The Depraved Spies and Moguls of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD
The Alex Constantine Article
“You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.”
– CIA operative discussing with Philip Graham, editor Washington Post, on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories.
Katherine The Great,” by Deborah Davis (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991)
Tales from the Crypt
Who Controls the Media?
Soulless corporations do, of course. Corporations with grinning, double-breasted executives, interlocking directorates, labor squabbles and flying capital. Dow. General Electric. Coca-Cola. Disney. Newspapers should have mastheads that mirror the world: The Westinghouse Evening Scimitar, The Atlantic-Richfield Intelligentser. It is beginning to dawn on a growing number of armchair ombudsmen that the public print reports news from a parallel universe – one that has never heard of politically-motivated assassinations, CIA-Mafia banking thefts, mind control, death squads or even federal agencies with secret budgets fattened by cocaine sales – a place overrun by lone gunmen, where the CIA and Mafia are usually on their best behavior. In this idyllic land, the most serious infraction an official can commit is a the employment of a domestic servant with (shudder) no residency status.
Early MOCKINGBIRD influenced 25 newspapers and wire agencies consenting to act as organs of CIA propaganda. Many of these were already run by men with reactionary views, among them William Paley (CBS), C.D. Jackson (Fortune), Henry Luce (Time) and Arthur Hays Sulzberger (N.Y. Times).
It was conceived in the late 1940s, the most frigid period of the cold war, when the CIA began a systematic infiltration of the corporate media, a process that often included direct takeover of major news outlets. In this period, the American intelligence services competed with communist activists abroad to influence European labor unions. With or without the cooperation of local governments, Frank Wisner, an undercover State Department official assigned to the Foreign Service, rounded up students abroad to enter the cold war underground of covert operations on behalf of his Office of Policy Coordination. Philip Graham, — a graduate of the Army Intelligence School in Harrisburg, PA, then publisher of the Washington Post., was taken under Wisner’s wing to direct the program code-named Operation MOCKINGBIRD.
“By the early 1950s,” writes former Village Voice reporter Deborah Davis in Katharine the Great, “Wisner ‘owned’ respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles, plus stringers, four to six hundred in all, according to a former CIA analyst.” The network was overseen by Allen Dulles, a templar for German and American corporations who wanted their points of view represented in the public print.
Early MOCKINGBIRD influenced 25 newspapers and wire agencies consenting to act as organs of CIA propaganda. Many of these were already run by men with reactionary views, among them William Paley (CBS), C.D. Jackson (Fortune), Henry Luce (Time) and Arthur Hays Sulzberger (N.Y. Times). Activists curious about the workings of MOCKINGBIRD have since been appalled to find in FOIA documents that agents boasting in CIA office memos of their pride in having placed “important assets” inside every major news publication in the country.
It was not until 1982 that the Agency openly admitted that reporters on the CIA payroll have acted as case officers to agents in the field.
“World War III has begun,” Henry’s Luce’s Life declared in March,1947. “It is in the opening skirmish stage already.” The issue featured an excerpt of a book by James Burnham, who called for the creation of an “American Empire,” “world-dominating in political power, set up at least in part through coercion (probably including war, but certainly the threat of war) and in which one group of people… would hold more than its equal share of power.”
George Seldes, the famed anti-fascist media critic, drew down on Luce in 1947, explaining that “although avoiding typical Hitlerian phrases, the same doctrine of a superior people taking over the world and ruling it, began to appear in the press, whereas the organs of Wall Street were much more honest in favoring a doctrine inevitably leading to war if it brought greater commercial markets under the American flag.”
On the domestic front, an abiding relationship was struck between the CIA and William Paley, a wartime colonel and the founder of CBS.
