‘Does the CIA Still Do That?’

Yves here. Given how aggressively the CIA went after former officer Frank Snepp for telling tales out of school, one wonders why former CIA analysts Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson are able to be pretty open about the less than savory things they saw back in their days. Johnson in particular has repeatedly described how the CIA engages in psy-ops via planting press stories. Is it that they’ve never presented enough specifics to amount to enough of an attack surface?

Regardless, Tom Neuburger is staring a long, historically-rooted look at what the Agency has been found to be up to.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

“Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state.”
—James Angleton, CIA counterintelligence chief, 1954-1975

As I mentioned here, I want to start looking at the CIA and its role both in American life and American politics. Through this series I’ll be drawing from many sources, familiar and unfamiliar, some respected by most, and some hated by partisan voices.

In all cases, I’ll focus on just two things: what’s known, and what seems likely based on what’s known.

Whistleblower Frank Snepp on CIA Propaganda

Let’s start here with a taste. Edward Snowden is familiar to many and respected by most of those. (His forced residence in Russia makes some people pause.)

The admission in this 1983 video is striking:

The man being interviewed is Frank Snepp, a former CIA employee during the Vietnam War era. The full video is here:

About Frank Snepp, the YouTube poster (Witness to War) wrote this:

“Frank Snepp arrived in Vietnam in 1969 and stayed on until he was evacuated as Saigon fell in 1975. He spent a good deal of time working with the press while there and developed the ability to plant stories in major media outlets like the New York Times, the New Yorker, the LA Times, Chicago Daily News and others that supported the Agency’s goals. … After he left the CIA he wrote a book, Decent Interval, that talked about his time in Vietnam. The CIA made his life hell and took a case all the way to the Supreme Court where they won a verdict that required Snepp to turn over all the money the book had made. That was $300,000.”

And Wikipedia offers this:

“Frank Warren Snepp, III (born May 3, 1943) is a journalist and former chief analyst of North Vietnamese strategy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Saigon during the Vietnam War. For five out of his eight years as a CIA officer, he worked as interrogator, agent debriefer, and chief strategy analyst in the United States Embassy, Saigon; he was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit for his work. Snepp is a former producer for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, California. He was one of the first whistle blowers who revealed the inner workings, secrets and failures of the national security services in the 1970s. As a result of a loss in a 1980 court case brought by the CIA, all of Snepp’s publications require prior approval by the CIA.”

So, not a nobody.

Snowden’s Question

Now consider Snowden’s question: Do you think the CIA still does this?

I would answer:

  • Is it certain? Not from this evidence, though stay tuned for more.
  • Is it likely? Of course it is. Why would they stop?

CIA Assassination Manual, Contra Edition

The CIA has authored a number of counter-insurgency and assassination manuals. One was leaked during the 1984 presidential campaign. An editorial by the Washington Post characterizes the manual as “advising Nicaraguan guerrillas how to kidnap, assassinate, blackmail and dupe civilians [which] is an appalling production”. It dismisses the document as a “lame-brained idea launched on the political side of the government” and hopes that Reagan will investigate quickly.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo answers questions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington in 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Here’s that “lame-brained idea,” the manual itself, titled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare. From the section “Armed Propaganda”:

5. Selective Use of Violence for Propagandistic Effects

It is possible to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets, such as court judges, mesta judges, police and State Security officials, CDS chiefs, etc. […]

The target or person should be chosen on the basis of:

  • The spontaneous hostility that the majority of the population feels toward the target.
  • Use rejection or potential hatred by the majority of the population affected toward the target, stirring up the population and making them see all the negative and hostile actions of the individual against the people.
  • If the majority of the people give their support or backing to the target or subject, do not try to change these sentiments through provocation.
  • Relative difficulty of controlling the person who will replace the target.

The person who will replace the target should be chosen carefully, based on:

  • Degree of violence necessary to carry out the change.
  • Degree of violence acceptable to the population affected.
  • Degree of predictable reprisal by the enemy on the population affected or other individuals in the area of the target.

Elsewhere it recommends:

“Specific tasks will be assigned to others, in order to create a “martyr” for the cause, taking the demonstrators to a confrontation with the authorities, in order to bring about uprisings or shootings, which will cause the death of one or more persons, who would become the martyrs, a situation that should be made use of immediately against the regime, in order to create greater conflicts.”

Note that this doesn’t have to be done from the insurgents’ standpoint. It can be done by that state against insurgents, or mere demonstrators. The “removed target” could be a deeply unpopular politician, for example. The “martyr” could be a policeman or some other official. These techniques would work well from either side of a CIA-involved conflict.

Snowden’s Question

Again we ask Snowden’s question: Do you think the CIA still does this?

I would answer:

Today’s CIA

Set assassination aside for the moment. Does the CIA work to influence domestic media, as it did during the Vietnam era? If so, what are its goals? Does it run other domestic operations?

