by Carl Bernstein
October 20, 1977
After leaving The Washington
Post in 1977, Carl Bernstein spent six months looking at the
relationship of the CIA and the press during the Cold War years. His
25,000-word cover story, published in Rolling Stone on October 20,
1977, is reprinted below.
How Americas Most Powerful News Media
Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why
the Church Committee Covered It Up
In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America's leading syndicated
columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election.
He did not go because he was asked to do so by
his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers
that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.
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 these journalists' relationships with the Agency were tacit; some
There was cooperation, accommodation and
overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services - from
simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in
Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA.
Editors shared their staffs. 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 in the derring‑do of the
spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time
CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA
documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with
the consent of the managements of America's leading news organizations.
The history of the CIA's involvement with the American press continues to be
shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception for the
following principal reasons:
The use of journalists has been among
the most productive means of intelligence‑gathering employed by the
CIA. Although the Agency has cut back sharply on the use of
reporters since 1973 primarily as a result of pressure from the
media), some journalist‑operatives are still posted abroad.
Further investigation into the matter,
CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing
relationships in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most powerful
organizations and individuals in American journalism.
Among the executives who lent their cooperation
to the Agency were,
Williarn Paley of the Columbia
Henry Luce of Tirne Inc.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York
Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle
James Copley of the Copley News Service
Other organizations which cooperated with the
the American Broadcasting Company
the National Broadcasting Company
the Associated Press
United Press International
the Mutual Broadcasting System
the Miami Herald
the old Saturday Evening Post
New York Herald‑Tribune
By far the most valuable of these associations,
according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time
The CIA's use of the American news media has been much more extensive than
Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with
members of Congress. The general outlines of what happened are indisputable;
the specifics are harder to come by. CIA sources hint that a particular
journalist was trafficking all over Eastern Europe for the Agency; the
journalist says no, he just had lunch with the station chief.
CIA sources say flatly that a well‑known ABC
correspondent worked for the Agency through 1973; they refuse to identify
A high‑level CIA official with a prodigious
memory says that the New York Times provided cover for about ten CIA
operatives between 1950 and 1966; he does not know who they were, or who in
the newspaper's management made the arrangements.
The Agency's special relationships with the so‑called "majors" in publishing
and broadcasting enabled the CIA to post some of its most valuable
operatives abroad without exposure for more than two decades. In most
instances, Agency files show, officials at the highest levels of the CIA
usually director or deputy director) dealt personally with a single
designated individual in the top management of the cooperating news
The aid furnished often took two forms:
providing jobs and credentials "journalistic cover" in Agency parlance) for
CIA operatives about to be posted in foreign capitals; and lending the
Agency the undercover services of reporters already on staff, including some
of the best‑known correspondents in the business.
In the field, journalists were used to help recruit and handle foreigners as
agents; to acquire and evaluate information, and to plant false information
with officials of foreign governments.
Many signed secrecy agreements, pledging never
to divulge anything about their dealings with the Agency; some signed
employment contracts., some were assigned case officers and treated with.
unusual deference. Others had less structured relationships with the Agency,
even though they performed similar tasks: they were briefed by CIA personnel
before trips abroad, debriefed afterward, and used as intermediaries with
Appropriately, the CIA uses the term "reporting"
to describe much of what cooperating journalists did for the Agency.
"We would ask them, 'Will you do us a
favor?'" said a senior CIA official. "'We understand you're going to be
in Yugoslavia. Have they paved all the streets? Where did you see
planes? Were there any signs of military presence? How many Soviets did
you see? If you happen to meet a Soviet, get his name and spell it
right... Can you set up a meeting for is? Or relay a message?'"
Many CIA officials regarded these helpful
journalists as operatives; the journalists tended to see themselves as
trusted friends of the Agency who performed occasional favors - usually
without pay - in the national interest.
"I'm proud they asked me and proud to have
done it," said Joseph Alsop who, like his late brother, columnist
Stewart Alsop, undertook clandestine tasks for the Agency. "The notion
that a newspaperman doesn't have a duty to his country is perfect
From the Agency's perspective, there is nothing
untoward in such relationships, and any ethical questions are a matter for
the journalistic profession to resolve, not the intelligence community.
As Stuart Loory, former Los Angeles Times
correspondent, has written in the Columbia Journalism Review:
'If even one American overseas carrying a
press card is a paid informer for the CIA, then all Americans with those
credentials are suspect... If the crisis of confidence faced by the news
business - along with the government - is to be overcome, journalists
must be willing to focus on themselves the same spotlight they so
relentlessly train on others!'
But as Loory also noted:
"When it was reported... that newsmen
themselves were on the payroll of the CIA, the story caused a brief
stir, and then was dropped."
During the 1976 investigation of the CIA by the
Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church, the
dimensions of the Agency's involvement with the press became apparent to
several members of the panel, as well as to two or three investigators on
But top officials of the CIA, including former
directors William Colby and George Bush, persuaded the committee to restrict
its inquiry into the matter and to deliberately misrepresent the actual
scope of the activities in its final report.
The multivolurne report contains nine pages in
which the use of journalists is discussed in deliberately vague and
sometimes misleading terms. It makes no mention of the actual number of
journalists who undertook covert tasks for the CIA.
Nor does it adequately describe the role played
by newspaper and broadcast executives in cooperating with the Agency.
THE AGENCY'S DEALINGS WITH THE PRESS BEGAN
...during the earliest stages of the Cold War.
Allen Dulles, who became director of the
CIA in 1953, sought to establish a recruiting‑and‑cover capability within
America's most prestigious journalistic institutions.
By operating under the guise of accredited news
correspondents, Dulles believed, CIA operatives abroad would be accorded a
degree of access and freedom of movement unobtainable under almost any other
type of cover.
American publishers, like so many other corporate and institutional leaders
at the time, were willing to commit the resources of their companies to the
struggle against "global Communism." Accordingly, the traditional line
separating the American press corps and government was often
indistinguishable: rarely was a news agency used to provide cover for CIA
operatives abroad without the knowledge and consent of either its principal
owner, publisher or senior editor.
Thus, contrary to the notion that the CIA
insidiously infiltrated the journalistic community, there is ample evidence
that America's leading publishers and news executives allowed themselves and
their organizations to become handmaidens to the intelligence services.
"Let's not pick on some poor reporters, for
God's sake," William Colby exclaimed at one point to the Church
committee's investigators. "Let's go to the managements. They were
In all, about twenty‑five news organizations
including those listed at the beginning of this article) provided cover for
In addition to cover capability, Dulles initiated a "debriefing" procedure
under which American correspondents returning from abroad routinely emptied
their notebooks and offered their impressions to Agency personnel. Such
arrangements, continued by Dulles' successors, to the present day, were made
with literally dozens of news organizations.
In the 1950s, it was not uncommon for returning
reporters to be met at the ship by CIA officers.
"There would be these guys from the CIA
flashing ID cards and looking like they belonged at the Yale Club," said
Hugh Morrow, a former Saturday Evening Post correspondent who is now
press secretary to former vice‑president Nelson Rockefeller.
"It got to be so routine that you felt a
little miffed if you weren't asked."
CIA officials almost always refuse to divulge
the names of journalists who have cooperated with the Agency.
They say it would be unfair to judge these
individuals in a context different from the one that spawned the
relationships in the first place. "There was a time when it wasn't
considered a crime to serve your government," said one high‑level CIA
official who makes no secret of his bitterness.
"This all has to be considered in the
context of the morality of the times, rather than against latter‑day
standards - and hypocritical standards at that."
Many journalists who covered World War II were
close to people in the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime predecessor
of the CIA; more important, they were all on the same side.
When the war ended and many OSS officials went
into the CIA, it was only natural that these relationships would continue.
Meanwhile, the first postwar generation of
journalists entered the profession; they shared the same political and
professional values as their mentors.
"You had a gang of people who worked
together during World War II and never got over it," said one Agency
"They were genuinely motivated and highly
susceptible to intrigue and being on the inside. Then in the Fifties and
Sixties there was a national consensus about a national threat. The
Vietnam War tore everything to pieces - shredded the consensus and threw
it in the air."
Another Agency official observed:
"Many journalists didn't give a second
thought to associating with the Agency. But there was a point when the
ethical issues which most people had submerged finally surfaced. Today,
a lot of these guys vehemently deny that they had any relationship with
From the outset, the use of journalists was
among the CIA's most sensitive undertakings, with full knowledge restricted
to the Director of Central Intelligence and a few of his chosen deputies.
Dulles and his successors were fearful of what
would happen if a journalist‑operative's cover was blown, or if details of
the Agency's dealings with the press otherwise became public.
