, these psywar techniques continued. C.D. Jackson,
a major figure in U.S. psywar efforts before and after the war,
was simultaneously a top executive at Time-Life. Psywar was
also used with success during the 1950s by Edward Lansdale,
first in the Philippines and then in South Vietnam. In Guatemala,
the Dulles brothers worked with their friends at United Fruit,
in particular the "father of public relations," Edward
Bernays, who for years had been lobbying the press on behalf
of United. When CIA puppets finally took over in 1954, only
applause was heard from the media, commencing forty years of
CIA-approved horrors in that unlucky country. Bernays' achievement
apparently impressed Allen Dulles, who immediately began using
U.S. public relations experts and front groups to promote the
image of Ngo Dinh Diem as South Vietnam's savior.
combined forces of unaccountable covert operations and corporate
public relations, each able to tap massive resources, are sufficient
to make the concept of "democracy" obsolete. Fortunately
for the rest of us, unchallenged power can lose perspective.
With research and analysis -- the capacity to see and understand
the world around them -- entrenched power must constantly anticipate
and contain potential threats. But even as power seems more
secure, this capacity can be blinded by hubris and isolation.
notes were heard from the Wurlitzer in the 1960s -- but not
from American journalism, which had already sold its soul to
the empire. Instead, the announcement that the emperor had no
clothes was made by a new generation. Much that was dear to
this counterculture was stylistic and superficial, and there
were many within this culture itself, and certainly within the
straight media, who mistook this excess baggage for its essence.
Nevertheless, the youth culture's rumpled opposition was sufficient
to slow down the machine and let in some light.
ruling class failed to see the naked contradiction that they
had created. They expected that the most-privileged, best-educated
generation in history could be forcibly drafted to fight a dirty
war against popular self-determination some 8,000 miles away
-- a war that clearly had more to do with anticommunist ideology
and corporate greed than it did with the defense of America.
The elites didn't have a clue that this was even a problem;
President Johnson's knee-jerk response to the student antiwar
movement, for example, was to pressure the CIA into uncovering
the nefarious (and nonexistent) foreign influences behind it.
the crack in the culture that eventually encouraged American
media to take a look at themselves. With rare exceptions,
it was the alternative press that began to question racism,
police brutality, Vietnam, the defense establishment, and the
JFK assassination. In 1967 Ramparts magazine exposed a portion
of the CIA's covert funding network, whereupon the New York
Times and Washington Post began naming more names. By then the
Wurlitzer would never sound the same, particularly after the
1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy
invited further suspicions.
counterculture burned out once the war wound down, but it had
already dented the lemming-like consensus that typified an earlier
period. For roughly ten years, between 1967 and 1977, Americans
learned something of their secret history. From the perspective
of twenty additional years, the results were mixed and much
remains secret. But it's scary to think of where we might be
now if the counterculture had never happened.
the last half of those ten years, sandwiched between Watergate
coverage on one end, and Congressional investigations of the
CIA on the other, the media showed some interest in examining
their own intelligence connections. The first shoe was dropped
by Jack Anderson in late August, 1973, when he revealed that
Seymour Freidin, head of the Hearst bureau in London, was a
CIA agent. Freidin, already in the news because the Republicans
paid him $10,000 in 1972 to spy on the Democrats, confirmed
Anderson's story. At that point William Colby, the new CIA director,
was asked by the New York Times and the Washington Star-News
if any of their staff were on the CIA payroll.
(Scotty) Reston of the NYT was satisfied with an evasive answer,
but when the Star-News editorial board met with Colby, they
made some progress. The other shoe dropped with an article by
Oswald Johnston on November 30: the Star-News learned from an
"authoritative source" (Colby) that the CIA had some
three dozen American journalists on its payroll. Johnston named
only one -- Jeremiah O'Leary -- who was one of their own diplomatic
correspondents. (The Star-News stopped publishing in 1981, at
which point O'Leary joined Reagan's national security staff.
>From 1982 until his death in 1993, he was with the Washington
was the first and last time that Colby was helpful on this topic.