Most people think the CIA doesn’t operate here, given what they think is its charter. And yet it does. To what extent is the CIA engaged inside U.S. borders? Future parts in this series will look at that.

Bottom line: To describe is not to condemn. Many people are glad our security state is as “robust” as it is, given what people think are our various threats.

But even they, I would think, would want to understand the kind of state we have built.

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  1. Acacia

    Propaganda, a.k.a., shaping the narrative, disinformation, violence, assassination… this is good start. Certainly more to say about the how/what/where.

    How about sabotage? Human experiments (e.g., MKUltra, with alumni like Ted Kaczynski)? Double Government (à la Glennon)? Drug running? Cultivating insurgent proxies (e.g., ISIS)? I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few other spook hobby horses.

    Looking forward to upcoming articles in the series.

    P.S. There are many books on the subject, e.g. Tim Weiner. Would be great to hear about recommended reading, too.

    1. JohnA

      I can recommend The Devil’s Chessboard by David Talbot, that mainly concentrates on the Dulles Brothers, Allen in particular, who was head of the CIA for many years until JFK fired him. Somehow Dulles managed to get a set on the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of JFK.

      1. Jabura Basaidai

        you can thank Johnson for Dulles on the Warren Commission – imho after reading “The Unspeakable” the CIA has been in control ever since they snuffed JFK, and the crap has been circling in the porcelain throne ever since – it is time for a good flush – not holding my breath but do hope –

        1. digi_owl

          They even had a president, Bush the older, and was poised to get a second until his mistress was discovered.

    2. AG

      “Tom Griffin on intelligence history”

      “All-Source Intelligence Fusion”

      which both seem to be excellent sources

      on the other end of the spectrum the very odd, more like a CIA-in-house-PR-brochure, but with extensive reading (even if its biased it can offer some insight about that very bias)

      and a bit off may be:
      “Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies ”

      They publish (historic) scholarhip, incl. book reviews and other things. Since Febr. 2022 even more Russiaphobic than before.

      They have academic publications, much paywalled, but not all, often bi-lingual
      “Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies”
      and the “Pantier-Report” focused on current topics

    3. pjay

      I’m looking forward to this as well. Weiner’s book Legacy of Ashes is very good in my opinion. However, there is a difference between what I would consider “authorized” histories and those like Snepp’s. Authors like Weiner, or Steve Coll, or Annie Jacobsen, who all have excellent inside sources and have written best-selling books – and good ones – are all only as good as their sources allow. Meaning, in some sense they are all providing “limited hang-outs” in a way, leaving out part of the story while providing great “inside” detail about the stories that are already known or no longer vital secrets. To me, the test of such authors is (1) what do they *leave out* in their award-winning narratives; and (2) do they do anything in their careers later on that would call into question their, um, “objectivity”?

      Regarding the latter, for example: James Risen, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who wrote very valuable exposes of the intelligence community during the Bush years, all of the sudden starts writing ridiculous crap about Russiagate. Weiner, who wrote THE book on the CIA, is called on to smear Oliver Stone for his Kennedy assassination documentary in a review that simply accepts the Warren Commission (which *no* one does today, even those who think Oswald did it) and makes stuff up about Stone’s sources. His authority as THE CIA expert gives him the cred to do so, though what he says is as transparently flawed as what Risen said about Russiagate. Perhaps most famously, Seymour Hersh, who of course had written many valuable exposes over the years, including a crucial one of CIA activities in the 1970s, writes a complete hack-job smear of Kennedy in the 1990s based on CIA disinformation sources.

      My assumption is that when they win Pulitzers and are celebrated in the mainstream press, they probably have not exposed anything too dangerous. When they start getting smeared as “conspiracy theorists” or threatened with prison or persecuted like Snepp and other whistle-blowers, then we should probably read especially closely. When Hersh all of the sudden was banished from the New Yorker, and then from the London Review of Books, and then from everything, I figured his work on the Middle East must have been touching a nerve somewhere, and I started paying attention again.

      1. barefoot charley

        Hersh’s stories since his Nordstream scoop focus on what great work the CIA is doing for humanity, most recently by convincing Israel that there are no nukes to blow up in Iran, so blow up fields in an army base like Iran did to you, and it’s all good. Thanks, CIA! I hope all this currying favor will result in meaningful scoops again one day.

      2. Alex Cox

        Check out the index to Weiner’s MSM-approved history of CIA. The word ‘drugs’ does not appear there.

      3. Martin Oline

        pjay: I agree that Legacy of Ashes, which I recently read, was a limited hang out. I was unaware of the smear job on Stone. In the book the CIA is treated as a has-been toothless old lion that no longer plays a critical part in foreign affairs. Joseph Cofer Black is brought onboard as Director of the Counter-terrorism Center and is portrayed as simply managing the decline. Larry Johnson recently had a piece on Black’s continued role in foreign affairs linked here.
        I was also struck by the complete absence of any mention of the drug networks from SE Asia and South America allegedly facilitated and supported by the agency to supply operating funds for their black ops.