As a result, contacts with the heads of news
organizations were normally initiated by Dulles and succeeding Directors of
Central Intelligence; by the deputy directors and division chiefs in charge
of covert operations,
...and, occasionally, by others in the CIA
hierarchy known to have an unusually close social relationship with a
particular publisher or broadcast executive.1
James Angleton, who was recently removed as the Agency's head of
counterintelligence operations, ran a completely independent group of
journalist‑operatives who performed sensitive and frequently dangerous
assignments; little is known about this group for the simple reason that
Angleton deliberately kept only the vaguest of files.
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.
"These were the guys who went through the
ranks and were told 'You're going to he a journalist,'" the CIA official
Relatively few of the 400‑some relationships
described in Agency files followed that pattern, however; most involved
persons who were already bona fide journalists when they began undertaking
tasks for the Agency.
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. This group includes many of the
best‑known journalists who carried out tasks for the CIA.
The files show that the salaries paid to
reporters by newspaper and broadcast networks were sometimes
supplemented by nominal payments from the CIA, either in the form of
retainers, travel expenses or outlays for specific services
performed. Almost all the payments were made in cash.
The accredited category also includes
photographers, administrative personnel of foreign news bureaus and
members of broadcast technical crews.
Two of the Agency's most valuable personal relationships in the
1960s, according to CIA officials, were with reporters who covered
Latin America - Jerry O'Leary of the Washington Star and Hal Hendrix
of the Miami News, a Pulitzer Prize winner who became a high
official of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation.
Hendrix was extremely helpful to the
Agency in providing information about individuals in Miami's Cuban
exile community. O'Leary was considered a valued asset in Haiti and
the Dominican Republic. Agency files contain lengthy reports of both
men's activities on behalf of the CIA.
O'Leary maintains that his dealings were limited to the normal
give‑and‑take that goes on between reporters abroad and their
sources. CIA officials dispute the contention:
Referring to O'Leary's denials, the
O'Leary attributes the difference of
opinion to semantics.
"I might call them up and say
something like, 'Papa Doc has the clap, did you know that?'
and they'd put it in the file. I don't consider that
reporting for them... it's useful to be friendly to them
and, generally, I felt friendly to them. But I think they
were more helpful to me than I was to them."
O'Leary took particular exception to
being described in the same context as Hendrix.
Hendrix could not be reached for
comment. According to Agency officials, neither Hendrix nor O'Leary
was paid by the CIA.
Stringers2 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.
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.
One such publication was the Rome Daily
American, forty percent of which was owned by the CIA until the
1970s. The Daily American went out of business this year.
Editors, publishers and broadcast network
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
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.
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
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 Herald‑Tribune, the
Saturday Evening Post and Newsweek.
CIA files contain reports of specific
tasks all three undertook. Sulzberger is still regarded as an active
asset by the Agency. According to a senior CIA official,
"Young Cy Sulzberger had some
uses... He signed a secrecy agreement because we gave him
classified information... There was sharing, give and take.
We'd say, 'Wed like to know this; if we tell you this will
it help you get access to so‑and‑so?' Because of his access
in Europe he had an Open Sesame. We'd ask him to just
report: 'What did so‑and‑so say, what did he look like, is
he healthy?' He was very eager, he loved to cooperate."
On one occasion, according to several
CIA officials, Sulzberger was given a briefing paper by the Agency
which ran almost verbatim under the columnist's byline in the Times.
"Cycame out and said, 'I'm
thinking of doing a piece, can you give me some
background?'" a CIA officer said. "We gave it to Cy as a
background piece and Cy gave it to the printers and put his
name on it."
Sulzberger denies that any incident
Sulzberger claims that he was never formally
"tasked" by the Agency and that he,
"would never get caught near the spook
business. My relations were totally informal - I had a goodmany
friends," he said. "I'm sure they consider me an asset. They can ask me
questions. They find out you're going to Slobovia and they say, 'Can we
talk to you when you get back?'...
Or they'll want to know if the head
of the Ruritanian government is suffering from psoriasis. But I never
took an assignment from one of those guys... I've known Wisner well, and
Helms and even McCone [former CIA director John McCone] I used to play
golf with. But they'd have had to he awfully subtle to have used me."
Sulzberger says he was asked to sign the secrecy
agreement in the 1950s.
"A guy came around and said, 'You are a
responsible newsman and we need you to sign this if we are going to show
you anything classified.' I said I didn't want to get entangled and told
them, 'Go to my uncle [Arthur Hays Sulzberger, then publisher of the New
York Times] and if he says to sign it I will.'"
His uncle subsequently signed such an agreement,
Sulzberger said, and he thinks he did too, though he is unsure.
"I don't know, twenty‑some years is a long
He described the whole question as "a bubble in
Stewart Alsop's relationship with the Agency was
much more extensive than Sulzberger's. One official who served at the
highest levels in the CIA said flatly:
"Stew Alsop was a CIA agent."
An equally senior official refused to define
Alsop's relationship with the Agency except to say it was a formal one.
Other sources said that Alsop was particularly
helpful to the Agency in discussions with, officials of foreign governments
- asking questions to which the CIA was seeking answers, planting
misinformation advantageous to American policy, assessing opportunities for
CIA recruitment of well‑placed foreigners.
"Absolute nonsense," said Joseph Alsop of
the notion that his brother was a CIA agent.
"I was closer to the Agency than Stew was,
though Stew was very close. I dare say he did perform some tasks - he
just did the correct thing as an American... The Founding Fathers [of
the CIA] were close personal friends of ours. Dick Bissell [former CIA
deputy director] was my oldest friend, from childhood. It was a social
thing, my dear fellow. I never received a dollar, I never signed a
secrecy agreement. I didn't have to... I've done things for them when I
thought they were the right thing to do. I call it doing my duty as a
Alsop is willing to discuss on the record only
two of the tasks he undertook: a visit to Laos in 1952 at the behest of
Frank Wisner, who felt other American reporters were using anti‑American
sources about uprisings there; and a visit to the Philippines in 1953 when
the CIA thought his presence there might affect the outcome of an election.
"Des FitzGerald urged me to go," Alsop
recalled. "It would be less likely that the election could be stolen [by
the opponents of Ramon Magsaysay] if the eyes of the world were on them.
I stayed with the ambassador and wrote about what happened."
Alsop maintains that he was never manipulated by
"You can't get entangled so they have
leverage on you," he said. "But what I wrote was true. My view was to
get the facts. If someone in the Agency was wrong, I stopped talking to
them - they'd given me phony goods."
On one occasion, Alsop said, Richard Helms
authorized the head of the Agency's analytical branch to provide Alsop with
information on Soviet military presence along the Chinese border.
"The analytical side of the Agency had been
dead wrong about the war in Vietnam - they thought it couldn't be won,"
said Alsop. "And they were wrong on the Soviet buildup. I stopped
talking to them."
Today, he says,
"People in our business would be outraged at
the kinds of suggestions that were made to me. They shouldn't be. The
CIA did not open itself at all to people it did not trust. Stew and I
were trusted, and I'm proud of it."
MURKY DETAILS OF CIA RELATIONSHIPS WITH
...and news organizations began trickling out in
1973 when it was first disclosed that the CIA had, on occasion, employed
journalists. Those reports, combined with new information, serve as casebook
studies of the Agency's use of journalists for intelligence purposes.
The New York Times
The Agency's relationship with the Times
was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA
From 1950 to 1966, about ten CIA
employees were provided Times cover under arrangements approved by
the newspaper's late publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. The cover
arrangements were part of a general Times policy - set by Sulzberger
- to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.
Sulzberger was especially close to Allen Dulles.
"At that level of contact it was
the mighty talking to the mighty," said a high‑level CIA
official who was present at some of the discussions. "There
was an agreement in principle that, yes indeed, we would
help each other. The question of cover came up on several
occasions. It was agreed that the actual arrangements would
be handled by subordinates... The mighty didn't want to know
the specifics; they wanted plausible deniability."
A senior CIA official who reviewed a
portion of the Agency's files on journalists for two hours on
September 15th, 1977, said he found documentation of five instances
in which the Times had provided cover for CIA employees between 1954
In each instance he said, the
arrangements were handled by executives of the Times; the documents
all contained standard Agency language "showing that this had been
checked out at higher levels of the New York Times," said the
The documents did not mention
Sulzberger's name, however - only those of subordinates whom the
official refused to identify.