A firm believer in “all forms of propaganda” to foster loyalty to the Pentagon, Paley hired CIA agents to work undercover at the behest of his close friend, the busy grey eminence of the nation’s media, Allen Dulles. Paley’s designated go-between in his dealings with the CIA was Sig Mickelson, president of CBS News from 1954 to 1961. The CIA’s assimilation of old guard fascists was overseen by the Operations Coordination Board, directed by C.D. Jackson, formerly an executive of Time magazine and Eisenhower’s Special Assistant for Cold War Strategy.
In 1954 he was succeeded by Nelson Rockefeller, who quit a year later, disgusted at the administration’s political infighting. Vice President Nixon succeeded Rockefeller as the key cold war strategist. “Nixon,” writes John Loftus, a former attorney for the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, took “a small boy’s delight in the arcane tools of the intelligence craft – the hidden microphones, the ‘black’ propaganda.” Nixon especially enjoyed his visit to a Virginia training camp to observe Nazis in the “special forces” drilling at covert operations.
One of the fugitives recruited by the American intelligence underground was heroin smuggler Hubert von Blücher, the son of A German ambassador. Hubert often bragged that that he was trained by the Abwehr, the German military intelligence division, while still a civilian in his twenties. He served in a recon unit of the German Army until forced out for medical reasons in 1944, according to his war time records. He worked briefly as an assistant director for Berlin-Film on a movie entitled One Day …, and finished out the war flying with the Luftwaffe, but not to engage the enemy – his mission was the smuggling of Nazi loot out of the country. His exploits were, in part, the subject of Sayer and Botting’s Nazi Gold, an account of the knock over of the Reichsbank at the end of the war.
“Nixon,” writes John Loftus, a former attorney for the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, took “a small boy’s delight in the arcane tools of the intelligence craft – the hidden microphones, the ‘black’ propaganda.” Nixon especially enjoyed his visit to a Virginia training camp to observe Nazis in the “special forces” drilling at covert operations.
In 1951, Hubert migrated northward and took a job at the Color Corporation of America in Hollywood. He eked out a living writing scripts for the booming movie industry. His voice can be heard on a film set in the Amazon, produced by Walt Disney. Nine years later he returned to Buenos Aires, then Düsseldorf, West Germany, and established a firm that developed not movie scripts, but anti-chemical warfare agents for the government. At the Industrie Club in Düsseldorfin 1982, von Blücher boasted to journalists, “I am chief shareholder of Pan American Airways. I am the best friend of Howard Hughes. The Beach Hotel in Las Vegas is 45 percent financed by me. I am thus the biggest financier ever to appear in the Arabian Nights tales dreamed up by these people over their second bottle of brandy.”
Not really. Two the biggest financiers to stumble from the drunken dreams of world-moving affluence were, in their time, Moses Annenberg, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and his son Walter, the CIA/mob-anchored publisher of the TV Guide. Like most American high-rollers, Annenberg lived a double life. Moses, his father, was a scion of the Capone mob. Both Moses and Walter were indicted in 1939 for tax evasions totaling many millions of dollars – the biggest casein the history of the Justice Department. Moses pled guilty and agreed to pay the government $8 million and settle $9 million in assorted tax claims, penalties and interest debts. Moses received a three-year sentence. He died in Lewisburg Penitentiary.
Walter Annenbeg, the TV Guide magnate, was a lofty Republican. On the campaign trail in April, 1988, George Bush flew into Los Angeles to woo Reagan’s kitchen cabinet. “This is the topping on the cake, “Bush’s regional campaign director told the Los Angeles Times. The Bush team met at Annenberg’s plush Rancho Mirage estate at Sunnylands, California. It was at the Annenberg mansion that Nixon’s cabinet was chosen, and the state’s social and contributor registers built over a quarter-century of state political dominance by Ronald Reagan, whose acting career was launched by Operation MOCKINGBIRD.
