A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.
Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.
“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”
Dilanian’s emails were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with reporters. They include email exchanges with reporters for the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. In addition to Dilanian’s deferential relationship with the CIA’s press handlers, the documents show that the agency regularly invites journalists to its McLean, Va., headquarters for briefings and other events. Reporters who have addressed the CIA include the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, the former ombudsmen for the New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post, and Fox News’ Brett Baier, Juan Williams, and Catherine Herridge.
Dilanian left the Times to join the AP last May, and the emails released by the CIA only cover a few months of his tenure at the Times. They show that in June 2012, shortly after 26 members of congress wrote a letter to President Obama saying they were “deeply concerned” about the drone program, Dilanian approached the agency about story that he pitched as “a good opportunity” for the government.
The letter from lawmakers, which was sent in the wake of a flurry of drone strikes that had reportedly killed dozens of civilians, suggested there was no meaningful congressional oversight of the program. But Dilanian wrote that he had been “told differently by people I trust.” He added:
Not only would such a story be reassuring to the public, I would think, but it would also be an opportunity to explore the misinformation about strikes that sometimes comes out of local media reports. It’s one thing for you to say three killed instead of 15, and it’s another for congressional aides from both parties to back you up. Part of what the story will do, if you could help me bring it to fruition, is to quote congressional officials saying that great care is taken to avoid collateral damage and that the reports of widespread civilian casualties are simply wrong.
Of course, journalists routinely curry favor with government sources (and others) by falsely suggesting that they intend to amplify the official point of view. But the emails show that Dilanian really meant it.
In 1948, the year after its founding, the CIA created a top-secret program — Operation Mockingbird — to wield influence over the American media. From its inception, this clandestine project was yet another of the CIA’s outlaw enterprises.
The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act had illegalized the use of CIA funding to broadcast propaganda to Americans. When a congressional investigation in the mid-1970s first revealed Operation Mockingbird’s existence, shocked Americans learned that the agency’s key CIA collaborators included Washington Post owner Philip Graham; CBS owner William Paley; Time-Life publisher Henry Luce; top editors at the New York Times, and Joseph Alsop, whose influential column appeared in more than 300 newspapers.
CIA Director Allen Dulles oversaw Mockingbird’s illegal network until RFK Jr.’s uncle, President John Kennedy, fired him at the end of 1961. By then, Mockingbird was employing “some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees… engaged in propaganda efforts.”
The agency commissioned its journalists to write articles promoting the expansion of the military-industrial complex and the national security state, and rewarded them with classified information to spice up their “scoops.”
The CIA also established formal journalism training for its spies, embedding them in key journals and nurturing their careers. The agency promoted propaganda narratives, including portraying murdered Salvadoran farmers as Communists under Soviet control, and discouraged newspapers from delving into CIA atrocities such as the agency’s mass murders of tens of thousands of Vietnamese peasants, Buddhist leaders and intellectuals (Operation Phoenix); its orchestration of the butchering of a million Indonesian civilians; its political assassination, torture training and regime-change projects across Latin America (Operation Condor), Africa, and Asia; its crack dealing and drug smuggling operations; and its role in the overthrow of the Democratic governments in Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere.
CIA-affiliated journalists were instrumental in suppressing questions about the CIA’s role in the Kennedy assassination — even as the agency’s former chief, Allen Dulles (who remarked with satisfaction of JFK’s murder: “That little Kennedy … He thought he was a god”), crafted and defended the official “lone shooter” narrative from his chair running the Warren Commission.
In November 1963, Life Magazine’s Executive Editor C.D. Jackson — a longtime CIA asset — purchased the original Zapruder film, published select frames upholding the lone-gunman theory, then locked the original in a vault to preserve it from public view.
Jackson also negotiated exclusive rights to Marina Oswald’s story and enlisted a CIA ghostwriter to fortify the official Warren Commission orthodoxy.Urgent: 3 Ways to Help Stop Biden’s Vaccine Mandates
The CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” to discredit those who questioned the Warren Report. A Jan. 4, 1967, CIA document released under the Freedom of Information Act describes the agency’s strategizing how to combat critics of the Warren Report.
The new owner of Politico, a mainstream media news outlet, has a lengthy track record of collusion with the Central Intelligence Agency to print stories considered favorable to the agency’s policy preferences.
Axel Springer SE is a German media conglomerate set to acquire Politico for a billion dollars by the end of October. The company, founded by and named after a German journalist who started his career writing for an antisemitic newspaper affiliated with the Nazi Party, accepted millions of dollars during the Cold War era to print editorial content at the behest of the CIA. Journalist Murray Waas has cited sources within the intelligence community who indicate Springer had accepted more than seven million dollars in the 1950’s to print CIA propaganda. Axel Springer’s relationship with the American CIA seems to have continued for several decades, with the corporation going so far as to train Afghan mujahideen armed and equipped by the CIA to film their encounters with Soviet forces.
An editor of Axel Springer’s flagship magazine Bild- fired this week for sexual misconduct with subordinate employees of the publication in the workplace- had accused journalist Glenn Greenwald and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden of enabling terrorism and cooperation with Al Qaeda.
“AStudent Group Concedes It Took Funds from C.I.A.”
That was the front page headline of the Feb. 14, 1967, edition of the New York Times. The article was one in a slew of articles published at the time in relation to something called Operation Mockingbird.
What was Operation Mockingbird?
It was an alleged large-scale project undertaken by the CIA beginning in the 1950s in which they recruited American journalists into a propaganda network. The recruited journalists were put on a payroll by the CIA and instructed to write fake stories that promoted the views of the intelligence agency. Student cultural organizations and magazines were allegedly funded as fronts for this operation.
Operation Mockingbird expanded later on in order to influence foreign media as well.
Frank Wisner, the director of the espionage and counter-intelligence branch, spearheaded the organization and was told to concentrate on “propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.”
Journalists were reportedly blackmailed and threatened into this network.