Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #57 The CIA and The News Media

Listen now: Side 1 | Side 2

Americans are accustomed to deceiving themselves with the notion that they enjoy a “free press.” In fact, the American media have always presented a distorted view of the world and, since the beginning of the Cold War, have been actively involved with the intelligence community in distorting the truth. From the end of the Second World War to the present, the U.S. national security establishment has actively structured the American media, in order eliminate viewpoints it considers troublesome. One of the chief elements in this ongoing deception of the American people is the CIA. This broadcast details the history of the Agency’s involvement with, and manipulation of major journalistic organs. Beginning with the crafting of what former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Frank Wisner called “the Mighty Wurlitzer” (his nickname for the CIA’s media component), the program documents the CIA’s fundamental and ongoing distortion of political reality. Featuring the characteristically excellent research of Daniel Brandt, the segments also set forth the profound influence on both the CIA and the media of the influential Council on Foreign Relations.


8 comments for “FTR #57 The CIA and The News Media”

  1. […] Strategic Services – the CIA’s predecessor – and was partly the inspiration for the character Edward Wilson in the 2006 film “The Good […]

    Posted by cia/cfr envoy frank g. wisner sent to ‘speak to mubarak’ | ClipsNewsNetwork | February 3, 2011, 1:07 am
  2. […] CIA’ Background: Deadline Live on Frank Wisner, Enron & AIG Background: Dave Emory on ‘The CIA & the News Media’ Related: Mubarak, America’s Torture […]

    Posted by new world next week – feb3 | ClipsNewsNetwork | February 4, 2011, 1:13 am
  3. “The Mighty Wurl­itzer” in action

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 20, 2012, 12:29 pm
  4. And the Mighty Wurlitzer plays on:

    Lying About Torture, Hollywood Style
    Mother Jones
    —By Kevin Drum
    | Mon Dec. 10, 2012 10:35 AM PST

    Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the killing of Osama bin Laden, has gotten almost unanimously rave reviews. However, it turns out that the movie claims, in gruesomely dramatic fashion, that CIA-approved torture of captured al-Qaeda operatives provided the information that allowed us to find bin Laden in the first place. Glenn Greenwald is properly appalled:

    The claim that waterboarding and other torture techniques were necessary in finding bin Laden was first made earlier this year by Jose Rodriguez, the CIA agent who illegally destroyed the agency’s torture tapes, got protected from prosecution by the DOJ, and then profited off this behavior by writing a book. He made the same claim as “Zero Dark Thirty” regarding the role played by torture in finding bin Laden.

    That caused two Senators who are steadfast loyalists of the CIA — Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein and Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin — to issue statements definitively debunking this assertion. Even the CIA’s then-Director, Leon Panetta, made clear that those techniques played no role in finding bin Laden. An FBI agent central to the bin Laden hunt said the same.

    What this film does, then, is uncritically presents as fact the highly self-serving, and factually false, claims by the CIA that its torture techniques were crucial in finding bin Laden. Put another way, it propagandizes the public to favorably view clear war crimes by the US government, based on pure falsehoods.

    ….If Bigelow had merely depicted episodes that actually happened, then her defense that she is not judging and has no responsibility to do so would be more debatable. But the fact that she’s presenting lies as fact on an issue as vital as these war crimes, all while patting herself on the back for her “journalistic approach” to the topic, makes the behavior indefensible, even reprehensible. Is it really possible to say: this is a great film despite the fact that it glorifies torture using patent falsehoods?

    Unfortunately, yes, it probably is possible to say this. Just ask Richard III. But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting. Adam Serwer runs down the actual truth here.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 10, 2012, 12:29 pm
  5. If you want a Wurlitzer of your very own you’ll just have to build it yourself, instrument by instrument. You won’t be truly free without it:

    Think Progress
    Serious Ethical Questions Arising From Journalist’s Participation In Koch Event

    by Josh Israel Posted on January 23, 2015 at 9:48 am
    Updated: January 23, 2015 at 11:17 am

    ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl will moderate a forum featuring three prominent GOP Senators on Sunday at an event hosted by a conservative political organization that has been called “the Koch Brothers’ secret bankWhile the event will be closed to media and the public — though streamed online — ThinkProgress has learned that ABC News will be paying for Karl’s travel and lodging for the Palm Springs, CA event.

    Politico reported on Thursday that Karl will ask questions of Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) at the “American Recovery Policy Forum,” hosted by the Kochs’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. An ABC tweet boasted that the panel would feature “three of the most talked-about GOP 2016 hopefuls.”