        1. pjay

          Yes. You and Alex mention two key tip-offs in my own assessment of such books. The role of the CIA in the global drug trade (and related involvement with the underworld, global money-laundering. etc.) seems to be a very taboo subject. Most “authorized” histories won’t touch it. Also, they almost always imply, or state outright, that while the CIA *used* to do some bad stuff, that’s all in the past, and anyway those old shenanigans really weren’t very successful and didn’t accomplish all that much. Stephen Kinzer’s book on Sidney Gottlieb and MKUltra is in the same vein – very good up to a point, but again, it’s all in the past and anyway their experiments were mainly failures. In other words, their answer to the title of this essay is ‘no’. I guess we can all breath easier!

      4. Emma

        Hersh is a limited hangout, always was one. Sometimes he exposes important stuff and other times he’s obviously laundering stuff for his deep State sources. He got paid a million bucks to write that hatchet job on JFK.

        Pepe’s story does sound far fetched and maybe technically impossible. But the official nothingburger story is also really weird. I was checking Twitter when the story broke, when there’s were reports of massive explosions on Isfahan’s nuclear facilities. I figured that I might just wake up the next morning in a near nuclear or nuclear WWIII next morning. Instead it turned out to be absolutely nothing. It seems like somebody must have slapped down the Israelis pretty hard.

          1. pjay

            Almost everything Hersh claims about Kennedy is either drastically one-sided, significantly exaggerated, or downright false. So there is a lot to criticize. But for me, his worst sin was helping the CIA push the story that it was the Kennedy brothers who were “obsessed” with Cuba and killing Castro and pushing all that other bad stuff that the Congressional Investigations of the 1970s were beginning to reveal. Gosh, the CIA didn’t *want* to do that stuff, but Jack and Bobby, in their irrational fury, kept pushing them and pushing them. They were just following orders from their commander-in-chief and his powerful little brother.

            This is bulls**t disinformation. The guys most responsible for spinning this were the very people most involved with the CIA’s Cuba operations. Guys like Richard Bissell – Deputy Director of the CIA and key Bay of Pigs planner who was fired by Kennedy for his deceitful role in that fiasco. Also Bissell’s own deputy, Sam Halpern – who was one of Hersh’s key sources for his book! In reality, as the Church Committee concluded – *in the 1970s* – the assassination plots with the mafia, which were planned under Eisenhower, were stopped when discovered by the Kennedys. And while anti-Castro operations did continue under Kennedy, much restricted after the Missile crisis, there was no evidence that the Kennedy’s were aware of the later assassination plots and other rogue operations that continued well after Kennedy was gone. By the mid-1990s there was much declassification of relevant records (thanks to Oliver Stone’s JFK movie, ironically) that backed all this up. Hersh’s book was published in 1997.

            This is just one example of many. I admit to being somewhat obsessed with the topic because to me Hersh, along with Noam Chomsky, is probably most responsible for distorting the understanding by the so-called “left” of this period in US history.

            1. AG

              Thx for the extensive response.

              In contrast to Hersh, Chomsky of course does operate as a scholar which doesn´t mean he is a saint. But he would be the first to point that out himself, i.e. he is fallible.
              So if Chomsky did stick to his perception of the JFK issue over the decades he did so as an outside observer using evidence free of allegiance to any paper of record or state institution.

              On the Cuban policy I cannot argue lacking your knowledge. I can only articulate skepticism towards any view. What account in book/study form would you find more appropriate?

              Regarding increased military spending we however do have numbers that show that the JFK admin. embodied another major push towards hegemony. By way of vastly surpassing Soviet WMD capabilities the US clearly risked WWIII. This was actually the geopolitical shift taking place with the Polaris system introduction – to put the major WMD counterforce seaborne and invisible for Russians. Something that happened in the early 1960s.

              That was an entirely new level of threat while the RUs intially had some elementary stuff catching up to do instead (see Turkey Jupiters, which were worthless by then).

              1962 the US had 27,000 nuclear warheads. 3,400 of those strategic. The USSR had altogether 3,100, 480 strategic, a ratio of 9:1. JFK´s first government budget planned an increase of defense spending by, I think, 18%.

              Everything was ramped up. R&D, bomber production, or said new generation SSBNs, which were a game changer. Those were the facts. And what JFK´s people did do brilliantly, is selling that road to nuclear Armageddon as love for peace.

              Now, on the tactical level this has nothing to do with Cuban micro-politics. But to roughly lay out the reason for my skepticism.

