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According to an unsubstantiated article by the Washington Post, anonymous CIA officials have confirmed that the Russian government hacked the United States election to favor Donald Trump. Though it’s entirely possible the Russian government attempted to influence the election, the Post has been widely criticized — for the second time in a month — for its failure to follow basic journalistic practices.
Jeff Bezos recently secured a $600 million contract from the CIA. That’s at least twice what Bezos paid for the Post this year. Bezos recently disclosed that the company’s Web-services business is building a ‘private cloud’ for the CIA to use for its data needs.
The Post often does reporting on CIA activities. The coverage should include full disclosure that the owner of the Washington Post is also the main owner of Amazon — and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.
If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation—say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government—the Post itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the Post to take a dose of its own medicine.
In 1977, Carl Bernstein, a former Post journalist, wrote about the CIA’s efforts to infiltrate the news media, often with the assistance of top management at the papers. In total, Bernstein reported, over 400 journalists were involved.
Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. 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…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.
Dulles kept in close touch with the men who ran the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the nation’s leading weekly magazines.
He could pick up the phone and edit a breaking story, make sure an irritating foreign correspondent was yanked from the field, or hire the services of men such as Time’s Berlin bureau chief and Newsweek’s man in Tokyo.
It was second nature for Dulles to plant stories in the press. American newsrooms were dominated by veterans of the government’s wartime propaganda branch, the Office of War Information.
The American news media helped create public support for a coup covertly backed by the CIA (interestingly, the Times also recently came out with an anonymously-sourced article claiming the CIA has determined Russia hacked the election). At the time, Frank Wisner, chair of the CIA’s Directorate of Plans — and whom Bernstein named as a key operator in the CIA’s relationship with news outlets — directly praised the Post’s piece.
In the 1990s, then-CIA Director Bill Casey appointed a man named Max Hugel as chief of the clandestine service, a small department within the CIA. But some agents disagreed with the appointment. Weiner explained:
They dug up dirt on him, fed it to the Washington Post, and forced him out in less than two months.
Whether or not the Post knew it was being used as a tool of intrigue by agents within the CIA is of little consequence. At best, they acted as “useful idiots” for schemers within the agency; at best, they knowingly aided the internal machinations of a spy agency.
The CIA also used its power in the media to silence a story published in the 1990s regarding the agency’s potential involvement in drug trafficking and the emergence of crack coc aine in black communities. Journalist Gary Webb had written an explosive investigative piece linking the agency to Contra fighters and the domestic drug market.
“The agency supplied the press, ‘as well as former Agency officials, who were themselves representing the Agency in interviews with the media,’ with ‘these more balanced stories,’ Dujmovic wrote.
The Washington Post proved particularly useful. ‘Because of the Post’s national reputation, its articles especially were picked up by other papers, helping to create what the Associated Press called a “firestorm of reaction” against the San Jose Mercury News.’
Over the month that followed, critical media coverage of the series (‘balanced reporting’) far outnumbered supportive stories, a trend the CIA credited to the Post, The New York Times, ‘and especially the Los Angeles Times.’
Coincidentally, during Allen Dulles’s last year as the CIA’s director, he helped the Washington Post and the New York Times promote the “idea” that Guatemala’s democratically elected leader had ties to the Soviet Union and needed to be dealt with accordingly.