The CIA employees who received Times credentials posed as stringers
for the paper abroad and worked as members of clerical staffs in the
Times' foreign bureaus. Most were American; two or three were
CIA officials cite two reasons why the Agency's working relationship
with the Times was closer and more extensive than with any other
paper: the fact that the Times maintained the largest foreign news
operation in American daily journalism; and the close personal ties
between the men who ran both institutions.
Sulzberger informed a number of reporters and editors of his general
policy of cooperation with the Agency. "We were in touch with them -
they'd talk to us and some cooperated," said a CIA official. The
cooperation usually involved passing on information and "spotting"
prospective agents among foreigners.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger signed a secrecy agreement with the CIA in
the 1950s, according to CIA officials - a fact confirmed by his
nephew, C.L. Sulzberger. However, there are varying interpretations
of the purpose of the agreement: C.L. Sulzberger says it represented
nothing more than a pledge not to disclose classified information
made available to the publisher.
That contention is supported by some
Agency officials. Others in the Agency maintain that the agreement
represented a pledge never to reveal any of the Times' dealings with
the CIA, especially those involving cover. And there are those who
note that, because all cover arrangements are classified, a secrecy
agreement would automatically apply to them.
Attempts to find out which individuals in the Times organization
made the actual arrangements for providing credentials to CIA
personnel have been unsuccessful.
In a letter to reporter Stuart Loory in
1974, Turner Cadedge, managing editor of the Times from 1951 to
1964, wrote that approaches by the CIA had been rebuffed by the
"I knew nothing about any
involvement with the CIA... of any of our foreign
correspondents on the New York Times. I heard many times of
overtures to our men by the CIA, seeking to use their
privileges, contacts, immunities and, shall we say, superior
intelligence in the sordid business of spying and informing.
If any one of them succumbed to the blandishments or cash
offers, I was not aware of it. Repeatedly, the CIA and other
hush‑hush agencies sought to make arrangements for
'cooperation' even with Times management, especially during
or soon after World War II, but we always resisted. Our
motive was to protect our credibility."
According to Wayne Phillips, a former
Timesreporter, the CIA invoked Arthur Hays Sulzberger's name when it
tried to recruit him as an undercover operative in 1952 while he was
studying at Columbia University's Russian Institute.
Phillips said an Agency official told
him that the CIA had "a working arrangement" with the publisher in
which other reporters abroad had been placed on the Agency's
payroll. Phillips, who remained at the Times until 1961, later
obtained CIA documents under the Freedom of Information Act which
show that the Agency intended to develop him as a clandestine "asset" for use abroad.
On January 31st, 1976, the Times carried a brief story describing
the ClAs attempt to recruit Phillips.
It quoted Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the
present publisher, as follows:
The Times story, written by John M.
Crewdson, also reported that Arthur Hays Sulzberger told an unnamed
former correspondent that he might he approached by the CIA after
arriving at a new post abroad.
Sulzberger told him that he was not
"under any obligation to agree," the story said and that the
publisher himself would be "happier" if he refused to cooperate.
"But he left it sort of up to
me," the Times quoted its former reporter as saying. "The
message was if I really wanted to do that, okay, but he
didn't think it appropriate for a Times correspondent"
C.L. Sulzberger, in a telephone
interview, said he had no knowledge of any CIA personnel using Times
cover or of reporters for the paper working actively for the Agency.
He was the paper's chief of foreign
service from 1944 to 1954 and expressed doubt that his uncle would
have approved such arrangements. More typical of the late publisher,
said Sulzberger, was a promise made to Allen Dulles' brother, John
Foster, then secretary of state, that no Times staff member would be
permitted to accept an invitation to visit the People's Republic of
China without John Foster Dulles' consent.
Such an invitation was extended to the
publisher's nephew in the 1950s; Arthur Sulzberger forbade him to
The Columbia Broadcasting System
CBS was unquestionably the CIA's most
valuable broadcasting asset. CBS President William Paley and Allen
Dulles enjoyed an easy working and social relationship.
Over the years, the network provided
cover for CIA employees, including at least one well‑known foreign
correspondent and several stringers; it supplied outtakes of
news-film to the CIA3; established a formal channel of communication
between the Washington bureau chief and the Agency; gave the Agency
access to the CBS news-film library; and allowed reports by CBS
correspondents to the Washington and New York newsrooms to be
routinely monitored by the CIA.
Once a year during the 1950s and early
1960s, CBS correspondents joined the CIA hierarchy for private
dinners and briefings.
The details of the CBS‑CIA arrangements were worked out by
subordinates of both Dulles and Paley. "The head of the company
doesn't want to know the fine points, nor does the director," said a
CIA official. "Both designate aides to work that out. It keeps them
above the battle." Dr. Frank Stanton, for 25 years president of the
network, was aware of the general arrangements Paley made with
Dulles - including those for cover, according to CIA officials.
Stanton, in an interview last year, said
he could not recall any cover arrangements.) But Paley's designated
contact for the Agency was Sig Mickelson, president of CBS News
between 1954 and 1961.
On one occasion, Mickelson has said, he
complained to Stanton about having to use a pay telephone to call
the CIA, and Stanton suggested he install a private line, bypassing
the CBS switchboard, for the purpose. According to Mickelson, he did
so. Mickelson is now president of Radio Free Europe and Radio
Liberty, both of which were associated with the CIA for many years.
In 1976, CBS News president Richard Salant ordered an in‑house
investigation of the network's dealings with the CIA. Some of its
findings were first disclosed by Robert Scheer in the Los Angeles
Times.) But Salant's report makes no mention of some of his own
dealings with the Agency, which continued into the 1970s.
Many details about the CBS‑CIA relationship were found in
Mickelson's files by two investigators for Salant. Among the
documents they found was a September 13th, 1957, memo to Mickelson
from Ted Koop, CBS News bureau chief in Washington from 1948 to 1961.
It describes a phone call to Koop from
Colonel Stanley Grogan of the CIA:
The report to Salant also states:
"Further investigation of
Mickelson's files reveals some details of the relationship
between the CIA and CBS News... Two key administrators of
this relationship were Mickelson and Koop... The main
activity appeared to be the delivery of CBS newsfilm to the
In addition there is evidence
that, during 1964 to 1971, film material, including some
outtakes, were supplied by the CBS News-film Library to the
CIA through and at the direction of Mr. Koop4... Notes in
Mr. Mickelson's files indicate that the CIA used CBS films
All of the above Mickelson
activities were handled on a confidential basis without
mentioning the words Central Intelligence Agency. The films
were sent to individuals at post‑office box numbers and were
paid for by individual, nor government, checks..."
Mickelson also regularly sent the CIA an
internal CBS newsletter, according to the report.
Salant's investigation led him to conclude that Frank Kearns, a
CBS‑TV reporter from 1958 to 1971,
Kearns and Austin Goodrich, a CBS
stringer, were undercover CIA employees, hired under arrangements
approved by Paley.
Last year a spokesman for Paley denied a report by former CBS
correspondent Daniel Schorr that Mickelson and he had discussed
Goodrich's CIA status during a meeting with two Agency
representatives in 1954.
The spokesman claimed Paley had no
knowledge that Goodrich had worked for the CIA.
"When I moved into the job I was
told by Paley that there was an ongoing relationship with
the CIA," Mickelson said in a recent interview.
"He introduced me to two agents
who he said would keep in touch. We all discussed the
Goodrich situation and film arrangements. I assumed this was
a normal relationship at the time. This was at the height of
the Cold War and I assumed the communications media were
cooperating - though the Goodrich matter was compromising."
At the headquarters of CBS News in New
York, Paley's cooperation with the CIA is taken for granted by many
news executives and reporters, despite tile denials.
Paley, 76, was not interviewed by
Salant discussed his own contacts with
the CIA, and the fact he continued many of his predecessor's
practices, in an interview with this reporter last year.
The contacts, he said, began in February
According to Salant, the CIA
representative asked that CBS continue to supply the Agency with
unedited news-tapes and make its correspondents available for
debriefing by Agency officials.
In 1964 and 1965, Salant served on a
super-secret CIA task force which explored methods of beaming
American propaganda broadcasts to the People's Republic of China.
The other members of the four‑man study
Zbigniew Brzezinski, then a professor at Columbia
University; William Griffith, then professor of political science at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and John Haves, then
vice‑president of the Washington Post Company for radio‑TV5.
The principal government officials
associated with the project were Cord Meyer of the CIA; McGeorge
Bundy, then special assistant to the president for national
security; Leonard Marks, then director of the USIA; and Bill Moyers,
then special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson and now a CBS
Salant's involvement in the project began with a call from Leonard
When Salant arrived in Washington for
the first meeting he was told that the project was CIA sponsored.
