Chuck Spinney: CIA Media Entanglement and Snowden Story

Corruption, Government, Media
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

The corporate media's long relationship with the spook world may help explain why it doesn't like Snowden

Sam Smith, Undernews, 2013-07-07 11:15 AM

This obituary is of note because it is a rare example of that long-time media bedfellow of spooks, the Washington Post, telling a piece of the story of the long relationship between the corporate media and the spook world. Other examples follow.

Washington Post – Austin Goodrich, an undercover CIA officer during the Cold War who also worked for several years as a CBS television correspondent before his identity was unmasked, died June 9 at his home in Port Washington, Wis. He was 87…

While stationed in Oslo and Stockholm early in his clandestine career, he sought a suitable occupation to cover his true profession. He assumed a dual identity as reporter and spy.

At the same time that he was recruiting sources to provide information on the Soviet threat, Mr. Goodrich was meeting the deadlines of a working journalist. He reported on sports for the International Herald Tribune, contributed pieces to Swedish radio programs and, in the early 1950s, became a stringer for CBS News.

He did his job so well — both jobs, it would seem — that CBS asked Mr. Goodrich to work as a news writer in its New York headquarters in 1953. No one at the network suspected his CIA affiliation.

In 1954, Mr. Goodrich’s boss at CBS, Sig Mickelson — who is credited with inventing the term “anchorman” — was invited to the office of William S. Paley, the CBS chairman.

“I was called in to see Mr. Paley,” Mickelson recalled to the New York Times more than two decades later, “and found two CIA agents in his office. It was then that I learned our man in Stockholm, Austin Goodrich, had been placed there by the CIA and was working for them.”

In those days, according to 1977 investigative reports by Rolling Stone and the New York Times, it was not uncommon for CIA officers to conceal their occupation by working as part-time foreign correspondents or stringers. Reporters for legitimate news organizations were sometimes debriefed by spy agencies after overseas assignments. Such cozy arrangements lasted, in some cases, into the 1970s, when they were increasingly seen as unethical.

“I didn’t raise an eyebrow about cooperating back then,” Mickelson told the Times in 1976. “But those were different times, 23 years ago, and it seemed perfectly normal to do it. I assumed that in the cold war climate that existed all the networks were cooperating.”

Mickelson, who died in 2000, said he fired Mr. Goodrich from CBS in 1954 after learning of his CIA connections. When the story came to light in 1976, it was one of the first public revelations of the identity of an undercover CIA officer. It effectively ended Mr. Goodrich’s work as a spy…

Despite Mickelson’s assertion that he dismissed Mr. Goodrich in 1954 — “We got rid of Goodrich fast,” he said — Mr. Goodrich continued to appear on CBS News as late as October 1958, when he reported from Finland on Soviet propaganda efforts for the documentary “The Red Sell.” The host of the program was Walter Cronkite, who had been hired from a Washington TV station by Mickelson to work for the CBS network.

Progressive Review, 1998 – In a move roughly akin to the ACLU hiring a CIA director for its president, National Public Radio has named the czar of American broadcast agitprop as its CEO. Kevin Klose has been director of the US International Broadcasting Bureau, which runs or coordinates all major American broadcast propaganda including the Voice of America and Radio Marti. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia operate under the oversight of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the same body that supervises IBB. Kevin Klose was president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from 1992 to 1997. Prior to that he worked for many years for the Washington Post.

The choice raises new questions about the independence from government influence of the public radio network, which is already tied by purse-strings to Washington and has shown considerable deference to the White House in its coverage of the Clinton scandals.

This is not the first time America media and propaganda have been seamlessly joined. In 1976, the president of the CIA-connected Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty was former CBS president Sig Mickelson. Ironically, one of the few journalists who raised questions about the relationship of media and the CIA — to the detriment of his career at CBS — was Daniel Schorr, now at NPR. Carl Bernstein, in a contemporary article in Rolling Stone, estimated that 400 American journalists had been tied to the CIA at one point or another, including such well known media figures as the Alsop brothers, C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times, and Philip Graham of the Washington Post. Later the New York Times reported that the CIA had owned or subsidized more than 50 newspapers, news services, radio stations, and periodicals, mostly overseas. And, says NameBase Newslines, at least 22 American news organizations employed CIA assets, and “nearly a dozen American publishing houses printed some of the more than 1,000 books that had been produced or subsidized by the CIA. When asked in a 1976 interview whether the CIA had ever told its media agents what to write, William Colby replied, ‘Oh, sure, all the time.'”

With the bad press, American intelligence began becoming more subtle. As one CIA asset, Gloria Steinem said, “The CIA's big mistake was not supplanting itself with private funds fast enough.” One of the results of an increasing sophistication was the creation in 1973 of a Board for International Broadcasting to obscure any CIA control of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

But all this is history and largely forgotten even in media circles. Thus, it is not surprising that there have been signs the Washington inner party is feeling its oats again. In 1996, the Council on Foreign Relations suggested that the CIA be allowed once more to use journalists and clergy as cover for its operations.

CARL BERNSTEIN, ROLLING STONE, 1977 – [Joseph] Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. . . 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 it the derring-do of the spy business as in filing articles, and, the smallest category, full-time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. . .

The CIA even ran a formal training program in the 1950s to teach its agents to be journalists. Intelligence officers were “taught to make noises like reporters,” explained a high CIA official, and were then placed in major news organizations with help from management. . .

The Agency's relationships with journalists, as described in CIA files, include the following general categories:

– Legitimate, accredited staff members of news organizations – usually reporters. Some were paid; some worked for the Agency on a purely voluntary basis. . . .

– Stringers and freelancers. Most were payrolled by the Agency under standard contractual terms. . . .

– Employees of so-called CIA “proprietaries.” During the past twenty-five 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. . . .

– 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.

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