              I therefore frankly never shared the praise of JFK´s America Univ. speech e.g. I consider it a major propaganda success that even people like Sachs and McGovern (see Yves´ comment above) still sing his praise today.

              But I would never question McGovern´s honesty. Neither Hersh´s. Btw. Hersh´s position as a reporter about CIA and Co. naturally put him into a difficult position. But I have considerable respect for what he did do nonetheless. Like Chris Hedges et al. you do not tinker with the powerful unscathed one way or the other. Nordstream reporting was only possible because the sources knew they could trust Hersh on a professional level. Quid pro quo as Hannibal Lecter said.

              sry if this a bit lengthy. WMDs are a bit my obsession. How sick is that…

  2. Trees&Trunks

    A question: are we lied to a lot more now than previously? Due to age, I was becoming aware of the lies during the full-scale, unprovoked and illegal US + coalition of the willing invasion of Iraq. But there was some information getting through about the lies so you could read it in the MSM too. But now, regarding Ukraine & Israel and just about everything else are only lies or seriously distorted nuggets of truth.

    What was life like for real in Libya? A North-Korea/Saddam Hussein like terror-state?
    What about the endless violence and chaos in Latin and South America during the 70-90s?

    1. timbers

      When in high school/grade school, I was fascinated by books authored by former diplomats/ambassadors/govt officials who wrote about the inner workings of events throughout the world. They probably had to get content approved by from Uncle Sam but interesting accounts and revealing details were still to be had, and it was accepted they had a right to “cash in” their careers via a book with their knowledge so probably the CIA would tolerate some interesting accounts so they too could also when they retired. As long as USA was the Good Guy.

      I recall reading in one of these books, that the CIA or some US agency during the Cold War had agents stationed at all the major “news” outlets throughout Europe to ensure the correct news and narrative was published so USA could defeat communism and be The Good Guy.

      Fast forward and now everything is internet, it occurred to me at one point the US control of narrative did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union but probably increased dramatically given how these things work.

      Point being, I knew as a kid in high school the Govt was involved in controlling and creating the “news” but that seemed OK when I bought into the narrative communism bad. Yet today, am amazed people of similar age frequently don’t know this and look at you like you’re a Unique Artifact of Unusual Unconventional Opinions or Conspiracy Crazy for example my dentist is my age, and still knows nothing about what’s happening in Ukraine/North Korea/whatever beyond the Official MSM narrative.

      It’s amazing how some people can through life that long, yet it never occurs to them the MSM “news” they see is basically propaganda beyond the Red Team/Blue Team construct.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        As to T&T’s question about whether we’re lied to more now, I think it may just be that we’re able to suss out the lies quicker than in the past thanks to the interwebs, which is why government s are trying so hard to crack down on what gets talked about on large platforms now. As I.F. Stone said so succinctly, “All governments lie.” They always have and they always will.

        Couple things about your mention of the CIA during the Cold War, one from historical fiction and one real –

        In Don DeLillo’s book Libra, which is a fictional account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination, there’s a scene between one of the main characters (can’t remember if it was Oswald or not) and a spook, where the character questions the truth of a recent news event. The spook tells him what really happened and the character replies that he had just read the opposite in the paper of record. The spook replies something to the effect of “And who do you think planted that story in the paper?” When I read that about 30 years ago, I was naive enough to wonder whether that type of thing actually happened. Now that I have a little more historical knowledge under my belt, it’s clear that it does.

        Then there is the true story of “Doc” Humes, one of the founder’s of the highbrow magazine The Paris Review back in the 50s. He took too much acid at some point in the 60s and wound up as some odd hobo/guru type wandering around Ivy league campuses spouting conspiracy theories for the kiddies enjoyment, among them that he was being spied on by the government. PBS did a documentary on him several years back, directed by his daughter – https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/documentaries/doc/

        Humes wound up being the exemplar of the old adage “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you”. Turns out The Paris Review was a CIA front and one of the co-founders, Peter Matthiessen, was in on it the whole time. The other, George Plimpton, claims he only found out about it later – https://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_cia/ Humes was apparently out of the loop.

        In the process of making the documentary on her father, Immy Humes filed a FOIA request. Turns out the US government had been spying on him for nearly 30 years, from 1948-1977. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_L._Humes

    2. hnd

      What was life like in the Soviet Union? I wonder increasingly how great the lies and propaganda were about that. And since its disintegration, the US and the west have tried to maintain its stranglehold on world resources, wealth and power, in the most violent means possible. Ukraine and the slaughter in Gaza are two recent examples. Nothing good ever results when lying to coerce and shape public opinion is a way of life, or, control. We have found ourselves to be boxed in by our lies, and that box appears, more ominously, to resemble a coffin.