Accompanied by a CIA officer named Paul
Henzie, the committee of four subsequently traveled around the world
inspecting facilities run by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty
both CIA‑run operations at the time, the Voice of America and Armed
After more than a year of study, they
submitted a report to Moyers recommending that the government
establish a broadcast service, run by the Voice of America, to be
beamed at the People's Republic of China.
Salant has served two
tours as head of CBS News, from 1961‑64 and 1966‑present. At the
time of the China project he was a CBS corporate executive.
Time and Newsweek magazines
According to CIA and Senate sources,
Agency files contain written agreements with former foreign
correspondents and stringers for both the weekly news magazines.
The same sources refused to say whether
the CIA has ended all its associations with individuals who work for
the two publications. Allen Dulles often interceded with his good
friend, the late Henry Luce, founder of Time and Life magazines, who
readily allowed certain members of his staff to work for the Agency
and agreed to provide jobs and credentials for other CIA operatives
who lacked journalistic experience.
For many years, Luce's personal emissary to the CIA was C.D.
Jackson, a Time Inc., vice‑president who was publisher of Life
magazine from 1960 until his death in 1964.While a Time executive,
Jackson coauthored a CIA‑sponsored study recommending the
reorganization of the American intelligence services in the early
Jackson, whose Time‑Life service was
interrupted by a one‑year White House tour as an assistant to
President Dwight Eisenhower, approved specific arrangements for
providing CIA employees with Time‑Life cover. Some of these
arrangements were made with the knowledge of Luce's wife, Clare
Other arrangements for Time cover,
according to CIA officials including those who dealt with Luce, were
made with the knowledge of Hedley Donovan, now editor‑in‑chief of
Donovan, who took over editorial
direction of all Time Inc. publications in 1959, denied in a
telephone interview that he knew of any such arrangements.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Time
magazine's foreign correspondents attended CIA "briefing" dinners
similar to those the CIA held for CBS.
And Luce, according to CIA officials,
made it a regular practice to brief Dulles or other high Agency
officials when he returned from his frequent trips abroad. Luce and
the men who ran his magazines in the 1950s and 1960s encouraged
their foreign correspondents to provide help to the CIA,
particularly information that might be useful to the Agency for
intelligence purposes or recruiting foreigners.
At Newsweek, Agency sources reported, the CIA engaged the services
of' several foreign correspondents and stringers under arrangements
approved by senior editors at the magazine. Newsweek's stringer in
Rome in the mid‑Fifties made little secret of the fact that he
worked for the CIA.
Malcolm Muir, Newsweek's editor from its
founding in 1937 until its sale to the Washington Post Company in
1961, said in a recent interview that his dealings with the CIA were
limited to private briefings he gave Allen Dulles after trips abroad
and arrangements he approved for regular debriefing of Newsweek
correspondents by the Agency.
He said that he had never provided cover
for CIA operatives, but that others high in the Newsweek
organization might have done so without his knowledge.
"I would have thought there
might have been stringers who were agents, but I didn't know
who they were," said Muir.
"I do think in those days the
CIA kept pretty close touch with all responsible reporters.
Whenever I heard something that I thought might be of
interest to Allen Dulles, I'd call him up... At one point he
appointed one of his CIA men to keep in regular contact with
our reporters, a chap that I knew but whose name I can't
remember. I had a number of friends in Alien Dulles'
Muir said that Harry Kern, Newsweek's
foreign editor from 1945 until 1956, and Ernest K. Lindley, the
magazine's Washington bureau chief during the same period "regularly
checked in with various fellows in the CIA."
"To the best of my knowledge."
said Kern, "nobody at Newsweek worked for the CIA... The
informal relationship was there. Why have anybody sign
anything? What we knew we told them [the CIA] and the State
Department... When I went to Washington, I would talk to
Foster or Allen Dulles about what was going on. ... We
thought it was admirable at the time. We were all on the
CIA officials say that Kern's dealings
with the Agency were extensive. In 1956, he left Newsweek to run
Foreign Reports, a Washington‑based newsletter whose subscribers
Kern refuses to identify.
Ernest Lindley, who remained at Newsweek until 1961, said in a
recent interview that he regularly consulted with Dulles and other
high CIA officials before going abroad and briefed them upon his
"Allen was very helpful to me
and I tried to reciprocate when I could," he said.
"I'd give him my impressions of
people I'd met overseas. Once or twice he asked me to brief
a large group of intelligence people; when I came back from
the Asian‑African conference in 1955, for example; they
mainly wanted to know about various people."
As Washington bureau chief, Lindley said
he learned from Malcolm Muir that the magazine's stringer in
southeastern Europe was a CIA contract employee - given credentials
under arrangements worked out with the management.
When Newsweek was purchased by the
Washington Post Company, publisher Philip L. Graham was informed by
Agency officials that the CIA occasionally used the magazine for
cover purposes, according to CIA sources.
Wisner, deputy director of the CIA from
1950 until shortly before his suicide in 1965, was the Agency's
premier orchestrator of "black" operations, including many in which
journalists were involved.
Wisner liked to boast of his "mighty
Wurlitzer," a wondrous propaganda instrument he built, and played,
with help from the press.) Phil Graham was probably Wisner's closest
friend. But Graharn, who committed suicide in 1963, apparently knew
little of the specifics of any cover arrangements with Newsweek, CIA
In 1965‑66, an accredited Newsweek stringer in the Far East was in
fact a CIA contract employee earning an annual salary of $10,000
from the Agency, according to Robert T. Wood, then a CIA officer in
the Hong Kong station. Some, Newsweek correspondents and stringers
continued to maintain covert ties with the Agency into the 1970s,
CIA sources said.
Information about Agency dealings with the Washington Post newspaper
is extremely sketchy. According to CIA officials, some Post
stringers have been CIA employees, but these officials say they do
not know if anyone in the Post management was aware of the
All editors‑in‑chief and managing editors of the Post since 1950 say
they knew of no formal Agency relationship with either stringers or
members of the Post staff.
Agency officials, meanwhile, make no
claim that Post staff members have had covert affiliations with the
Agency while working for the paper.6
Katharine Graham, Philip Graham's widow and the current publisher of
the Post, says she has never been informed of any CIA relationships
with either Post or Newsweek personnel. In November of 1973, Mrs.
Graham called William Colby and asked if any Post stringers or staff
members were associated with the CIA.
Colby assured her that no staff members
were employed by the Agency but refused to discuss the question of
The Louisville Courier‑Journal
From December 1964 until March 1965, a
CIA undercover operative named Robert H. Campbell worked on the
According to high‑level CIA sources,
Campbell was hired by the paper under arrangements the Agency made
with Norman E. Isaacs, then executive editor of the Courier‑Journal.
Barry Bingham Sr., then publisher of the paper, also had knowledge
of the arrangements, the sources said. Both Isaacs and Bingham have
denied knowing that Campbell was an intelligence agent when he was
The complex saga of Campbell's hiring was first revealed in a
Courier‑Journal story written by James R Herzog on March 27th, 1976,
during the Senate committee's investigation, Herzog's account began:
The account then quoted the paper's
former managing editor as saying that Isaacs told him that Campbell
was hired as a result of a CIA request:
"Norman said, when he was in
Washington [in 1964], he had been called to lunch with some
friend of his who was with the CIA [and that] he wanted to
send this young fellow down to get him a little knowledge of
All aspects of Campbell's hiring were
highly unusual. No effort had been made to check his credentials,
and his employment records contained the following two notations:
The level of Campbell's journalistic
abilities apparently remained consistent during his stint at the
One of Campbell's major reportorial
projects was a feature about wooden Indians. It was never published.
During his tenure at the paper, Campbell frequented a bar a few
steps from the office where, on occasion, he reportedly confided to
fellow drinkers that he was a CIA employee.
According to CIA sources, Campbell's tour at the Courier‑Journal was
arranged to provide him with a record of journalistic experience
that would enhance the plausibility of future reportorial cover and
teach him something about the newspaper business.
The Courier‑Journal's investigation also
turned up the fact that before coming to Louisville he had worked
briefly for the Hornell, New York, Evening Tribune, published by
Freedom News, Inc. CIA sources said the Agency had made arrangements
with that paper's management to employ Campbell.7
At the Courier‑Journal, Campbell was hired under arrangements made
with Isaacs and approved by Bingham, said CIA and Senate sources.
Responding by letter to these
assertions, Isaacs, who left Louisville to become president and
publisher of the Wilmington Delaware) News & Journal, said:
"All I can do is repeat the
simple truth - that never, under any circumstances, or at
any time, have I ever knowingly hired a government agent.