Some believe that the new director was under pressure from the
"young Turks" (junior staffers) at the Agency, who
were granted a mandate by Colby's predecessor to cough up the
"family jewels" -- a list of illegal exploits that
could be culled from the CIA's files. Already there were rumors
that the CIA was guilty of illegal spying on the antiwar movement
-- rumors that were confirmed a year later by Seymour Hersh,
whose sources were some of these same "young Turks."
was Colby initially forthcoming on the issue of the CIA and
the media, and why did he then start stonewalling? Some believe
that he was attempting a "limited hangout" as the
best way out of a position that made him nervous, while others
feel that he was implicitly threatening to provide additional
names in order to scare off the media. Colby had reason to be
worried: by late 1973, investigative journalism was in the air
because of Watergate -- an issue that had more than the usual
share of CIA connections.
stonewalling continued for the remainder of his tenure, even
as a Senate committee led by Frank Church desperately tried
to squeeze more names out of him. George Bush replaced Colby
in January, 1976, and eventually agreed to a one-paragraph summary
of each file of a CIA journalist, with names deleted. When the
CIA said it was finished, the Church committee had over 400
committee staff was shocked at the extent of the CIA's activity
in this area, and felt that they still didn't have the story.
But they were running out of time, and expected that the Senate's
new permanent oversight committee would continue their work.
The Church committee's final report contained only a handful
of vague and misleading pages on the CIA and the media. "It
hardly reflects what was found," stated Senator Gary Hart.
"There was a prolonged and elaborate negotiation [with
the CIA] over what would be said."
House investigation of the CIA, under Otis Pike, had more problems
than the Senate investigation. The full House voted to suppress
its committee's final report under pressure from the executive
branch, at which point Daniel Schorr of CBS leaked a copy to
the Village Voice. This report contained just twelve paragraphs
on the topic of the CIA and the media, including the tidbit
about the CIA's "frequent manipulation of Reuters wire
service dispatches." Another paragraph gave some idea
of the scope of the CIA's efforts in this area:
29 percent of Forty Committee-approved covert actions were for
media and propaganda projects. This number is probably not representative.
Staff has determined the existence of a large number of CIA
internally-approved operations of this type, apparently deemed
not politically sensitive. It is believed that if the correct
number of all media and propaganda projects could be determined,
it would exceed Election Support as the largest single category
of covert action projects undertaken by the CIA.
enterprising researcher took this 29 percent figure, and extrapolating
from figures on CIA expenditures for covert operations, found
that the cost of propaganda in 1978 was around $265 million
and involved 2,000 personnel. Comparing this to figures for
other news agencies, he concluded that the CIA "uses far
more resources in its propaganda operations than any single
news agency.... In fact, the CIA propaganda budget is as large
as the combined budgets of Reuters, United Press International
and the Associated Press."
CBS took Daniel Schorr off the air after he leaked the Pike
committee report. This was most likely a convenient opportunity
for William Paley, chairman of CBS, who didn't approve of Schorr's
interest in the network's own CIA connection. Former CBS News
president Sig Mickelson, who by 1976 was president of Radio
Free Europe and Radio Liberty, said that in October 1954, Paley
called him into his office for a friendly discussion with two
CIA officials. Schorr mentioned this on Walter Cronkite's show,
and in an op-ed piece for the New York Times (Arthur Hays Sulzberger,
the late publisher of the Times, had been cozy with the CIA
also). "There are executives and retired executives,"
Schorr wrote, "who could help dispel the cloud hanging
over the press by coming forward to tell the arrangements they
made with the CIA."
had changed since 1974, when Michael J. Harrington, a Democratic
congressman from Massachusetts, leaked Colby's closed-door testimony
about CIA involvement in the 1973 coup in Chile. Harrington
soon found himself the target of a formal Ethics Committee investigation;
now Schorr was also their target. Apparently Congress was fearful
that the executive branch might paint them as bungling and irresponsible
when it came to keeping secrets, and then use this as a club
to deprive them of access to information.
Congress felt this way, it was more than simple paranoia. In
1976 the CIA began cranking up their Wurlitzer on the matter
of Richard Welch, a station chief in Athens who was assassinated
by urban guerrillas at the end of 1975. The CIA's exploitation
of this timely tragedy had both an immediate target and a general
target. Ostensibly the CIA was complaining about an obscure
Washington magazine called CounterSpy, which had been printing
CIA names. In the same spirit, Philip Agee's just-published
diary of CIA tricks in Latin America was loaded with names,
and was already an international sensation. But the general
target of this campaign was more important -- the CIA managed
to change the nature of the debate. Suddenly it was no longer
a question of what dirty work the CIA might be doing, but rather
a question of what happens when the press recklessly endangers
the lives of our brave boys overseas.