    3. JTMcPhee

      Little nuggets of truth leaking out about life in Libya under Qaddafi, who maybe was not such a tyrant and was working to set Africa on a path to “non-aligned” and with a non-dollar-bled political economy? Naw, the NYT says nope, all bad, “We came, we saw, he died! Cackle cackle snort…” What happens to those, per Danaerys Stormborn, who do not bend the knee. “Dracaerys!!!”

      The CIA you will have always with you, America the Bold. Always a place for people like the Dulleses and Pompeo and is he still alive? Cheney.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I was listening to a video today with Scott Ritter that described both Iraq and Libya as not dictatorships as was portrayed at the time but something approaching consensus democracy with an Arabic twist. There was a process where you had tribal councils debating measures and this continued up the levels until at the top, the leader would accept and follow their eventual recommendations. Ritter had to admit that it was more democratic than what we have in the west.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Not sure if the same model still applies in Afghanistan under the current government, but all I read says that outside the capital, the tribal “loya jirga” consultive form was how the political economy worked while the FUKUS was perverting the place for whatever the reasons were. And now the FUKUS has fled and afghan tribes go back to their old stuff (maybe minus growing opium poppies for the CIA, and having dancing boys and women in purdah, oh! the horror!) How many FUKUS potentates (Lindsay Graham, many Fundie Xtian Preachers, etc.) would like those features enacted here?

          The amazing thing is that having at least a distant nodding notion of what “democracy” is thought to mean, a hundred million at least of our Fellow Americans beleeeeve we have “duhmokrisy” here in the Empire. (Note how hundreds of millions have been taught to accept that “we are an empire now, making our own rules of reality…”

        2. Albe Vado

          I don’t know about Libya, but Iraq was absolutely a dictatorship. The official Baath party line called for the elimination of the tribal system, but Saddam’s innovation was maintaining it while neutering the tribal leaders into yes men for his regime. At best he oversaw a system of controlled, stage managed ‘democracy’.

          It’s entirely possible to condemn US invasions and other forms of aggression without pretending every CIA or Pentagon target was actually some bastion of enlightenment, because they often aren’t.

          1. JTMcPhee

            That include US consumer-citizens and “our” social structures and government?

            And FUKUS imperial aggression and subterfuge, going back to the Founding, sure seems to me to always and everywhere be wrong, f^^ked-up disaster in service to greed and idiocy.

            Love to see an exception or two that can’t be poked full of holes with a little effort.

            Yah, Empire is not a game of so aptly named and very popular Corn Hole, https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/best-cornhole-boards/. Note that of the first several hundred returns from a DDG/Google search on the phrase aer links to Amazon-sold products. Go USA!!!

            1. Albe Vado

              That include US consumer-citizens and “our” social structures and government?

              If you’re asking do these suck and aren’t real democracy, then yes, exactly.

          2. playon

            I think that Libya was a situation where if your tribal group or clan wasn’t in good graces with Qaddafi life wasn’t so great. If you were, then all good. His ideas about a united Africa and having a gold dinar to be the basis of currency were not going to fly with the empire.

      2. digi_owl

        Not sure where i got it from, but i do wonder if the Gaddafi ouster was more a French thing than a US thing. Because he may have been angling to undermine France’s influence via the CFA Franc, by introducing a new pan-African currency.

        Sarkozy seems to have been very eager, and French planes seems to have been the first to strike targets in Libya.

      3. Feral Finster

        It doesn’t matter now, much like it didn’t matter that the stories of Iraqi WMDs and Al Qaeda bases all were a pack of lies.

        By then, the US had already gotten the wars that it wanted.

      4. annie

        Read Hisham Mater’s excellent ‘The Return’ about his long effort to find out the fate of his father, who disappeared into Qaddafi’s dungeons and it’s hard to adjust to the favorable light now cast on that regime.

    4. Emma

      There are a lot of different rabbit holes that you can go down in. For podcasts I recommend Ghost Stories at the End of the World, American Exception, and East is a Podcast. For the most part, people are just people in any regime. They can go through periods of extreme trauma but for the most part they just cope with it and move on. Just look at folks in Syria and Yemen.

  3. Mikel

    “The person who will replace the target should be chosen carefully, based on:

    Degree of violence necessary to carry out the change.
    Degree of violence acceptable to the population affected.
    Degree of predictable reprisal by the enemy on the population affected or other individuals in the area of the target.”

    It’s a murderous global world order…largest body count ever.

  4. zagonostra

    When you mention some of contents of this article with people who graze only on MSM you are looked at askance, even by family and close friends. When you throw in a dash of gnostic and occultist elements that is when you’ll get that glazed over look as if you live in the land of Oz.

    The Overton window is slowly, ever so slowly, expanding.

    1. Donald Obama

      Could you elaborate on what you mean? Are you saying that you think people are becoming more accepting of domestic CIA manipulation or assassinations?

      Or that before this would’ve have been considered a conspiracy theory, but is now a “legitimate” topic?