I've also tried to dredge my memory, but Campbell's hiring
meant so little to me that nothing emerges... None of this
is to say that I couldn't have been 'had.'".
Barry Bingham Sr., said last year in a
telephone interview that he had no specific memory of Campbell's
hiring and denied that he knew of any arrangements between the
newspaper's management and the CIA.
However, CIA officials said that the
Courier‑Journal, through contacts with Bingham, provided other
unspecified assistance to the Agency in the 1950s and 1960s. The
Courier‑Journal's detailed, front‑page account of Campbell's hiring
was initiated by Barry Bingham Jr., who succeeded his father as
editor and publisher of the paper in 1971.
The article is the only major piece of
self‑investigation by a newspaper that has appeared on this
The American Broadcasting Company and the
National Broadcasting Company
According to CIA officials, ABC
continued to provide cover for some CIA operatives through the
1960s. One was Sam Jaffe who CIA officials said performed
clandestine tasks for the Agency. Jaffe has acknowledged only
providing the CIA with information.
In addition, another well‑known network
correspondent performed covert tasks for the Agency, said CIA
sources. At the time of the Senate bearings, Agency officials
serving at the highest levels refused to say whether the CIA was
still maintaining active relationships with members of the ABC‑News
All cover arrangements were made with
the knowledge off ABC executives, the sources said.
These same sources professed to know few specifies about the
Agency's relationships with NBC, except that several foreign
correspondents of the network undertook some assignments for the
Agency in the 1950s and 1960s.
"It was a thing people did
then," said Richard Wald, president of NBC News since 1973.
"I wouldn't be surprised if people here - including some of
the correspondents in those days - had connections with the
The Copley Press, and its subsidiary, the Copley
This relationship, first disclosed
publicly by reporters Joe Trento and Dave Roman in Penthouse
magazine, is said by CIA officials to have been among the Agency's
most productive in terms of getting "outside" cover for its
Copley owns nine newspapers in
California and Illinois - among them the San Diego Union and Evening
The Trento‑Roman account, which was
financed by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism,
asserted that at least twenty‑three Copley News Service employees
performed work for the CIA.
Other Agency officials said then that
James S. Copley, the chain's owner until his death in 1973,
personally made most of the cover arrangements with the CIA.
According to Trento and Roman, Copley personally volunteered his
news service to then‑president Eisenhower to act as "the eyes and
ears" against "the Communist threat in Latin and Central America"
for "our intelligence services."
James Copley was also the guiding hand
behind the Inter‑American Press Association, a CIA‑funded
organization with heavy membership among right‑wing Latin American
Other major news organizations
According to Agency officials, CIA files
document additional cover arrangements with the following
news‑gathering organizations, among others:
the New York
the Saturday‑Evening Post
Seymour K. Freidin, Hearst's current
London bureau chief and a former Herald‑Tribune editor and
correspondent, has been identified as a CIA operative by Agency
sources, Associated Press,9 United Press International,
the Mutual Broadcasting System, Reuters and the Miami Herald.
Cover arrangements with the Herald,
according to CIA officials, were unusual in that they were made "on
the ground by the CIA station in Miami, not from CIA headquarters.
Like many sources, this official said
that the only way to end the uncertainties about aid furnished the
Agency by journalists is to disclose the contents of the CIA files -
a course opposed by almost all of the thirty‑five present and former
CIA officials interviewed over the course of a year.
COLBY CUTS HIS LOSSES
THE CIA'S USE OF JOURNALISTS CONTINUED
...unabated until 1973 when, in response to
public disclosure that the Agency had secretly employed American reporters,
William Colby began scaling down the program. In his public statements,
Colby conveyed the impression that the use of journalists had been minimal
and of limited importance to the Agency.
He then initiated a series of moves intended to convince the press, Congress
and the public that the CIA had gotten out of the news business. But
according to Agency officials, Colby had in fact thrown a protective net
around his valuable intelligence in the journalistic community.
He ordered his deputies to maintain Agency ties
with its best journalist contacts while severing formal relationships with
many regarded as inactive, relatively unproductive or only marginally
In reviewing Agency files to comply with Colby's
directive, officials found that many journalists had not performed useful
functions for the CIA in years. Such relationships, perhaps as many as a
hundred, were terminated between 1973 and 1976.
Meanwhile, important CIA operatives who had been placed on the staffs of
some major newspaper and broadcast outlets were told to resign and become
stringers or freelancers, thus enabling Colby to assure concerned editors
that members of their staffs were not CIA employees. Colby also feared that
some valuable stringer‑operatives might find their covers blown if scrutiny
of the Agency's ties with journalists continued.
Some of these individuals were reassigned to
jobs on so‑called proprietary publications - foreign periodicals and
broadcast outlets secretly funded and staffed by the CIA. Other journalists
who had signed formal contracts with the CIA - making them employees of the
Agency - were released from their contracts, and asked to continue working
under less formal arrangements.
In November 1973, after many such shifts had been made, Colby told reporters
and editors from the New York Times and the Washington Star that the Agency
had "some three dozen" American newsmen "on the CIA payroll," including five
who worked for "general‑circulation news organizations."
Yet even while the Senate Intelligence Committee
was holding its hearings in 1976, according to high‑level CIA sources, the
CIA continued to maintain ties with seventy‑five to ninety journalists of
every description - executives, reporters, stringers, photographers,
columnists, bureau clerks and members of broadcast technical crews.
More than half of these had been moved off CIA
contracts and payrolls but they were still bound by other secret agreements
with the Agency. According to an unpublished report by the House Select
Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike, at least
fifteen news organizations were still providing cover for CIA operatives as
Colby, who built a reputation as one of the most skilled undercover
tacticians in the CIA's history, had himself run journalists in clandestine
operations before becoming director in 1973.
But even he was said by his
closest associates to have been disturbed at how extensively and, in his
view, indiscriminately, the Agency continued to use journalists at the time
he took over.
"Too prominent," the director frequently
said of some of the individuals and news organizations then working with
Others in the Agency refer to their best‑known
journalistic assets as "brand names."
"Colby's concern was that he might lose the
resource altogether unless we became a little more careful about who we
used and how we got them," explained one of the former director's
The thrust of Colby's subsequent actions was to
move the Agency's affiliations away from the so‑called "majors" and to
concentrate them instead in smaller newspaper chains, broadcasting groups
and such specialized publications as trade journals and newsletters.
After Colby left the Agency on January 28th, 1976, and was
George Bush, the CIA announced a new policy:
"Effective immediately, the CIA will not
enter into any paid or contractual relationship with any full‑time or
part‑time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service,
newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station"
At the time of the announcement, the Agency
acknowledged that the policy would result in termination of less than half
of the relationships with the 50 U.S. journalists it said were still
affiliated with the Agency.
The text of the announcement noted that the CIA
would continue to "welcome" the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of
journalists. Thus, many relationships were permitted to remain intact.
The Agency's unwillingness to end its use of journalists and its continued
relationships with some news executives is largely the product of two basic
facts of the intelligence game: journalistic cover is ideal because of the
inquisitive nature of a reporter's job; and many other sources of
institutional cover have been denied the CIA in recent years by businesses,
foundations and educational institutions that once cooperated with the
"It's tough to run a secret agency in this
country," explained one high‑level CIA official.
"We have a curious ambivalence about
intelligence. In order to serve overseas we need cover. But we have been
fighting a rear‑guard action to try and provide cover. The Peace Corps
is off‑limits, so is USIA, the foundations and voluntary organizations
have been off‑limits since '67, and there is a self‑imposed prohibition
on Fulbrights [Fulbright Scholars].
If you take the American community and line
up who could work for the CIA and who couldn't there is a very narrow
potential. Even the Foreign Service doesn't want us. So where the hell
do you go? Business is nice, but the press is a natural. One journalist
is worth twenty agents. He has access, the ability to ask questions
without arousing suspicion."
ROLE OF THE CHURCH
DESPITE THE EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD CIA USE OF
...journalists, the Senate Intelligence
Committee and its staff decided against questioning any of the reporters,
editors, publishers or broadcast executives whose relationships with the
Agency are detailed in CIA files.
According to sources in the Senate and the Agency, the use of journalists
was one of two areas of inquiry which the CIA went to extraordinary lengths
The other was the Agency's continuing and
extensive use of academics for recruitment and information gathering
In both instances, the sources said, former directors Colby and Bush and CIA
special counsel Mitchell Rogovin were able to convince key members of the
committee that full inquiry or even limited public disclosure of the
dimensions of the activities would do irreparable damage to the nation's
intelligence‑gathering apparatus, as well as to the reputations of hundreds
Colby was reported to have been especially
persuasive in arguing that disclosure would bring on a latter‑day "witch
hunt" in which the victims would be reporters, publishers and editors.
