The CIA and other covert U.S. spy agencies have, for years, planted phony “news” stories in a bid to propagandize debate over certain issues and skew public opinion.
Recently, reports from Washington’s Blog and SHTFPlan.com revisited this issue and noted that the propaganda continues to this day.
First, a little history. In the mid-1970s, Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, who had become a key figure in U.S. foreign policy, formed what would later become known as the “Church Committee” and took on serial civil rights and constitutional abuses by the intelligence community.
His committee (its formal name was “The U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities from 1975 through 1976”) conducted exhaustive hearings that examined illegal FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering activity and covert actions against domestic groups opposed to the Vietnam War and other American citizens.
In addition, the committee investigated CIA-led drug smuggling operations in the Golden Triangle (one of the world’s largest opium-production regions located at the nexus of three Asian countries — Laos, Thailand and Myanmar). The committee also investigated possible CIA involvement in secret U.S.-backed wars in various third-world countries.
The inquiries and investigations of the Church Committee led to the passage of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which also established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the judicial body charged with approving or denying NSA, CIA and other intelligence agency spy requests.
History of deception, since the beginning
During the committee’s investigations, the panel also discovered that the CIA would submit “stories” to American media outlets (see a video of those revelations during the Church Committee hearings in 1975 here).
When, and how, did such operations begin?
They began shortly after the CIA was created through legislation (the National Security Act) in 1947 during the Truman Administration (the CIA was an outgrowth of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, which operated during World War II). [NOTE: By comparison, the NSA was not a direct outgrowth of the National Security Act; it was created via secret executive order issued by President Truman in 1952.]
The usual practice, via Operation Mockingbird (which had a large influence with more than 25 major newspapers and wire services), was to place reports developed from intelligence provided by the CIA with witting and unwitting reporters. The reports would then be cited by other reporters, and in turn would then file up through the wire services.
In 2008, The New York Times also noted:
During the early years of the cold war, [prominent writers and artists, from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Jackson Pollock,] were supported, sometimes lavishly, always secretly, by the C.I.A. as part of its propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It was perhaps the most successful use of “soft power” in American history.
It was easy — in fact, so easy that one CIA operative is believed to have told The Washington Post‘s editor Philip Graham, regarding the willingness of reporters to act as propagandists for the CIA, “You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.”
Also, famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein has documented the connection between the CIA and American journalists:
[M]ore than 400 American journalists… in the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. …
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.
Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were [the heads of CBS, Time, The New York Times, The Louisville Courier-Journal and] the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include [ABC, NBC, AP, UPI, 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.