Operation Mockingbird: CIA Media Manipulation

Thoughts

Operation Mockingbird was a secret campaign by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to influence media. Begun in the 1950’s, it was initially organized by Cord Meyer and Allen W. Dulles, and was later led by Frank Wisner after Dulles became the head of the CIA. The organization recruited leading American journalists into a network to help present the CIA’s views, and funded some student and cultural organizations, and magazines as fronts. As it developed, it also worked to influence foreign media and political campaigns, in addition to activities by other operating units of the CIA.

In addition to earlier exposes of CIA activities in foreign affairs, in 1966 Ramparts magazine published an article revealing that the National Student Association was funded by the CIA. The United States Congress investigated the allegations and published a report in 1976. Other accounts were also published. The media operation was first called Mockingbird in Deborah Davis’s 1979 book, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and her Washington Post Empire.

In August 1952, the Office of Policy Coordination which dealt with covert action such as paramilitary or psychological influence operations, and the Office of Special Operations which dealt with espionage and counter-espionage, were merged under the Deputy Director for Plans (DDP), Allen W. Dulles. When Dulles became head of the CIA in 1953, Frank Wisner became head of this new organization and Richard Helms became his chief of operations. Mockingbird became the responsibility of the DDP.

First exposure
In 1964, Random House published Invisible Government by David Wise and Thomas Ross. The book exposed the role of the CIA in foreign policy. This included CIA coups in Guatemala (Operation PB-SUCCESS) and Iran (Operation Ajax) and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It also revealed the CIA’s attempts to overthrow President Sukarno in Indonesia and the covert operations taking place in Laos and Vietnam. The CIA considered buying up the entire printing of Invisible Government but this idea was rejected when Random House pointed out that if this happened they would have to print a second edition.


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