Walter Elder, deputy to former CIA director McCone and the principal Agency
the Church committee, argued that the committee lacked
jurisdiction because there had been no misuse of journalists by the CIA; the
relationships had been voluntary.
Elder cited as an example the case of the
"Church and other people on the committee
were on the chandelier about the Courier‑Journal," one Agency official
said, "until we pointed out that we had gone to the editor to arrange
cover, and that the editor had said, 'Fine.'"
Some members of the Church committee and staff
feared that Agency officials had gained control of the inquiry and that they
were being hoodwinked.
"The Agency was extremely clever about it
and the committee played right into its hands," said one congressional
source familiar with all aspects of the inquiry.
"Church and some of the other members were
much more interested in making headlines than in doing serious, tough
investigating. The Agency pretended to be giving up a lot whenever it
was asked about the flashy stuff - assassinations and secret weapons and
James Bond operations. Then, when it came to things that they didn't
want to give away, that were much more important to the Agency, Colby in
particular called in his chits. And the committee bought it."
The Senate committee's investigation into the
use of journalists was supervised by William B. Bader, a former CIA
intelligence officer who returned briefly to the Agency this year as deputy
to CIA director Stansfield Turner and is now a high‑level intelligence
official at the Defense Department.
Bader was assisted by David Aaron, who now
serves as the deputy to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national
According to colleagues on the staff of the Senate inquiry, both Bader and
Aaron were disturbed by the information contained in CIA files about
journalists; they urged that further investigation he undertaken by the
Senate's new permanent CIA oversight committee.
That committee, however, has spent its first
year of existence writing a new charter for the CIA, and members say there
has been little interest in delving further into the CIA's use of the press.
Bader's investigation was conducted under unusually difficult conditions.
His first request for specific information on the use of journalists was
turned down by the CIA on grounds that there had been no abuse of authority
and that current intelligence operations might he compromised. Senators
Walter Huddleston, Howard Baker, Gary Hart, Walter Mondale and Charles
Mathias - who had expressed interest in the subject of the press and the CIA
- shared Bader's distress at the CIA's reaction.
In a series of phone calls and meetings with CIA
director George Bush and other Agency officials, the senators insisted that
the committee staff be provided information about the scope of CIA‑press
Finally, Bush agreed to order a search of the
files and have those records pulled which deals with operations where
journalists had been used. But the raw files could not he made available to
Bader or the committee, Bush insisted. Instead, the director decided, his
deputies would condense the material into one‑paragraph summaries
describing in the most general terms the activities of each individual
Most important, Bush decreed, the names of
journalists and of the news organizations with which they were affiliated
would be omitted from the summaries. However, there might be some indication
of the region where the journalist had served and a general description of
the type of news organization for which he worked.
Assembling the summaries was difficult, according to CIA officials who
supervised the job.
There were no "journalist files" per se and
information had to be collected from divergent sources that reflect the
highly compartmentalized character of the CIA. Case officers who had handled
journalists supplied some names. Files were pulled on various undercover
operations in which it seemed logical that journalists had been used.
Significantly, all work by reporters for the
Agency under the category of covert operations, not foreign intelligence.
Old station records were culled.
"We really had to scramble," said one
After several weeks, Bader began receiving the
summaries, which numbered over 400 by the time the Agency said it had
completed searching its files.
The Agency played an intriguing numbers game with the committee. Those who
prepared the material say it was physically impossible to produce all of the
Agency's files on the use of journalists.
"We gave them a broad, representative
picture," said one agency official. "We never pretended it was a total
description of the range of activities over 25 years, or of the number
of journalists who have done things for us."
A relatively small number of the summaries
described the activities of foreign journalists - including those working as
stringers for American publications.
Those officials most knowledgeable about the
subject say that a figure of 400 American journalists is on the low side of
the actual number who maintained covert relationships and undertook
Bader and others to whom he described the contents of the summaries
immediately reached some general conclusions: the sheer number of covert
relationships with journalists was far greater than the CIA had ever hinted;
and the Agency's use of reporters and news executives was an intelligence
asset of the first magnitude. Reporters had been involved in almost every
conceivable kind of operation.
Of the 400‑plus individuals whose activities
were summarized, between 200 and 250 were "working journalists" in the usual
sense of the term - reporters, editors, correspondents, photographers; the
rest were employed at least nominally, by book publishers, trade
publications and newsletters.
Still, the summaries were just that: compressed, vague, sketchy, incomplete.
They could be subject to ambiguous interpretation. And they contained no
suggestion that the CIA had abused its authority by manipulating the
editorial content of American newspapers or broadcast reports.
Bader's unease with what he had found led him to seek advice from several
experienced hands in the fields of foreign relations and intelligence. They
suggested that he press for more information and give those members of the
committee in whom he had the most confidence a general idea of what the
Bader again went to Senators Huddleston, Baker,
Hart, Mondale and Mathias. Meanwhile, he told the CIA that he wanted to see
more - the full files on perhaps a hundred or so of the individuals whose
activities had been summarized. The request was turned down outright.
The Agency would provide no more information on
the subject. Period.
The CIA's intransigence led to an extraordinary dinner meeting at Agency
headquarters in late March 1976. Those present included Senators Frank
Church who had now been briefed by Bader, and John Tower, the vice‑chairman
of the committee; Bader; William Miller, director of the committee staff;
CIA director Bush; Agency counsel Rogovin; and Seymour Bolten, a high‑level
CIA operative who for years had been a station chief in Germany and Willy
Brandt's case officer.
Bolten had been deputized by Bush to deal with
the committee's requests for information on journalists and academics. At
the dinner, the Agency held to its refusal to provide any full files.
Nor would it give the committee the names of any
individual journalists described in the 400 summaries or of the news
organizations with whom they were affiliated. The discussion, according to
participants, grew heated. The committee's representatives said they could
not honor their mandate - to determine if the CIA had abused its authority -
without further information.
The CIA maintained it could not protect its
legitimate intelligence operations or its employees if further disclosures
were made to the committee. Many of the journalists were contract employees
of the Agency, Bush said at one point, and the CIA was no less obligated to
them than to any other agents.
Finally, a highly unusual agreement was hammered out: Bader and Miller would
be permitted to examine "sanitized" versions of the full files of
twenty‑five journalists selected from the summaries; but the names of the
journalists and the news organizations which employed them would be blanked
out, as would the identities of other CIA employees mentioned in the files.
Church and Tower would be permitted to examine
the unsanitized versions of five of the twenty‑five files - to attest that
the CIA was not hiding anything except the names. The whole deal was
contingent on an agreement that neither Bader, Miner, Tower nor Church would
reveal the contents of the files to other members of the committee or staff.
Bader began reviewing the 400‑some summaries again. His object was to select
twenty‑five that, on the basis of the sketchy information they contained,
seemed to represent a cross section. Dates of CIA activity, general
descriptions of news organizations, types of journalists and undercover
operations all figured in his calculations.
From the twenty‑five files he got back, according to Senate sources and CIA
officials, an unavoidable conclusion emerged: that to a degree never widely
suspected, the CIA in the 1950s, '60s and even early '70s had concentrated
its relationships with journalists in the most prominent sectors of the
American press corps, including four or five of the largest newspapers in
the country, the broadcast networks and the two major newsweekly magazines.
Despite the omission of names and affiliations
from the twenty‑five detailed files each was between three and eleven inches
thick, the information was usually sufficient to tentatively identify
either the newsman, his affiliation or both - particularly because so many
of them were prominent in the profession.
"There is quite an incredible spread of relationships," Bader reported to
the senators. "You don't need to manipulate Time magazine, for example,
because there are Agency people at the management level."
Ironically, one major news organization that set limits on its dealings with
the CIA, according to Agency officials, was the one with perhaps the
greatest editorial affinity for the Agency's long‑range goals and policies:
U.S. News and World Report.
The late David Lawrence, the columnist and
founding editor of U.S. News, was a close friend of Allen Dulles. But he
repeatedly refused requests by the CIA director to use the magazine for
cover purposes, the sources said. At one point, according to a high CIA
official, Lawrence issued orders to his sub‑editors in which he threatened
to fire any U.S. News employee who was found to have entered into a formal
relationship with the Agency.
Former editorial executives at the magazine
confirmed that such orders had been issued. CIA sources declined to say,
however, if the magazine remained off‑limits to the Agency after Lawrence's
death in 1973 or if Lawrence's orders had been followed.
Meanwhile, Bader attempted to get more information from the CIA,
particularly about the Agency's current relationships with journalists.