    But some journalism ethics experts told ThinkProgress that this might cross the line from neutral reporting to aiding a political organization, as Karl’s presence lends a measure of credibility to billionaire oil magnates David and Charles Koch and their anti-government political network.

    Marc Cooper, director of Annenberg Digital News and an associate professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism, said that Karl’s involvement amounts to “an in-kind contribution to a partisan group that is clearly aimed at positioning for the 2016 race,” noting, “The public has no input or access and no public service is being performed. Karl has no business being there.”

    Todd Gitlin, who chairs the Ph.D program in communications at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, agreed, arguing that it is inappropriate for a news reporter to “promote a sectarian political show,” particularly one that is sponsored by climate change-deniers like the Kochs.

    Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, took a more nuanced position. “It appears that Karl has negotiated an arrangement that should allow him to act reasonably independently. He’s not being paid, he’s given free rein on the questions he can ask, and ABC news doesn’t get any more access than any other media,” she said, therefore she does not consider Karl’s participation or ABC’s financial involvement a contribution to the Kochs’ group. But, even she had qualms about Karl’s participation: “I do think it is problematic when working journalists ‘moderate’ gatherings of political groups, industry groups, etc. — especially when those groups or topics relate to the beats they cover.” She added that she sees “a huge difference between doing this kind of partisan event as opposed to, for example, moderating a gathering of the League of Women Voters,” and that when journalists participate in “closed” events, it can undermine the fight for access and the public’s right to know.

    The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states that journalists should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” and “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

    This is not the first time Karl’s journalistic biases and ethics have been under scrutiny. In 2011, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting noted that Karl was an alum of a media training program aimed at promoting conservative media on college campuses (it highlights Karl as a prominent alum, along with conservative stalwarts Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Maggie Gallagher, and Laura Ingraham). The group highlighted numerous cases in which he’d made comments that appeared to favor a right-wing position, including praise for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) controversial budget plans.

    In 2013, Karl had to apologize for an incorrect report in which he mischaracterized White House emails related to the 2012 attacks at U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya and falsely suggested ABC News had reviewed them, when he was relying on an anonymous source. Media experts called the botched report “sloppy” and “inaccurate.”

    Maybe someday the Kochs will finally have a media orchestra to conduct. Someday.

    Today is someday.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 24, 2015, 10:09 pm
  6. In celebration of the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the Bush-era mini-scandal over the creation of pre-packaged news reports (generated by the federal government and peddled to news agencies to push the administration’s line on key issues), let’s take a walk down memory lane:

    The New York Times
    Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News

    Published: March 13, 2005

    It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets.

    “Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.,” a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of “another success” in the Bush administration’s “drive to strengthen aviation security”; the reporter called it “one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history.” A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration’s determination to open markets for American farmers.

    To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The “reporter” covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department’s office of communications.

    Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.

    This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration’s efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

    Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the “reporters” are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government’s news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

    Some reports were produced to support the administration’s most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration’s efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature “interviews” with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

    Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation’s largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

    Inspired? If not, read it again. It’s clearly an inspirational story:

    Gov. Mike Pence’s state-run news outlet will compete with media
    Tom LoBianco, 6:49 a.m. EST January 27, 2015

    Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

    Pence is planning in late February to launch “Just IN,” a website and news outlet that will feature stories and news releases written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.

    “At times, Just IN will break news — publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion,” according to a question-and-answer sheet distributed last week to communications directors for state agencies.

    The Pence news outlet will take stories written by state communications directors and publish them on its website. Stories will “range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles.”

    The endeavor will come at some taxpayer cost, but precisely how much is unclear. The news service has two dedicated employees, whose combined salary is nearly $100,000, according to a search of state employee salary data.

    A Pence spokeswoman on Monday downplayed the move, describing it as similar to the state’s current online calendar of news releases, but with a new design. She declined to immediately answer other questions but said the administration would release more details soon.

    The news agency is being overseen by a governance board of communications directors and an editorial board of McCleery and the governor’s communications staff.

    One target audience for the governor’s stories would be smaller newspapers that have only a few staffers. But not everyone thinks the approach best serves the public interest.

    The starting of Pence’s news outlet comes as he considers a run for the White House. He has also gained national attention for his efforts to win an expansion of Medicaid using a state-run alternative. He is expected to deliver news on the proposed health care expansion Tuesday morning.