fact that Welch's name had been published by the East Germans
five years earlier, and that he could be identified as a CIA
officer from his listing in the unclassified 1973 State Department
Biographic Register, were both ignored. In any case, it was
hardly a secret in Athens -- the group that killed Welch had
been stalking his predecessor, Stacy Hulse, until Welch moved
into the Hulse residence five months earlier. Colby eventually
admitted to a House subcommittee that Welch's cover was inexcusably
weak, and that the publication of his name in an Athens newspaper
had only an indirect effect on his assassination.
could say this two years later because by then his comments
were destined for a back page. The battle to rein in the CIA
was already lost. In 1982 Congress passed a controversial new
law that made publication of CIA names a felony under certain
conditions. Although these conditions rarely applied to journalists,
the wide coverage on this issue served to intimidate most publishers
the CIA, which once issued an automatic "no comment"
when asked anything by reporters, is playing an adept game of
"soft cop, hard cop" public relations. In 1991 an
internal CIA task force recommended a more active posture by
the public affairs office when responding to requests for assistance
(that year they handled 3,369 telephone inquires from reporters,
provided 174 unclassified background briefings for them at Headquarters,
and arranged 164 interviews with senior Agency officials).
The "hard cop" was discovered by Katrina vanden Heuvel,
editor of The Nation. In 1995 she was telephoned by Vin Swasey,
CIA deputy director of public affairs, who strongly objected
to an editorial because it included the names of nine former
station chiefs in Guatemala. Reuters was persuaded by Swasey's
colleagues to run the story without the names.
final months of 1977 produced three significant pieces of journalism
on the CIA and the media, just before the issue was abandoned
altogether. The first, by Joe Trento and Dave Roman, reported
the connections between Copley Press and the CIA. Owner James
S. Copley cooperated with the CIA for three decades. A subsidiary,
Copley News Service, was used as a CIA front in Latin America,
while reporters at the Copley-owned San Diego Union and Evening
News were instructed to spy on antiwar protesters for the FBI.
No less than 23 news service employees were simultaneously working
for the CIA. James Copley, who died in 1973, was also a leading
figure behind the CIA-funded Inter-American Press Association.
next article was by Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. In a long
piece in Rolling Stone, he came up with the figure of 400 American
journalists over the past 25 years, based primarily on interviews
with Church committee staffers. This figure included stringers
and freelancers who had an understanding that they were expected
to help the CIA, as well as a small number of full-time CIA
employees using journalism as a cover. It did not include foreigners,
nor did it include numerous Americans who traded favors with
the CIA in the normal give-and-take between a journalist and
his sources. In addition to some of the names already mentioned
above, Bernstein supplied details on Stewart and Joseph Alsop,
Henry Luce, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal,
Hal Hendrix of the Miami News, columnist C.L. Sulzberger, Richard
Salant of CBS, and Philip Graham and John Hayes of the Washington
concentrated more on the owners, executives, and editors of
news organizations than on individual reporters. "Lets's
not pick on some poor reporters, for God's sake," William
Colby said at one point to the Church committee's investigators.
"Let's go to the management. They were witting." Bernstein
noted that Colby had specific definitions for words such as
"contract employee," "agent," "asset,"
"accredited correspondent," "editorial employee,"
"freelance," "stringer," and even "reporter,"
and through careful use of these words, the CIA "managed
to obscure the most elemental fact about the relationships detailed
in its files: i.e., that there was recognition by all parties
involved that the cooperating journalists were working for the
CIA -- whether or not they were paid or had signed employment
reaction to Bernstein's piece among mainstream media was to
ignore it, or to suggest that it was sloppy and exaggerated.
Then two months later, the New York Times published the results
of their "three- month inquiry by a team of Times reporters
and researchers." This three-part series not only confirmed
Bernstein, but added a wealth of far-ranging details and contained
twice as many names. Now almost everyone pretended not to notice.
Times reported that over the last twenty years, the CIA owned
or subsidized more than fifty newspapers, news services, radio
stations, periodicals and other communications facilities, most
of them overseas. These were used for propaganda efforts, or
even as cover for operations. Another dozen foreign news organizations
were infiltrated by paid CIA agents. At least 22 American news
organizations had employed American journalists who were also
working for the CIA, and nearly a dozen American publishing
houses printed some of the more than 1,000 books that had been
produced or subsidized by the CIA. When asked in a 1976 interview
whether the CIA had ever told its media agents what to write,
William Colby replied, "Oh, sure, all the time."
domestic propaganda was a violation of the their charter, the
CIA defined the predictable effects of their foreign publications
as "blowback" or "domestic fallout," which
they considered to be "inevitable and consequently permissible."
