Do you watch TV? How about cable news? Yes? Well then, what other sources of news do you get? Oh, the newspaper you say? Ok, anything verifiable? Oh, you say they are verifiable.

And truthful too, huh?

Wanna bet?

You've never heard of Project Mockingbird then.

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Not surprisingly, the CIA began a mission in the late 1940s to recruit American journalists on a wide scale, a mission it dubbed Operation MOCKINGBIRD. The agency wanted these journalists not only to relay any sensitive information they discovered, but also to write anti-communist, pro-capitalist propaganda when needed.

The instigators of MOCKINGBIRD were Frank Wisner, Allan Dulles, Richard Helms and Philip Graham. Graham was the husband of Katherine Graham, today's publisher of the Washington Post. In fact, it was the Post's ties to the CIA that allowed it to grow so quickly after the war, both in readership and influence. (8)

MOCKINGBIRD was extraordinarily successful. In no time, the agency had recruited at least 25 media organizations to disseminate CIA propaganda. At least 400 journalists would eventually join the CIA payroll, according to the CIA's testimony before a stunned Church Committee in 1975. (The committee felt the true number was considerably higher.) The names of those recruited reads like a Who's Who of journalism:

  • Philip and Katharine Graham (Publishers, Washington Post)
  • 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
  • Mutual Broadcasting System
  • Miami Herald
  • Old Saturday Evening Post
  • New York Herald-Tribune

Perhaps no newspaper is more important to the CIA than the Washington Post, one of the nation's most right-wing dailies. Its location in the nation's capitol enables the paper to maintain valuable personal contacts with leading intelligence, political and business figures. Unlike other newspapers, the Post operates its own bureaus around the world, rather than relying on AP wire services. Owner Philip Graham was a military intelligence officer in World War II, and later became close friends with CIA figures like Frank Wisner, Allen Dulles, Desmond FitzGerald and Richard Helms. He inherited the Post by marrying Katherine Graham, whose father owned it.

After Philip's suicide in 1963, Katharine Graham took over the Post. Seduced by her husband's world of government and espionage, she expanded her newspaper's relationship with the CIA. In a 1988 speech before CIA officials at Langley, Virginia, she stated:

"We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things that 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."

This quote has since become a classic among CIA critics for its belittlement of democracy and its admission that there is a political agenda behind the Post's headlines.

Ben Bradlee was the Post's managing editor during most of the Cold War. He worked in the U.S. Paris embassy from 1951 to 1953, where he followed orders by the CIA station chief to place propaganda in the European press. (9) Most Americans incorrectly believe that Bradlee personifies the liberal slant of the Post, given his role in publishing the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate investigations. But neither of these two incidents are what they seem. The Post merely published the Pentagon Papers after The New York Times already had, because it wanted to appear competitive. As for Watergate, we'll examine the CIA's reasons for wanting to bring down Nixon in a moment. Someone once asked Bradlee: "Does it irk you when The Washington Post is made out to be a bastion of slanted liberal thinkers instead of champion journalists just because of Watergate?" Bradlee responded: "Damn right it does!" (10)

It would be impossible to elaborate in this short space even the most important examples of the CIA/media alliance. Sig Mickelson was a CIA asset the entire time he was president of CBS News from 1954 to 1961. Later he went on to become president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, two major outlets of CIA propaganda.

The CIA also secretly bought or created its own media companies. It owned 40 percent of the Rome Daily American at a time when communists were threatening to win the Italian elections. Worse, the CIA has bought many domestic media companies. A prime example is Capital Cities, created in 1954 by CIA businessman William Casey (who would later become Reagan's CIA director). Another founder was Lowell Thomas, a close friend and business contact with CIA Director Allen Dulles. Another founder was CIA businessman Thomas Dewey. By 1985, Capital Cities had grown so powerful that it was able to buy an entire TV network: ABC.

For those who believe in "separation of press and state," the very idea that the CIA has secret propaganda outlets throughout the media is appalling. The reason why America was so oblivious to CIA crimes in the 40s and 50s was because the media willingly complied with the agency. Even today, when the immorality of the CIA should be an open-and-shut case, "debate" about the issue rages in the media. Here is but one example:

In 1996, The San Jose Mercury News published an investigative report suggesting that the CIA had sold crack in Los Angeles to fund the Contra war in Central America. A month later, three of the CIA's most important media allies — The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times — immediately leveled their guns at the Mercury report and blasted away in an attempt to discredit it. Who wrote the Post article? Walter Pincus, longtime CIA journalist. The dangers here are obvious.

For more visit The Origins of the Overclass by Steve Kangas