    Government-run media exists elsewhere in the U.S. Illinois runs the Illinois Government News Network, which distributes press releases in a more newsy format and the federal government runs Voice of America, even though VOA is broadcast only outside the U.S.

    The Just IN documents show that the new outlet plans to pitch stories to both reporters and directly to the public.

    “We expect reporters to find the site useful, and some features are designed specifically for media professionals. Just IN, however, will function as a news outlet in its own right for thousands of Hoosiers — transparent in functioning as a voice of the State of Indiana’s executive branch,” according to one document.

    A draft story circulated was written by McCleery, with the byline “Managing Editor, Just IN News Service.” It focuses on a Purdue University professor who is designing torches for the state’s bicentennial and has the feel of a typical features story.

    One question that can’t be answered until after the news service begins operation is whether it will be used to provide additional information to the public and media or used to circumvent the press, said Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, which lobbies for newspapers at the Statehouse.

    “It’s not uncommon throughout history for governments to do what they can to control the message,” Key said. “Is that done in a benign way because they’re trying to get more info out to the public, or is it done with hidden motivations in making sure their message is seen in the best light possible?”

    Well that was a fun peak into the future of journalism in Indiana: Big exclusive (and presumably positive) stories to be broken by a small outlets:

    “At times, Just IN will break news — publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion,” according to a question-and-answer sheet distributed last week to communications directors for state agencies.

    One target audience for the governor’s stories would be smaller newspapers that have only a few staffers. But not everyone thinks the approach best serves the public interest.”

    So will Indiana new government news service include an investigative journalism division? It seems unlikely.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 27, 2015, 9:11 am
  7. News about manipulation of the news is nothing new, but also one of most newsworthy categories of news around, whether its current manipulation or previously unknown past manipulation. And it’s basically never good news, except for that fact that the manipulation was exposed. So here’s some good news: Some extremely bad old news reporting by the Associated Press was just discovered by a German researcher. How bad with this news reporting? How about “entering into an agreement with Hitler to embed SS propaganda officers into your workforce and agree to never publish news that might weaken the Reich”-levels of badness. So, as far as news about news manipulation news, this one is particularly newsworthy:

    The Guardian

    Revealed: how Associated Press cooperated with the Nazis

    German historian shows how news agency retained access in 1930s by promising not to undermine strength of Hitler regime

    Philip Oltermann in Berlin

    Wednesday 30 March 2016 07.18 EDT

    The Associated Press news agency entered a formal cooperation with the Hitler regime in the 1930s, supplying American newspapers with material directly produced and selected by the Nazi propaganda ministry, archive material unearthed by a German historian has revealed.

    When the Nazi party seized power in Germany in 1933, one of its first objectives was to bring into line not just the national press, but international media too. The Guardian was banned within a year, and by 1935 even bigger British-American agencies such as Keystone and Wide World Photos were forced to close their bureaus after coming under attack for employing Jewish journalists.

    Associated Press, which has described itself as the “marine corps of journalism” (“always the first in and the last out”) was the only western news agency able to stay open in Hitler’s Germany, continuing to operate until the US entered the war in 1941. It thus found itself in the presumably profitable situation of being the prime channel for news reports and pictures out of the totalitarian state.

    In an article published in academic journal Studies in Contemporary History , historian Harriet Scharnberg shows that AP was only able to retain its access by entering into a mutually beneficial two-way cooperation with the Nazi regime.

    The New York-based agency ceded control of its output by signing up to the so-called Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), promising not to publish any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home”.

    This law required AP to hire reporters who also worked for the Nazi party’s propaganda division. One of the four photographers employed by the Associated Press in the 1930s, Franz Roth, was a member of the SS paramilitary unit’s propaganda division, whose photographs were personally chosen by Hitler. AP has removed Roth’s pictures from its website since Scharnberg published her findings, though thumbnails remain viewable due to “software issues”.

    AP also allowed the Nazi regime to use its photo archives for its virulently antisemitic propaganda literature. Publications illustrated with AP photographs include the bestselling SS brochure “Der Untermensch” (“The Sub-Human”) and the booklet “The Jews in the USA”, which aimed to demonstrate the decadence of Jewish Americans with a picture of New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia eating from a buffet with his hands.

    Coming just before Associated Press’s 170th anniversary in May, the newly discovered information raises not just difficult questions about the role AP played in allowing Nazi Germany to conceal its true face during Hitler’s first years in power, but also about the agency’s relationship with contemporary totalitarian regimes.

