Friday, December 2, 2016

Operation Mockingbird - How The United States Government Propagandized Americans

With the mainstream media's recent focusing on so-called sources of "fake" news, a watchword that seems to have appeared as a result of Hillary Clinton's recent election loss, a look back at a bit of history may help us put the long history of fake news into perspective.  This is particularly important given that the "sheeple" have now been supplied with this list of "to be avoided at all costs" media outlets:

What is interesting to note is that Propornot, the group behind this questionable list of "fake news" sources consists of an unidentified group of "independent...concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy and national security affairs..." but who remains completely anonymous, making it difficult to ascertain their true agenda (i.e. the election of Hillary Clinton?)

Operation Mockingbird was a secretly organized and operated campaign by the Central Intelligence Agency with the purpose of influencing the media.  It was used to recruit American journalists with the purpose of propagating the CIA's views on key world issues, particularly during the Cold War era of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  This program which began in the late 1940s was headed by the following cast of characters:

Frank Wisner (Director of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) at the CIA)

Allen Dulles (Director of the CIA appointed by Dwight Eisenhower)

Richard Helms (former Director the CIA appointed by Lyndon Johnson)

Philip Graham (publisher of the Washington Post).

Interestingly, it was Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner who conceived and executed Operation Ajax, the covert operation which saw democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh ousted from office and replaced by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran.  Mossadegh's transgression?  He had the gall to nationalize the Anglo-American Oil Company in an attempt to put Iran's massive oil reserves back into Iran's control.

The intention of the CIA's operation was to buy influence at major media outlets and put reporters on the CIA payroll; media assets ultimately included ABC, NBC, CBS, Time, New York Times, Newsweek, the Associated Press, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Reuters, United Press International (UPI) and 400 journalists.  Interestingly, Frank Wisner recruited the aforementioned Philip Graham, son-in-law of the Washington Post's owner, Eugene Meyer, to run the project with the goal of concentrating on:

"...propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."

According to CIA officials, the most valuable of these associations was with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.  In the case of the New York Times, from 1950 to 1966, approximately ten CIA employees were provided Times cover, allowing them to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.

According to Spartacus Educational, the following journalists were more than willing to promote the anti-communist views (aka propaganda) of the CIA:

Ben Bradlee (Newsweek

James Reston(New York Times

Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine)
Walter Pincus (Washington Post
William C. Baggs (Miami News
Herb Gold (Miami News) 
Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times)
William Paley, CEO of the Columbia Broadcasting System
Henry Luce of Time Inc.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times)
Barry Bingham Sr. (LouisviIle CourierJournal)

In many cases, the CIA also provided journalists with classified information to help them disseminate the agency's viewpoint.

According to a 1977 article written by Carl Bernstein for Rolling Stone, the CIA used the following means to access the mainstream media with the purpose of influencing American opinion:

1.) Stringers and Freelancers: Most were payrolled by the Agency under standard contractual terms. Their journalistic credentials were often supplied by cooperating news organizations. some filed news stories; others reported only for the CIA. On some occasions, news organizations were not informed by the CIA that their stringers were also working for the Agency.

2.) Employees of socalled CIA “proprietaries: During the past 25 years, the Agency has secretly bankrolled numerous foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers—both English and foreign language—which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives. One such publication was the Rome Daily American, forty percent of which was owned by the CIA until the 1970s.

3.) Editors, publishers and broadcast network executives: The CIAs relationship with most news executives differed fundamentally from those with working reporters and stringers, who were much more subject to direction from the Agency. A few executives—Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times among them—signed secrecy agreements. But such formal understandings were rare: relationships between Agency officials and media executives were usually social—”The P and Q Street axis in Georgetown,” said one source. “You don’t tell Wilharn Paley to sign a piece of paper saying he won’t fink.”

4.) Columnists and commentators. There are perhaps a dozen well known columnists and broadcast commentators whose relationships with the CIA go far beyond those normally maintained between reporters and their sources. They are referred to at the Agency as “known assets” and can be counted on to perform a variety of undercover tasks; they are considered receptive to the Agency’s point of view on various subjects. Three of the most widely read columnists who maintained such ties with the Agency are C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times, Joseph Alsop, and the late Stewart Alsop, whose column appeared in the New York HeraldTribune, the Saturday Evening Post and Newsweek.”   

Here is a fascinating video showing the reaction to Operation Mockingbird from the mid-1970s, House Intelligence Committee in 1975 (aka the Church Committee (full name U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) named for Chairman Senator Frank Church who appears at the beginning of the video):

Here is a key except from the final Committee report:

"The Committee has also found a small number of past relationships that fit this category. In some cases the cover arrangement consisted of reimbursing the U.S. newspaper for any articles by the CIA  agent which the paper used. In at least one case the journalistic functions assumed by a CIA staff officer for cover purposes grew to a point where the officer concluded that he could not satisfactorily serve the requirements of both his (unwitting) U.S. media employers and the CIA, and therefore resigned from the CIA. He maintained contact, however, with the CIA and continued, very occasionally, to report to the CIA from the countries in which he worked.

(2) Of the less than ten relationships with writers for small, or limited circulation, U.S. publications, such as trade journals or newsletters, most are for cover purposes.

(3) The third, and largest, category of CIA relationships with the U.S. media includes free-lance journalists; "stringers" for newspapers, news magazines and news services; itinerant authors; propaganda writers; and agents working under cover as employees of U.S. publishing houses abroad. With the exception of the last group, the majority of the individuals in this category are bona fide writers or journalists or photographers. Most are paid by the CIA, and virtually all are witting; few, however, of the news organizations to which they contribute are aware of their CIA relationships.

(4) The fourth category of covert relationships resembles the kind of contact that journalists have with any other department of the U.S. Government in the routine performance of their journalistic duties. No money changes hands. The relationships are usually limited to occasional lunches, interviews, or telephone conversations during which information would be exchanged or verified. The difference, of course, is that the relationships are covert. The journalist either volunteers or is requested by the CIA to provide some sort of information about people with whom he is in contact. In several cases, the relationship began when the journalist approached a U.S. embassy officer to report that he was approached by a foreign intelligence officer ; in others, the CIA initiated the relationship.”

In case you were interested, here is a link to Book 1 of the report submitted by the Church Committee upon completion of the hearings.

While we may think that the days of Operation Mockingbird and similar propagandizing operations are behind us, with the current strong undercurrent of anti-Russia "news" making the rounds, particularly during the 2016 election cycle, one has to wonder what secret American government agency program is feeding the current biased media coverage monster, for instance, the unidentified members of Propornot.  If there is one thing that we can be sure of it's that nothing changes in Washington and that those in power never learn from the lessons of the past.  They will continue to do whatever it takes to control the minds (and hearts) of Americans.


  1. I do hope no one ever thought Putin invented hybrid warfare and use of tame sites and journalists. Bill Blum writes about CIA operations in his book Killing Hope. I used to be a fan of his until he started praising Stalin and the USSR after Russia invaded Ukraine

    1. Russia invaded Ukraine? Mounted on Vickie Nudelman's back no less.