CIA Funding and Manipulation of the U.S. News Media
Operation Mockingbird was a secret Central Intelligence Agency campaign to influence domestic and foreign media beginning in the 1950s.
According to the Congress report published in 1976:
“The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”
Senator Frank Church argued that misinforming the world cost American taxpayers an estimated $265 million a year.
In 1948, Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects (OSP). Soon afterwards OSP was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated 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.”
Later that year Wisner established Mockingbird, a program to influence the domestic and foreign media. Wisner recruited Philip Graham from The Washington Post to run the project within the industry. According to Deborah Davis in Katharine the Great; “By the early 1950s, Wisner ‘owned’ respected members of The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles.”
In 1951, Allen W. Dulles persuaded Cord Meyer to join the CIA. However, there is evidence that he was recruited several years earlier and had been spying on the liberal organizations he had been a member of in the later 1940s. According to Deborah Davis, Meyer became Mockingbird’s “principal operative.”
In 1977, Rolling Stone alleged that one of the most important journalists under the control of Operation Mockingbird was Joseph Alsop, whose articles appeared in over 300 different newspapers. Other journalists alleged by Rolling Stone Magazine to have been willing to promote the views of the CIA included Stewart Alsop (New York Herald Tribune), Ben Bradlee (Newsweek), James Reston (New York Times), Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine), Walter Pincus (Washington Post), William C. Baggs (The Miami News), Herb Gold (The Miami News) and Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times). According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman), these journalists sometimes wrote articles that were commissioned by Frank Wisner. The CIA also provided them with classified information to help them with their work.
After 1953, the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. By this time Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. These organizations were run by people with well-known right-wing views such as William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time and Life Magazine), Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times), Alfred Friendly (managing editor of the Washington Post), Jerry O’Leary (Washington Star), Hal Hendrix (Miami News), Barry Bingham, Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal), James Copley (Copley News Services) and Joseph Harrison (Christian Science Monitor).
The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning of funds intended for the Marshall Plan. Some of this money was used to bribe journalists and publishers. Frank Wisner was constantly looking for ways to help convince the public of the dangers of communism. In 1954, Wisner arranged for the funding of the Hollywood production of Animal Farm, the animated allegory based on the book written by George Orwell.
According to Alex Constantine (Mockingbird: The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA), in the 1950s, “some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts”. Wisner was also able to restrict newspapers from reporting about certain events. For example, the CIA plots to overthrow the governments of Iran (See: Operation Ajax) and Guatemala (See: Operation PBSUCCESS).