The commercialization of television, coinciding with Reagan’s recruitment by the Crusade for Freedom, a CIA front, presented the intelligence world with unprecedented potential for sowing propaganda and even prying in the age of Big Brother. George Orwell glimpsed the possibilities when he installed omniscient video surveillance technology in 1948, a novel rechristened 1984 for the first edition published in the U.S. by Harcourt, Brace. Operation Octopus, according to federal files, was in full swing by 1948, a surveillance program that turned any television set with tubes into a broadcast transmitter.
Agents of Octopus could pick up audio and visual images with the equipment as far as 25 miles away. Hale Boggs was investigating Operation Octopus at the time of his disappearance in the midst of the Watergate probe. In 1952, at MCA, Actors’ Guild president Ronald Reagan – a screen idol recruited by MOCKINGBIRD’s Crusade for Freedom to raise funds for the resettlement of Nazis in the U.S., according to Loftus – signed a secret waiver of the conflict-of-interest rule with the mob-controlled studio, in effect granting it a labor monopoly on early television programming. In exchange, MCA made Reagan a part owner.
Furthermore, historian C. Vann Woodward, writing in the New York Times, in 1987, reported that Reagan had “fed the names of suspect people in his organization to the FBI secretly and regularly enough to be assigned ‘an informer’s code number, T-10.’ His FBI file indicates intense collaboration with producers to ‘purge’ the industry of subversives.”
No one ever turned a suspicious eye on Walter Cronkite, a former intelligence officer and in the immediate postwar period UPI’s Moscow correspondent. Cronkite was lured to CBS by Operation MOCKINGBIRD’s Phil Graham, according to Deborah Davis. Another television conglomerate, Cap Cities, rose like a horror-film simian from CIA and Mafia heroin operations.
Among other organized-crime Republicans, Thomas Dewey and his neighbor Lowell Thomas threw in to launch the infamous Resorts International, the corporate front for Lansky’s branch of the federally-sponsored mob family and the corporate precursor to Cap Cities. Another of the investors was James Crosby, a Cap Cities executive who donated$100,000 to Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. This was the year that Resorts bought into Atlantic City casino interests. Police in New jersey attempted, with no success, to spike the issuance of a gambling license to the company, citing Mafia ties.
In 1954, this same circle of investors, all Catholics, founded the broadcasting company notorious for overt propagandizing and general spookiness. The company’s chief counsel was OSS veteran William Casey, who clung to his shares by concealing them in a blind trust even after he was appointed CIA director by Ronald Reagan in 1981.
“Black radio” was the phrase CIA critic David Wise coined in The Invisible Government to describe the agency’s intertwining interests in the emergence of the transistor radio with the entrepreneurs who took to the airwaves. “Daily, East and West beam hundreds of propaganda broadcasts at each other in an unrelenting babble of competition for the minds of their listeners. The low-price transistor has given the hidden war a new importance,” enthused one foreign correspondent. A Hydra of private foundations sprang up to finance the propaganda push.
A network anchorman in time of national crisis is an instrument of psychological warfare in the MOCKINGBIRD media. He is a creature from the national security sector’s chamber of horrors.
Rosselli, a CIA asset probably assassinated by the CIA, played sidekick to Harry Cohn, the Columbia Pictures mogul who visited Italy’s Benito Mussolini in 1933, and upon his return to Hollywood remodeled his office after the dictator’s. The only honest job Rosselli ever had was assistant purchasing agent (and a secret investor) at Eagle Lion productions, run by Bryan Foy, a former producer for 20th Century Fox.
Rosselli, Capone’s representative on the West Coast, passed a small fortune in mafia investments to Cohn. Bugsy Seigel pooled gambling investments with Billy Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter. In the 1950s, outlays for global propaganda climbed to a full third ofthe CIA’s covert operations budget. Some 3, 000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts.
The cost of disinforming the world cost American taxpayers an estimated $265 million a year by 1978, a budget larger than the combined expenditures of Reuters, UPI and the AP news syndicates.
In 1977, the Copely News Service admitted that it worked closely with the intelligence services – in fact, 23 employees were full-time employees of the Agency. Most consumers of the corporate media were – and are – unaware of the effect that the salting of public opinion has on their own beliefs.