    While the AP deal enabled the west to peek into a repressive society that may otherwise have been entirely hidden from view – for which Berlin correspondent Louis P Lochner won a Pulitzer in 1939 – the arrangement also enabled the Nazis to cover up some of its crimes. Scharnberg, a historian at Halle’s Martin Luther University, argued that AP’s cooperation with the Hitler regime allowed the Nazis to “portray a war of extermination as a conventional war”.

    In June 1941, Nazi troops invaded the town of Lviv in western Ukraine. Upon discovering evidence of mass killings carried out by Soviet troops, German occupying forces had organised “revenge” pogroms against the city’s Jewish population.

    Franz Roth’s photographs of the dead bodies inside Lviv prisons were selected upon Hitler’s personal orders and distributed to the American press via AP.

    “Instead of printing pictures of the days-long Lviv pogroms with its thousands of Jewish victims, the American press was only supplied with photographs showing the victims of the Soviet police and ‘brute’ Red Army war criminals,” Scharnberg told the Guardian.

    “To that extent it is fair to say that these pictures played their part in disguising the true character of the war led by the Germans,” said the historian. “Which events were made visible and which remained invisible in AP’s supply of pictures followed German interests and the German narrative of the war.”

    Approached with these allegations, AP said in a statement that Scharnberg’s report “describes both individuals and their activities before and during the war that were unknown to AP”, and that it is currently reviewing documents in and beyond its archives to “further our understanding of the period”.

    An AP spokesperson told the Guardian: “As we continue to research this matter, AP rejects any notion that it deliberately ‘collaborated’ with the Nazi regime. An accurate characterisation is that the AP and other foreign news organisations were subjected to intense pressure from the Nazi regime from the year of Hitler’s coming to power in 1932 until the AP’s expulsion from Germany in 1941. AP management resisted the pressure while working to gather accurate, vital and objective news in a dark and dangerous time.”

    The new findings may only have been of interest to company historians, were it not for the fact that AP’s relationship with totalitarian regimes has once again come under scrutiny. Since January 2012, when AP became the first western news agency to open a bureau in North Korea, questions have repeatedly been raised about the neutrality of its Pyongyang bureau’s output.

    In 2014, Washington-based website NK News alleged that top executives at AP had in 2011 “agreed to distribute state-produced North Korean propaganda through the AP name” in order to gain access to the highly profitable market of distributing picture material out of the totalitarian state. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea comes second from bottom in the current World Press Freedom Index.

    A leaked draft agreement showed that AP was apparently willing to let the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) handpick one text and one photo journalist from its agitation and propaganda unit to work in its bureau. AP told the Guardian that “it would be presumptuous to assume ‘the draft’ has any significance”, but declined to disclose further information on the final agreement.

    Nate Thayer, a former AP correspondent in Cambodia who published the leaked draft agreement, told the Guardian: “It looks like AP have learned very little from their own history. To claim, as the agency does, that North Korea does not control their output, is ludicrous. There is naturally an argument that any access to secretive states is important. But at the end of the day it matters whether you tell your readers that what you are reporting is based on independent and neutral sources”.

    “The New York-based agency ceded control of its output by signing up to the so-called Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), promising not to publish any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home”.”
    That’s definitely some bad news. Good to know, but wow is that bad.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2016, 3:19 pm
  8. @Pterrafractyl–

    Great find! Interesting to contemplate against the background of “Serpent’s Walk.”

    Bear in mind the the Lviv (Lvov) pogrom was conducted by the Einsatzgruppe Nachtigall (Nachtigall Battalion) led by Roman Shukhevych, named as a Hero of Ukraine by Viktor Yuschenko.

    A street in the Lvov district was named in honor of the Nachtigall Battalion.

    Shukhevych’s son Yuri is a key Maidan leader and had much to do with the formation of Pravy Sektor.

    Writing what I just wrote would be a crime in Ukraine, pursuant to their passage of a law last year.

    Also: the devastating article you uncovered is about the Associated Press.

    The United Press International (the other formerly credible U.S. wire service) was bought by the Unification Church some time ago.

    “Newsweek” is now owned by a Japanese who has a background in the Unification Church.

    Looks like we have a North Korean totalitarian collaborationist news wire service in the AP and a South Korean totalitarian collaborationist wire service in UPI.

    As you might say “Yikes.”

    Keep up the Marvelous Work!


    Posted by Dave Emory | March 30, 2016, 4:09 pm

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