He encountered a stone wall.
"Bush has done nothing to date," Bader told
associates. "None of the important operations are affected in even a
The CIA also refused the staffs requests for
more information on the use of academics.
Bush began to urge members of the committee to
curtail its inquiries in both areas and conceal its findings in the final
"He kept saying, 'Don't fuck these guys in
the press and on the campuses,' pleading that they were the only areas
of public life with any credibility left," reported a Senate source.
Colby, Elder and Rogovin also implored
individual members of the committee to keep secret what the staff had found.
"There were a lot of representations that if
this stuff got out some of the biggest names in journalism would get
smeared," said another source.
Exposure of the CIA's relationships with
journalists and academics, the Agency feared, would close down two of the
few avenues of agent recruitment still open.
"The danger of exposure is not the other
side," explained one CIA expert in covert operations. "This is not stuff
the other side doesn't know about. The concern of the Agency is that
another area of cover will be denied."
A senator who was the object of the Agency's
lobbying later said:
"From the CIA point of view this was the
highest, most sensitive covert program of all... It was a much larger
part of the operational system than has been indicated." He added, "I
had a great compulsion to press the point but it was late... If we had
demanded, they would have gone the legal route to fight it."
Indeed, time was running out for the committee.
In the view of many staff members, it had
squandered its resources in the search for CIA assassination plots and
poison pen letters. It had undertaken the inquiry into journalists almost as
an afterthought. The dimensions of the program and the CIA's sensitivity to
providing information on it had caught the staff and the committee by
The CIA oversight committee that would succeed
the Church panel would have the inclination and the time to inquire into the
subject methodically; if, as seemed likely, the CIA refused to cooperate
further, the mandate of the successor committee would put it in a more
advantageous position to wage a protracted fight... Or so the reasoning went
as Church and the few other senators even vaguely familiar with Bader's
findings reached a decision not to pursue the matter further.
No journalists would be interviewed about their
dealings with the Agency - either by the staff or by the senators, in secret
or in open session.
The specter, first raised by CIA officials, of a
witch hunt in the press corps haunted some members of the staff and the
"We weren't about to bring up guys to the
committee and then have everybody say they've been traitors to the
ideals of their profession," said a senator.
Bader, according to associates, was satisfied
with the decision and believed that the successor committee would pick up
the inquiry where he had left it. He was opposed to making public the names
of individual journalists.
He had been concerned all along that he had
entered a "gray area" in which there were no moral absolutes. Had the CIA "manipulated" the press in the classic sense of the term?
Probably not, he concluded; the major news
organizations and their executives had willingly lent their resources to the
Agency; foreign correspondents had regarded work for the CIA as a national
service and a way of getting better stories and climbing to the top of their
profession. Had the CIA abused its authority?
It had dealt with the press almost exactly as it
had dealt with other institutions from which it sought cover - the
diplomatic service, academia, corporations.
There was nothing in the CIA's charter which
declared any of these institutions off‑limits to America's intelligence
service. And, in the case of the press, the Agency had exercised more care
in its dealings than with many other institutions; it had gone to
considerable lengths to restrict its role to information‑gathering and
Bader was also said to be concerned that his knowledge was so heavily based
on information furnished by the CIA; he hadn't gotten the other side of the
story from those journalists who had associated with the Agency.
He could be seeing only "the lantern show," he
Still, Bader was reasonably sure that he had
seen pretty much the full panoply of what was in the files. If the CIA had
wanted to deceive him it would have never given away so much, he reasoned.
"It was smart of the Agency to cooperate to
the extent of showing the material to Bader," observed a committee
source. "That way, if one fine day a file popped up, the Agency would be
covered. They could say they had already informed the Congress."
The dependence on CIA files posed another
The CIA's perception of a relationship with a
journalist might be quite different than that of the journalist: a CIA
official might think he had exercised control over a journalist; the
journalist might think he had simply had a few drinks with a spook. It was
possible that CIA case officers had written self‑serving memos for the files
about their dealings with journalists, that the CIA was just as subject to
common bureaucratic "cover‑your‑ass" paperwork as any other agency of
A CIA official who attempted to persuade members of the Senate committee
that the Agency's use of journalists had been innocuous maintained that the
files were indeed filled with "puffing" by case officers.
"You can't establish what is puff and what
isn't," he claimed. Many reporters, he added, "were recruited for finite
[specific] undertakings and would be appalled to find that they were
listed [in Agency files] as CIA operatives."
This same official estimated that the files
contained descriptions of about half a dozen reporters and correspondents
who would be considered "famous" - that is, their names would be recognized
by most Americans.
"The files show that the CIA goes to the
press for and just as often that the press comes to the CIA," he
"...There is a tacit agreement in many of
these cases that there is going to be a quid pro quo" - i.e., that the
reporter is going to get good stories from the Agency and that the CIA
will pick up some valuable services from the reporter.
Whatever the interpretation, the findings of the
Senate committees inquiry into the use of journalists were deliberately
buried - from the full membership of the committee, from the Senate and from
"There was a difference of opinion on how to
treat the subject," explained one source. "Some [senators] thought these
were abuses which should be exorcized and there were those who said, 'We
don't know if this is bad or not.'"
Bader's findings on the subject were never
discussed with the full committee, even in executive session.
That might have led to leaks - especially in
view of the explosive nature of the facts. Since the beginning of the Church
committee's investigation, leaks had been the panel's biggest collective
fear, a real threat to its mission.
At the slightest sign of a leak the CIA might
cut off the flow of sensitive information as it did, several times in other
areas, claiming that the committee could not be trusted with secrets.
"It was as if we were on trial - not the
CIA," said a member of the committee staff.
To describe in the committee's final report the
true dimensions of the Agency's use of journalists would cause a furor in
the press and on the Senate floor.
And it would result in heavy pressure on the CIA
to end its use of journalists altogether.
"We just weren't ready to take that step,"
said a senator.
A similar decision was made to conceal the
results of the staff's inquiry into the use of academics.
Bader, who supervised both areas of inquiry,
concurred in the decisions and drafted those sections of the committee's
final report. Pages 191 to 201 were entitled "Covert Relationships with the
United States Media."
"It hardly reflects what we found," stated
Senator Gary Hart. "There was a prolonged and elaborate negotiation
[with the CIA] over what would be said."
Obscuring the facts was relatively simple.
No mention was made of the 400 summaries or what
they showed. Instead the report noted blandly that some fifty recent
contacts with journalists had been studied by the committee staff - thus
conveying the impression that the Agency's dealings with the press had been
limited to those instances.
The Agency files, the report noted, contained
little evidence that the editorial content of American news reports had been
affected by the CIA's dealings with journalists. Colby's misleading public
statements about the use of journalists were repeated without serious
contradiction or elaboration. The role of cooperating news executives was
given short shrift.
The fact that the Agency had concentrated its
relationships in the most prominent sectors of the press went unmentioned.
That the CIA continued to regard the press as up for grabs was not even
Former 'Washington Post' reporter CARL BERNSTEIN is now working on a book
about the witch hunts of the Cold War.
1 - John McCone, director of the Agency from
1961 to 1965, said in a recent interview that he knew about "great deal
of debriefing and exchanging help" but nothing about any arrangements
for cover the CIA might have made with media organizations. "I wouldn't
necessarily have known about it," he said. "Helms would have handled
anything like that. It would be unusual for him to come to me and say,
'We're going to use journalists for cover.' He had a job to do. There
was no policy during my period that would say, 'Don't go near that
water,' nor was there one saying, 'Go to it!'" During the Church
committee bearings, McCone testified that his subordinates failed to
tell him about domestic surveillance activities or that they were
working on plans to assassinate Fidel Castro. Richard Helms was deputy
director of the Agency at the time; he became director in 1966.
2 - A stringer is a reporter who works for one or several news
organizations on a retainer or on a piecework basis.
3 - From the CIA point of view, access to newsfilm outtakes and photo
libraries is a matter of extreme importance. The Agency's photo archive
is probably the greatest on earth; its graphic sources include
satellites, photoreconnaissance, planes, miniature cameras ... and the
American press. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Agency obtained
carte‑blanche borrowing privileges in the photo libraries of literally
dozens of American newspapers, magazines and television, outlets. For
obvious reasons, the CIA also assigned high priority to the recruitment
of photojournalists, particularly foreign‑based members of network
4 - On April 3rd, 1961, Koop left the Washington bureau to become head
of CBS, Inc.'s Government Relations Department - a position
he held until his retirement on March 31st, 1972. Koop, who worked as a
deputy in the Censorship Office in World War II, continued to deal with
the CIA in his new position, according to CBS sources.