But former CIA employees told the Times that apart from this
unintended blowback, "some CIA propaganda efforts, especially
during the Vietnam War, had been carried out with a view toward
their eventual impact in the United States." The Times
series concluded that at its peak, the CIA's network "embraced
more than 800 news and public information organizations and
the time the Times series appeared, Congress was looking for
a way out of the issue. Obligingly, Stansfield Turner promised
that the CIA would avoid journalists "accredited by any
U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television
network or station." There were at least three problems
with this that most press coverage overlooked: many stringers
and freelancers are not accredited; it didn't cover any foreign-owned
media; and as Gary Hart complained at the time, the new policy
included a provision that allowed the CIA to unilaterally make
exceptions whenever it wished.
several years of this alleged policy, the new Reagan administration
ignored it in favor of a shooting war in Central America, one
component of which was an illegal CIA-administered propaganda
war at home. Edgar Chamorro, a contra sympathizer in Miami with
a background in public relations, was recruited by the CIA in
late 1982. After two years of following the CIA's instructions
regarding the manipulation of U.S. journalists and even members
of Congress, Chamorro went public with his story. By now
Congress was clearly out-maneuvered, even though it alone held
the purse strings that controlled funding for the war.
inability of Congress to address the CIA-media problem in the
1970s meant that more powerful forces were at work. In fact,
while Congress was wringing its left hand over illegal CIA activities,
its right hand was helping the CIA overhaul its Wurlitzer. Ever
since 1967, when the Katzenbach committee was tasked by Lyndon
Johnson to study the problem of the CIA's use of domestic organizations,
the agenda at the highest levels had been to remove such activities
from the CIA's payroll and continue them under a new umbrella.
In the unclassified portion of their report, this committee
recommended giving money openly through a "public-private
mechanism." "The CIA's big mistake was not supplanting
itself with private funds fast enough," observed Gloria
Steinem, who had been part of the CIA's global network.
Asia Foundation was given a large "severance payment"
so that they could find private funding, and the Congress
for Cultural Freedom got over $4 million from the Ford Foundation.
In 1971, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe were spun off and
funded separately by new legislation. While this hardly diminished
the CIA's control of these radio stations, it did help public
relations by facilitating "deniability." Then
in 1983, Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy,
with funding to carry on many of the activities that the CIA
once carried out covertly within its own budget.
and pieces of the old Wurlitzer were still evident everywhere:
John Richardson, Jr., the new chairman of NED, had been president
and CEO of Radio Free Europe during the 1960s, and some of the
NED's dozens of grants were issued to groups that solicited
aid for the contras. "It is not necessary to turn to
the covert approach," commented Colby in regard to the
NED program. "Many of the programs which ... were conducted
as covert operations [can now be] conducted quite openly, and
consequentially, without controversy." As if to prove
his point, Colby's wife was soon a member of NED's board of
major changes since the 1980s -- the collapse of socialism and
the centralization of domestic and transnational media, suggest
that the CIA now has everything well in hand. But it is far
too early to tell. The pressure to stay competitive in the global
marketplace could provoke economic nationalism in places where
the CIA was once free to roam. France and Germany, for example,
have recently expelled CIA agents. At the same time, the Soviet
people are having second thoughts about all those benefits of
U.S.-imposed capitalism. China remains aggressive and uncompromising;
they may even tolerate less interference from us in their political
process than we do from them.
a different world, and it's unfamiliar. A blue-ribbon panel
of the Council on Foreign Relations suggested last year that
the CIA be freed from some policy constraints on covert operations,
such as the use of journalists and clergy as cover. This is
alarming. Unlike the typical corporate-funded think tank, filled
with pro-Pentagon pundits, the folks at CFR are either running
the world or they know who does. For 70 years they've rarely
recommended anything that has not become policy. Furthermore,
they've thoroughly co-opted the major media (see sidebar).
have also been official announcements that the CIA is mission-creeping
into economic intelligence and computer-age information warfare.
This might reflect a bit of nostalgia for the job security and
moral clarity of the Cold War, or it could be a premonition
that the American Century is over and the masses are expected
to get uppity. Perhaps the First Amendment has always been something
of a con -- a matter of "freedom," but only for those
who own the presses, or for those who lived in an earlier century,
before psywar and public relations experts.
again, stay tuned -- the credibility gap is back. A recent poll
shows that Americans are fed up with mainstream news media.