A network anchorman in time of national crisis is an instrument of psychological warfare in the MOCKINGBIRD media. He is a creature from the national security sector’s chamber of horrors. For this reason consumers of the corporate press have reason to examine their basic beliefs about government and life in the parallel universe of these United States.
Kill the Messenger Official Trailer #1 (2014) – Jeremy Renner Crime Movie HD
A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide after he exposes the CIA’s role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb.
Gary Webb interviewed on Counterspin
“But one [Los Angeles] Times reporter characterized himself as being “assigned to the ‘get Gary Webb team'” and another was heard to say “We’re going to take away that guy’s Pulitzer.” The opening “About this series” teaser made it clear that the Times pieces would explicitly address, and deny, the validity of all the main assertions in “Dark Alliance.”
From the beginning, it seemed Los Angeles Times Bureau Chief Doyle McManus was hungry to make an example of Gary Webb. Maybe it was because he actually got the scoop on a story that was in his backyard, as is commonly asserted, or maybe because there was a more searing envy rooted in watching a man do what he could never dare to do: maintain his journalistic integrity. Only the latter could explain the malice he exhibited, as McManus would infamously side against the American people to protect us from a truth they were entrusted to report. He’d paint the CIA as a law-abiding, conscientious agency and go after Webb despite the fact that much of what Webb reported was public record, congressional hearings, from the 1980s.
Not Watchdogs. Lap Dogs.
No less than six Los Angeles Times reporters were sent out to discredit Webb. In The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times there was no shortage of wanna-be spooks run amuck, but they were nothing less than journalistic prostitutes, what reporter Deborah Davis once warned us about in Katherine the Great.She wrote that in a discussion with Philip Graham, the editor of the The Washington Post, a CIA operative commented derisively on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories: “You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.”
It was Operation Mockingbird at its worst: CIA media assets planting stories and attacking the messenger. For doing his job and exposing the CIA-Contra-Crack connection, the national media ruined his career.
One of the more well-known writers who piled on to this attack on the east coast was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
Those attacks made it impossible for Webb to work as a journalist again. In 2004, he was found dead with two gunshots in his head. It was ruled a “suicide.” But collectively speaking, the gun was always in the hands of the pseudo-journalists who fought so hard, so heroically in their eyes, to protect us from a self-evident truth which the CIA later admitted.
Things haven’t changed. In a recent article at The Intercept, on September 4, 2014, we see in The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories With Agency Before Publication that some assets will work for free.
“A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.
“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”
Movies aren’t made about “heroic” reporters who plant cover stories in psyop campaigns against their own people. Unless they were snuff films, they would be unwatchable. In that sense, because he was the promise of journalism personified, Webb scored, and scored big.
There’s a new generation of reporters now so they might pick up the slack, and cover what the national news agencies refuse to cover. In fact, they have been doing it for over a decade now. For every journalist willing to peddle propaganda and cover stories for free simply for the dubious honor of calling themselves “CIA contractors” or “agents of influence”, there are 10 real reporters who will do the same for actual stories that matter; for the truth, and also for free. It’s just a pity that real journalists like Gary Webb could never work in the business again, and McManus and Dilanian still prosper in the national media as weeds in a long-neglected garden of truth.
These two never really got it: planting cover stories and deceiving the public was what the CIA was designed to do to enemy countries, not ours, so what they did to Americans didn’t make them James Bond, or any kind of secret agent heroes; it made them something to be truly despised. Even the agency looks down on these self-serving, unprincipled brown-nosers. “At least Webb had balls” is a common refrain and there was always a grudging admiration from those involved.
And of course, movies aren’t made about “heroic” reporters who plant cover stories in psyop campaigns against their own people. Unless they were snuff films, they would be unwatchable. In that sense, because he was the promise of journalism personified, Webb scored, and scored big.