5 - Hayes, who left the Washington Post Company in 1965 to become U.S.
Ambassador to Switzerland, is now chairman of the board of Radio Free
Europe and Radio Liberty - both of which severed their ties
with the CIA in 1971. Hayes said he cleared his participation in the
China project with the late Frederick S. Beebe, then chairman of the
board of the Washington Post Company. Katharine Graham, the Post's
publisher, was unaware of the nature of the assignment, he said.
Participants in the project signed secrecy agreements.
6 - Philip Geyelin, editor of the Post editorial page, worked for the
Agency before joining the Post.
7 - Louis Buisch, presidentof the publishing company of the Hornell, New
York, Evening Tribune, told the Courier‑Journal in 1976 that he
remembered little about the hiring of Robert Campbell. "He wasn't there
very long, and he didn't make much of an impression," said Buisch, who
has since retired from active management of the newspaper.
8 - Probably the most thoughtful article on the subject of the press and
the CIA was written by Stuart H. Loory and appeared in the
September‑October 1974 issue of Columbia Journalism Review.
9 - Wes Gallagher, general manager of the Associated Press from 1962 to
1976, takes vigorous exception to the notion that the Associated Press
might have aided the Agency. "We've always stayed clear on the CIA; I
would have fired anybody who worked for them. We don't even let our
people debrief." At the time of the first disclosures that reporters had
worked for the CIA, Gallagher went to Colby. "We tried to find out
names. All he would say was that no full‑time staff member of the
Associated Press was employed by the Agency. We talked to Bush. He said
the same thing." If any Agency personnel were placed in Associated Press
bureaus, said Gallagher, it was done without consulting the management
of the wire service. But Agency officials insist that they were able to
make cover arrangements through someone in the upper management levelsof
Associated Press, whom they refuse to identify.
10 - Many journalists and some CIA officials dispute the Agency's claim
that it has been scrupulous in respecting the editorial integrity of
American publications and broadcast outlets.
WORKING PRESS - CIA
To understand the role of most journalist‑operatives, it is necessary to
dismiss some myths about undercover work for American intelligence services.
Few American agents are "spies" in the popularly accepted sense of the term.
"Spying" - the acquisition of secrets from a
foreign government - is almost always done by foreign nationals who have
been recruited by the CIA and are under CIA control in their own countries.
Thus the primary role of an American working undercover abroad is often to
aid in the recruitment and "handling" of foreign nationals who are channels
of secret information reaching American intelligence.
Many journalists were used by the CIA to assist in this process and they had
the reputation of being among the best in the business.
The peculiar nature of the job of the foreign
correspondent is ideal for such work: he is accorded unusual access by his
host country, permitted to travel in areas often off‑limits to other
Americans, spends much of his time cultivating sources in governments,
academic institutions, the military establishment and the scientific
He has the opportunity to form long‑term
personal relationships with sources and - perhaps more than any other
category of American operative - is in a position to make correct judgments
about the susceptibility and availability of foreign nationals for
recruitment as spies.
"After a foreigner is recruited, a case
officer often has to stay in the background," explained a CIA official.
"So you use a journalist to carry messages to and from both parties"
Journalists in the field generally took their
assignments in the same manner as any other undercover operative.
If, for instance, a journalist was based in
Austria, he ordinarily would be under the general direction of the Vienna
station chief and report to a case officer. Some, particularly roving
correspondents or U.S.‑based reporters who made frequent trips abroad,
reported directly to CIA officials in Langley, Virginia.
The tasks they performed sometimes consisted of little more than serving as
"eyes and ears" for the CIA; reporting on what they had seen or overheard in
an Eastern European factory, at a diplomatic reception in Bonn, on the
perimeter of a military base in Portugal.
On other occasions, their assignments were more
planting subtly concocted pieces of
hosting parties or receptions designed
to bring together American agents and foreign spies
serving up "black" propaganda to leading
foreign journalists at lunch or dinner
providing their hotel rooms or bureau
offices as "drops" for highly sensitive information moving to and
from foreign agents
conveying instructions and dollars to
CIA controlled members of foreign governments
Often the CIA's relationship with a journalist
might begin informally with a lunch, a drink, a casual exchange of
An Agency official might then offer a favor -
for example, a trip to a country difficult to reach; in return, he would
seek nothing more than the opportunity to debrief the reporter afterward.
A few more lunches, a few more favors, and only
then might there be a mention of a formal arrangement.
"That came later," said a CIA official,
"after you had the journalist on a string."
Another official described a typical example of
the way accredited journalists (either paid or unpaid by the CIA) might be
used by the Agency:
"In return for our giving them information,
we'd ask them to do things that fit their roles as journalists but that
they wouldn't have thought of unless we put it in their minds. For
instance, a reporter in Vienna would say to our man, 'I met an
interesting second secretary at the Czech Embassy.' We'd say, 'Can you
get to know him? And after you get to know him, can you assess him? And
then, can you put him in touch with us - would you mind us using your
Formal recruitment of reporters was generally
handled at high levels - after the journalist had undergone a thorough
The actual approach might even be made by a
deputy director or division chief. On some occasions, no discussion would he
entered into until the journalist had signed a pledge of secrecy.
"The secrecy agreement was the sort of
ritual that got you into the tabernacle," said a former assistant to the
Director of Central Intelligence. "After that you had to play by the
David Attlee Phillips, former Western Hemisphere
chief of clandestine services and a former journalist himself, estimated in
an interview that at least 200 journalists signed secrecy agreements or
employment contracts with the Agency in the past twenty‑five years.
Phillips, who owned a small English‑language
newspaper in Santiago, Chile, when he was recruited by the CIA in 1950,
described the approach:
"Somebody from the Agency says, 'I want you
to help me. I know you are a true‑blue American, but I want you to sign
a piece of paper before I tell you what it's about.' I didn't hesitate
to sign, and a lot of newsmen didn't hesitate over the next twenty
"One of the things we always had going for us in terms of enticing
reporters," observed a CIA official who coordinated some of the
arrangements with journalists, "was that we could make them look better
with their home offices. A foreign correspondent with ties to the
Company [the CIA] stood a much better chance than his competitors of
getting the good stories."
Within the CIA, journalist‑operatives were
accorded elite status, a consequence of the common experience journalists
shared with high‑level CIA officials.
Many had gone to the same schools as their CIA
handlers, moved in the same circles, shared fashionably liberal,
anti‑Communist political values, and were part of the same "old boy" network
that constituted something of an establishment elite in the media, politics
and academia of postwar America. The most valued of these lent themselves
for reasons of national service, not money.
The Agency's use of journalists in undercover operations has been most
In the 1950s and 1960s journalists were used as
intermediaries - spotting, paying, passing instructions - to members of the
Christian Democratic party in Italy and the Social Democrats in Germany,
both of which covertly received millions of dollars from the CIA.
During those years,
"we had journalists all over Berlin and
Vienna just to keep track of who the hell was coming in from the East
and what they were up to," explained a CIA official.
In the Sixties, reporters were used extensively
in the CIA offensive against Salvador Allende in Chile; they provided funds
to Allende's opponents and wrote anti‑Allende propaganda for CIA proprietary
publications that were distributed in Chile.
(CIA officials insist that they make no attempt
to influence the content of American newspapers, but some fallout is
inevitable: during the Chilean offensive, CIA‑generated black propaganda
transmitted on the wire service out of Santiago often turned up in American
According to CIA officials, the Agency has been particularly sparing in its
use of journalist agents in Eastern Europe on grounds that exposure might
result in diplomatic sanctions against the United States or in permanent
prohibitions against American correspondents serving in some countries.
The same officials claim that their use of
journalists in the Soviet Union has been even more limited, but they remain
extremely guarded in discussing the subject.
They are insistent, however, in maintaining that
the Moscow correspondents of major news organizations have not been "tasked"
or controlled by the Agency.
The Soviets, according to CIA officials, have consistently raised false
charges of CIA affiliation against individual American reporters as part of
a continuing diplomatic game that often follows the ups and downs of
Soviet‑American relations. The latest such charge by the Russians - against
Christopher Wren of the New York Times and Alfred Friendly Jr., formerly of
Newsweek, has no basis in fact, they insist.
CIA officials acknowledge, however, that such charges will persist as long
as the CIA continues to use journalistic cover and maintain covert
affiliations with individuals in the profession.
But even an absolute prohibition against Agency
use of journalists would not free reporters from suspicion, according to
many Agency officials.
"Look at the Peace Corps," said one source.
"We have had no affiliation there and they [foreign governments] still
throw them out"