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.
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
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
"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any
significance in the major media."
--William Colby, former CIA Director, cited by Dave Mcgowan,
"You could get a journalist
cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a
--CIA operative, discussing the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle
CIA propaganda and cover stories. Katherine the Great, by Deborah
"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