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The CIA and the Media

Here's just a snippet from Carl Bernstein's famous 1977 article entitled "The CIA & The Media" from Rolling Stone, 10/20/77. Anyone with access to a library should try to find this - it's a truly breakthrough piece - 16 pages long in the reprint!


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.

Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past 25 years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. 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 on the use of reporters since 1973 (primarily as a result of pressure from the media), some journalists are still posted abroad.
  • Further investigation into the matter, CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing relationships in the 1950's and 1960's with some of the most powerful organizations and individuals in American journalism.

Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Services. 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.

By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.

[...]

Appropriately, the CIA uses the term 'reporting' to describe much of what cooperating journalists did for the Agency. "We would ask them, 'Will you do us a favor?'" said a senior CIA official. "'We understand you're going to be in Yugoslavia. Have they paved all the streets? Where did you see planes? Were there any signs of military presence? How many Soviets did you see? If you happen to meet a Soviet, get his name and spell it right....Can you set up a meeting for us? Or arrange a message?'" Many CIA officials regarded these helpful journalists as operatives: the journalists tended to see themselves as trusted friends of the Agency who performed occasional favors -- usually without pay -- in the national interest.

[...]

Two of the Agency's most valuable relationships in the 1960's, according to CIA officials, were with reporters who covered Latin America -- Jerry O'Leary of the Washington Star and Hal Hendrix of Miami News, a Pulitzer Prize winner who became a high official of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. Hendrix was extremely helpful to the Agency in providing information about individuals in Miami's Cuban exile community.

[....]


A note about Hendrix - he was the one who Seth Kantor, reporting on the JFK assassination, was told to call for 'background' on Oswald after Oswald's arrest. Hendrix, from Miami, had all the info on Oswald's pro-Castro leafleting activities in New Orleans, details about Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union, etc.

Only years later did Kantor realize the significance of a guy like Hendrix, CIA, having so much info on Oswald so soon after the assassination.


"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media."
--William Colby, former CIA Director, cited by Dave Mcgowan, Derailing Democracy

"You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month."
--CIA operative, discussing the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories. Katherine the Great, by Deborah Davis

"There is quite an incredible spread of relationships.  You donít need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are [Central Intelligence] Agency people at the management level."
--William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer, briefing members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, The CIA and the Media, by Carl Bernstein

"The Agency's relationship with [The New York] Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials.  [It was] general Times policy ... to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible."
--The CIA and the Media, by Carl Bernstein

"Senator William Proxmire has pegged the number of employees of the federal intelligence community at 148,000 ... though Proxmire's number is itself a conservative one.  The "intelligence community" is officially defined as including only those organizations that are members of the U.S. Intelligence Board (USIB); a dozen other agencies, charged with both foreign and domestic intelligence chores, are not encompassed by the term....  The number of intelligence workers employed by the federal government is not 148,000, but some undetermined multiple of that number."
--Jim Hougan, Spooks

"For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment.  It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government....  I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations."
--former President Harry Truman, 22 December 1963, one month to the day after the JFK assassination, op-ed section of the Washington Post, early edition



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