"Very favorable" ratings for television network news
fell from 30 percent in 1985 to just 15 percent this year, and
for large national newspapers it dropped 12 percent. A majority
now believe that news stories are often inaccurate.
factoring in the new global economics and recalculating the
prospects for the middle class, all bets are off. The poor performance
of Congress and the press on the issue of journalists and the
CIA may mean that the next time around, the elites will lack
even the credibility to stage another co-opting charade of "oversight."
That could prove beneficial, particularly if next the time threatens
to be as inconsequential and diversionary as the last time.
Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary (Harmondsworth, Middlesex,
England: Penguin Books, 1975), pp. 70-71.
Richard H. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1982), pp. 111-114; Thomas P. McCann, An American
Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit (New York: Crown Publishers,
1976), pp. 45-48.
Eric Thomas Chester, Covert Network: Progressives, the International
Rescue Committee, and the CIA (Armonk NY and London: M.E. Sharpe,
1995), pp. 160-183.
The first anti-CIA book appeared in 1964: David Wise and Thomas
B. Ross, The Invisible Government (New York: Random House).
CIA director John McCone, and other officials acting under his
direction, contacted the publisher in an effort to stop it.
Carl Bernstein, "The CIA and the Media," Rolling Stone,
20 October 1977, pp. 65-67.
"The CIA Report the President Doesn't Want You to Read,"
Village Voice, 20 February 1976, p. 40.
Ibid, p. 36.
Sean Gervasi, "CIA Covert Propaganda Capability,"
Covert Action Information Bulletin, No. 7, December 1979 - January
1980, pp. 18-20.
Daniel Schorr, Clearing the Air (New York: Berkley Medallion
Books, 1978), pp. 204-206, 275-277.
Norman Kempster, "Identity of U.S. Spies Harder to Hide,
Colby Says," Los Angeles Times, 28 December 1977, pp. 1,
Central Intelligence Agency, Memorandum for Director of Central
Intelligence from the Task Force on Greater CIA Openness, 20
December 1991, 15 pages.
Allan Nairn, "The Country Team," The Nation, 5 June
1995, p. 780.
Joe Trento and Dave Roman, "The Spies Who Came In From
the Newsroom," Penthouse, August 1977, pp. 44-46, 50.
Bernstein, p. 58.
John M. Crewdson and Joseph B. Treaster, "The CIA's 3-Decade
Effort to Mold the World's Views," New York Times, 25 December
1977, pp. 1, 12; Terrence Smith, "CIA Contacts With Reporters,"
New York Times, p. 13; Crewdson and Treaster, "Worldwide
Propaganda Network Built by the CIA," New York Times, 26
December 1977, pp. 1, 37; Crewdson and Treaster, "CIA Established
Many Links to Journalists in U.S. and Abroad," New York
Times, 27 December 1977, pp. 1, 40-41.
While it's true that Gary Hart's complaint was not widely covered
(there's one paragraph in the Los Angeles Times on 16 December
1977, p. 2), it is still amazing that when this clause was rediscovered
in early 1996, indignant columnists pretended that it had been
a secret all along. The truth is, journalists haven't been doing
their homework for the last 18 years. This led the Society of
Professional Journalists to earn a flunking grade for their
23 February 1996 press release: "An executive order during
the Carter administration was thought to have banned the practice
[of the recruitment of journalists by the CIA]. After a Council
on Foreign Relations task force recommended that the ban be
reconsidered, it was revealed that a 'loophole' existed allowing
the CIA director or his deputy to grant a waiver. After protests,
Deutch refused to rule out the practice, saying in some cases
it might be necessary." To rephrase this politely, it took
18 years for the SPJ to become aware of the fine print in the
CIA's policy. This is probably due to poor reporting from newspapers
such as the Washington Post, which the innocents at SPJ must
think of as not only "liberal," but also competent.
So why, when the Post's intelligence reporter, Walter Pincus,
was told about the waiver last year, did he write it up as a
scoop in the 22 February 1996 Washington Post??? Perhaps Pincus
really didn't know. Or perhaps ever since Pincus took money
from the CIA in the early 1960s, it has affected his reporting
on this issue.
Edgar Chamorro, Packaging the Contras: A Case of CIA Disinformation
(New York: Institute for Media Analysis, 1987), 78 pages; Jacqueline
Sharkey, "Back in Control," Common Cause Magazine,
September/October 1986, pp. 28-40.
"CIA Subsidized Festival Trips: Hundreds of Students Were
Sent to World Gatherings," New York Times, 21 February
Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, The CIA and the Cult of
Intelligence (New York: Dell Publishing, 1975), p. 179.
Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural
Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe (New
York: The Free Press, 1989), pp. 224-225.
Marchetti and Marks, pp. 174-178.
John Kelly, "National Endowment for Reagan's Democracies,"
The National Reporter, Summer 1986, pp. 22-26; Council on Hemispheric
Affairs and Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center, National
Endowment for Democracy (NED): A Foreign Policy Branch Gone
Awry (Resource Center, Box 4506, Albuquerque NM 87196), 1990,
William Colby, "Political Action -- In the Open,"
Washington Post, 14 March 1982, p. D8.
Jack Nelson, "Major News Media Trusted Less, Poll Says,"
Los Angeles Times, 21 March 1997.
Sidebar from NameBase NewsLine, No. 17, April-June 1997:
at Work: Who's Watching the Watchdogs?
In the handful of self-critical articles about the media that
appeared twenty years ago, the matter of CIA connections with
executives, editors, and reporters was emphasized. While this
makes for good copy and is certainly worth repeating, it also
fails to challenge American journalism at it weakest point:
the corrupting influence of fame and fortune. Someone who has
looked at this issue recently is James Fallows, formerly of
Atlantic Monthly. Fallows argues in his recent book, Breaking
the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy, that his
profession is becoming seriously compromised.
name recognition that comes from flaccid punditry can be lucrative
on the lecture circuit. Or if you have a name already, perhaps
by doing something useless or naughty at the White House, you
can acquire pundit status by writing a kiss-and-tell book. Big
stars such as Cokie Roberts can collect five figures simply
by offering up flattering platitudes at a corporate convention.
problem is the revolving door between the media and government.
It's considered a badge of honor for a journalist to have spent
time working for the White House, whereas it should be seen
as a conflict of interest. Some suggest that it's okay to make
the switch once -- Bill Moyers can call himself a journalist
after working for Lyndon Johnson, but David Gergen has been
spinning through the door so often that it makes the rest of
us dizzy. Gergen flacked for Nixon, Ford, Reagan and finally
Clinton, and between administrations he was an editor at U.S.
News & World Report and a commentator for PBS. Come to think
of it, James Fallows himself, the new editor at U.S. News &
World Report, was the chief speech writer for Jimmy Carter.
and superstars aside, the larger problem is that the media is
owned by the ruling class. With the increased media centralization
of the last twenty years, their lock on the masses is now so
complete that when they maintain an appearance of objectivity,
it's only out of habit. (Sentences containing the words "ruling
class" are scribbled self- consciously these days -- a
measure of how well they have cornered the market on perception,
and perverted what class consciousness we once had into a mass-consumer
can one distinguish between news and propaganda when the overlaps
and interlocks are so pervasive? John Chancellor was with NBC,
then with Voice of America, and then again with NBC. John Scali
was with ABC, and then with Nixon, and then again with ABC.
Ben Bradlee, of Watergate and Washington Post fame, was once
a propagandist in Paris, taking orders from the CIA station
chief, and was friends with James Angleton. Bradley's sister-in-law
was Mary Meyer, divorced from Cord Meyer. She was JFK's lover,
and her 1964 murder was never solved. Robert John Myers was
in the CIA for twenty years, at one time as an assistant to
William Colby, and became publisher of the New Republic in 1968.
Generoso Paul Pope, Jr. was in the CIA the year before he bought
the National Enquirer in 1952. Laughlin Phillips, co-founder
of the Washingtonian, was in the CIA for fifteen years. Former
top CIA officials Cord Meyer, Jr. and Tom Braden became columnists
(unlike Braden, Meyer rarely talks about his CIA career). George
R. Packard and L. Bruce van Voorst were with the CIA before
they joined Newsweek, and Philip Geyelin worked for the CIA
while on leave from the Wall Street Journal.
always Katharine Graham, one of the world's richest women, who
is now recognized as a victim of the male-dominated culture
because her new autobiography says it's so. In a 1988 speech
at CIA headquarters, Graham warmed to her audience: "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."
100 pundits, news anchors, columnists, commentators, reporters,
editors, executives, owners, and publishers can be found by
scanning the 1995 membership roster of the Council on Foreign
Relations -- the same CFR that issued a report in early 1996
bemoaning the constraints on our poor, beleaguered CIA. By the
way, first William Bundy and then William G. Hyland edited CFR's
flagship journal Foreign Affairs between the years 1972-1992.
Bundy was with the CIA from 1951-1961, and Hyland from 1954-1969.