  5. thoughtfulperson

    I recall the Senate Church Commission of the 70s was important in documenting CIA assassination programs. In reading about Church I discovered that there was also a House investigation at the same time lead by Representative Pike

    This committee’s report had been supressed by the CIA and the Ford Administration so it’s not too well known. Some excerpts were leaked to the Village Voice in NY but I believe that the full report was published in the UK. I managed to purchase a copy and read it. Strangely enough the UK supplier (or USPS) shipped it to a Prof a Notre Dame, who sent it on to me.

    Anyway, I was reading it about 25 years after it would have been published and what finally struck me as significant was that CIA budget info. The report indicated that about half the funds went to covert ops and half went to planting articles (paying reporters etc) around the world.

    Information control had always been important. The founders of the USA knew “knowledge is power” and thus established various mechanisms like the postal service and freedom of the press. Today with all the electronic data collection, control, and manipulation, with huge searchable archives etc., we live in a very different world. Thought crimes are not far off on the current trajectory if we are not there already!

  6. Michael Hudson

    Jill Stein and I are calling for a new Church Committee to investigate the CIA just as Church did 30-some years ago. There needs to be a public investigation
    I made sure to bring up this point in the Geopolitical Hour interview posted on NC, and I’m urging Jill to mention this at every stop (once she gets beyond the task of getting signatures for ballot access)

    1. zagonostra

      How can I help with this effort since Congress isn’t responsive to non-donors/controllers and mass media is sure not to promote?

    2. Ghost in the Machine

      I don’t think is possible anymore. I think the CIA has dirt on everyone, or as Tucker Carlson has said he has been told by connected people that congresspeople are terrified the CIA will plant child $&@! on their computer and ruin them. Or maybe they are just threatened. Paul Wellstone seemed to really want to do good. Those people die in plane crashes. I think a Soviet style collapse may be the only way to break this malignancy

      1. JTMcPhee

        Who is there to pick up the role that Putin seems to have played in recovering Russia, from both the Soviet collapse and the looting of the Chicago Gangsters? One wonders if there is any sense in the Empire of the kind of commonality that seems to connect Russia across all those time zones and in the face of all the ethnic and political nd historical lines of potential fracture? Seems Russia comes together in the face of a common enemy, which the forking “West” seems so delighted to provide, yet the obverse is not true for the Impure of Lies… what are we doing wrong?

    3. AG

      Of course everyone should endorse such an endeavour – but I wish you good luck, you gonna need it.
      Judging from the sea change that has quietly taken place with the media´s and the public´s stance towards the role of the intelligence services I would assume it hasn´t been this difficult to pierce that armour since the 1950s.

      In the wake of the UKR/RU war a complicity of the media (fringe and mainstream) with intelligence service PR has surfaced in a scale that I have not experienced in my active political lifetime. It´s not that long ago when the CIA was publicly shamed e.g. for the drone war (15,000+ killed, there were exhibitions on this, outrage, protest in most papers) – now it´s totally off the record. Motion pictures that were critical and showing some bits of ugly truth at least.

      And then came Obama.
      Or was it the guy after Obama that offered the CIA and friends to make clean-sweep with their bad boy image?

      Anyway today in the face of total evil, we NEED the CIA to protect our democracy. The once laughed-at talking points of government-PR are now common wisdom throughout the entire public spectrum. Turning things onto their head.
      The facts haven´t changed but their perception turned 180° (or rather 360° to quote our famous Foreign Minister.)

      Which of course has shifted the entire communicative framework to the right. Now if you want to practice this idiotic notion of “neutral” reporting you have to report on government statements in earnest even though they are blatant lies. Something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago as an obligation. It used to go without saying that the CIA first of all is a criminal organisation. And everyone knew this. Today the “common man” still knows it. But the reporters won´t write it. And the academic community deems it inappropriate to spread such conspiracy theories.

      But yes, Stein is probably right, one has to start somewhere. As Norman Finkelstein 4 weeks ago on Princeton campus reminded those young people – political change is hard work. There is no direct line between this protest and that progressive vote in Congress. I guess we have to remind ourselves everyday.

      And look at the outburst of bravery and passion all over the country.
      So the US can still impress.

  7. Aurelien

    The article misses the larger point by concentrating on just the CIA, just attempts to influence the US media, and ropes in a forty-year old publication of dubious relevance to influencing public option.

    Let’s go back to basics. All governments try to influence public opinion through affecting what appears in the media. One of the lessons you learn in government is that if you don’t control the understanding of a political issue, somebody else will. So whatever the topic, governments do their best to make sure that the media coverage reflects their view of things and not somebody else’s.

    Sometimes, this is extremely banal. At the launch of a new policy on transport, education or whatever, specialist journalists will be invited to a briefing, where the government will set out what it’s intending to do, and defend its decisions. Journalists can ask questions, and will write up the story with phrase like “officials briefing the media said yesterday.” A political figure will probably make statements on the record. The idea is to get the best press coverage possible.

    When the subject is more complex and controversial (say, major changes in health provision or new laws on immigration) the government will invite selected journalists that they hope will be reasonably sympathetic for an “off the record” briefing by officials to put the government’s case. Here, the discussion will be freer, and officials may say things that would not be said in public, but under rules of non-attribution. So journalists will attribute statements to “officials speaking off the record” or “government sources.” (They will, of course, also speak to opposition politicians and opponents of the various measures. Nothing says that the journalists you brief will allow you to influence them, especially if there’s a better story to be written by listening to your opponents.)

    Then there’s very private briefings, perhaps over lunch, for one or two journalists, maybe to try out ideas, or plant suggestions. So a government planning to recognise Palestine as a state might convene one or two journalists for lunch with a senior diplomat. The deal in principle is privileged information and an exclusive story in return for sympathetic coverage, but of course there’s no way of actually guaranteeing the latter. A journalist might then write a story saying “Informed sources suggest privately that the government is seriously considering recognising Palestine as a state.”

    The involvement of intelligence agencies in all this, which happens every day, everywhere in the world, is very limited and usually happens for one of three reasons. One, largely but not entirely restricted to the US, is fighting battles between different political leaders or departments. This is bad practice in a democracy, but unfortunately it does happen. The second is to get information into the public domain which can’t be done through any of the standard means. Most intelligence judgements are probabilistic, not absolute, which is why intelligence officers use words like “assess” and “believe” in what they write, and you can seldom guarantee that assessments are absolutely correct. And of course sources need to be protected: no journalist is ever going to be allowed to write “according to an undercover western source in the Iranian President’s office, the recent attack on Israel was …etc.” You’ll get just “intelligence sources believe that …” Sometimes, journalists act as a cut-out for information that governments can’t be formally associated with. For example, suspicions about serious corruption in the Ukrainian leadership would be politically embarrassing to mention publicly, especially if names were named, but could be filtered through a cooperative journalist, maybe from a foreign publication, and quoting “statements by government officials and insiders in several countries.” The third is what is sometimes called “information operations,” where particular claims or purported revelations are passed to the media with the specific intent of influencing public opinion or governments on a specific topic, as opposed to just getting a point of view across. Such claims should ideally be true, or at least, represent a defensible position: the more you get involved in misrepresentation or deliberate lying the worse will be the consequences if you’re found out. (There’s no reason to believe that most reports on Ukraine attributed to “intelligence sources” are deliberate misdirection. It’s fairly clear that those involved believe this garbage.”) I’ve always been pretty dubious personally about the value of this type of operation: it doesn’t have much of a record of success.

    That said, of course, what people remember are scandals, and so quite rapidly a discussion on this subject resolves itself into an argument about the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But that’s missing the point, I think. There’s an information war going on, and fewer of the players are pure in heart (see some of the manipulative rubbish that NGOs turn out.) The real question is what rules should apply to elected governments in such cases.

    1. pjay

      “That said, of course, what people remember are scandals, and so quite rapidly a discussion on this subject resolves itself into an argument about the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But that’s missing the point, I think…”

      At one level, your description of the everyday behind-the-scenes processes of “media influence” rings true to my (definitely outsider) perception of that reality. It happens all the time; everyone does it; journalists are not always dupes; there are internal disagreements among those with power; managing “public opinion” has always been part of governing, etc. I have no reason to disagree. And yet something is missing, I think. There is a reason we remember the scandals, and those of us with a “skeptical” mindset tend to focus on them. It is because the invasion of Iraq is not an *aberration*. Rather, it is a model of what has *typically* occurred when there are major turning points in our foreign policy (and I can only speak of US history here). Either there is a consensus among “elites” or an elite faction has captured the reins of power with a particular agenda. They mobilize resources to shape the narrative in the media. And *the media falls in line*. By now we are quite familiar with the mechanisms by which this discipline is accomplished. Journalists who reinforce the narrative gain “insider” access. Those who question it are cut off. Those who continue to question policy are smeared. Editors and publishers who are not actual government assets (and we *know* some are) are controlled by various appeals to their interests, or the “national interest,” etc. There is one dominant narrative about what is happening in… you name it. From Iran in 1953 through Vietnam in the 1960s (or even earlier) to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Ukraine in the 21st Century. The *media falls in line* whenever a major policy decision is made. Or even a minor one, like Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Syria over the latter’s supposed use of chemical weapons (when Trump finally became “Presidential” according to CNN!).

      When things go South (as they usually do), and internal elite disagreements over policy grow, *then* a few journalistic questions begin to trickle out in the mainstream media. We hear almost nothing about Afghanistan for years, and all of the sudden “The Afghanistan Papers” appear in the Washington Post! Yay media! Of course it simply reflects the fact that one faction of the Establishment has decided that it’s time to cut our losses. This is the pattern that happens over and over again. Sometimes there is a mild media mea culpa (as with Iraq), but usually their complete propaganda-mongering is simply memory holed. And we go on to the next campaign.

      I guess my reaction to your description here is similar to my reaction to reading Tim Weiner on the CIA (see above). It is accurate, but something is missing for understanding how ideological management operates, especially in key periods of agenda-setting.

    2. Kouros


      The Oligarchy wants to maintain its status quo and kick the can down the road


      The Hegemon tries to maintain the “rules based order”.

      By all means necessary.

      Simplistic, I know, but Aristotle put for us this simplification 2400 years ago: there are oligarchies, tyrannies, and democracies, and the most resilient ones are the oligarchies…

      And oligarchies had empires too: Carthage, Rome, Great Britain…

      GB was always into cloack and dagger and manipulation and using proxies – it is the cheapest method.

  8. Rob Urie

    While creation of a new Church Committee is fully supported here, it appears that the CIA is more involved in domestic politics today than it was before the Committee was formed.

    This has bearing on the candidacy of Jill Stein, whose interview that appeared here on NC would appeal to a huge audience if it were being viewed by a huge audience. As ‘we’ know from the Twitter files, the state has the power to limit distribution.

    Most Americans appear to know little of the Five Eyes Alliance that emerged from WWII. It empowers the ‘intelligence’ agencies of the anglosphere to do each other’s bidding when doing so is precluded by domestic law. Following WWII, MI6 (Brits) took over management of select Ukronazis from the CIA, which was busy importing a boatload (many thousands) of German Nazis to work for the MIC.

    This explains why the Brits were crucial to organizing the Western (post-coup) proxy government in Ukraine to do the bidding of the West against the interests of the people of Ukraine. MI6 reportedly provided security for (US prefect in Ukraine) Zelensky. It was BoJo (Boris Johnson) who ended peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in March-April 2022 (at Biden’s behest).

    On the domestic front, the CIA openly interfered in the 2020 election on Joe Biden’s behalf with the ‘Russian Disinformation’ fraud regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop. In fact the laptop had been vetted by the FBI a year prior and was known to be authentic.

    Further, in the modern history of the US, Congressional Committees have been used to create fake before and after scenarios, breaks with the past, for domestic political purposes. Dirty laundry gets partially aired, Congresspeople huff and puff, and then a worse version of the objectionable activities gets built. Remember when Barack Obama retroactively legalized illegal NSA surveillance of Americans?

    Thanks for the piece and I look forward to future installments.








  9. zagonostra

    I think the recent death of Dr. William Pepper, who wrote the book The Plot to Kill King underscores how the mass mind (I know ambiguous term) has not internalized what the Deep State (another ambiguous term) has been doing to keep those who control in control, like the real story of the proven participation of these secret agencies in the death of MLK.

    If you can’t come to terms (atonement) for past sins, then the implied question of “Does the CIA still Do that” leads nowhere, we still haven’t come to terms that it HAS done that.


  10. JTMcPhee

    The kinds of people with the kind of disposition and mindset that produce the Security Apparatus are pervasive and persistent. Nice thought that a legislative “investigation” by the wholly owned legislature, will be
    followed, as day follows the night, via our “rule of law”—mythology “executive and judicial branches,” who will take “strong action.”

    Henry Ford, who liked German Nazism, had his own government and his own “security forces” under a thuggish “boxer and businessman” named Harry Bennett, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Bennett Same flavor of “governance.” Hardly an isolated example, eg Erik Prince and many others.

    Good luck, given the givens, with unhorsing the thugs and “letting freedom ring.”

    Is Resistance ™ Futile?

  11. Susan the other

    Larry and Ray and Scott and Danny and everyone else who analyzes the military and geopolitics have all come through trial by fire. They all pull their punches as necessary, even Alexander Mercouris is ultra diplomatic. That is how they survive to serve to change the narrative – and that change is a slow motion negotiation by itself. In this case and time I think the changes sought are for the better. We aren’t as crazy as we used to be. That’s the good news. I can’t help but wonder if their tactics aren’t targeting MI6 and the CIA and Russia and China all simultaneously. Instead of dancing right on the beat they all dance just a tiny bit after it. The big question is, How do we, everyone everywhere, run the world? After all the crap that has gone down in the Cold War. It’s hard to believe in good faith until you realize that’s really all that’s left.

  12. AG

    Of course as “authoritative” scholarship on the history of US geopolitics mainly during the Cold War goes, one can´t do without John Lewis Gaddis and Melvyn Leffler:
    “The Cold War”, “Strategies of Containment”
    “A Preponderance of Power”, “Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism”

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