Although contemporary media often face critiques for seemingly collaborating with government officials, the CIA once actively tried to control mass media outlets. Near the beginning of the Cold War, Director of the Office of Special Projects Frank Wisner launched a top-secret project to buy influence at major media outlets. He specifically established Mockingbird based on directions from above to craft an organization to engage in sabotage, propaganda, and subversion of hostile states through domestic and foreign media. Wisner would then enlist journalists and news organizations, including current figures like Philip Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. In effect, they would become veritable spies and propagandists. Agents held posts at ABC, NBC, CBS, the Associated Press, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, and other key players in news media.
By the 1950s, the CIA had a vast network of agents at America’s most prominent news organizations, businesses, and universities. It was only in the 1970s that Rolling Stone and The New York Times reported on the overlap between the CIA and prominent news organizations. A Congressional report followed in 1976 that documented the CIA’s reliance upon networks of several hundred foreign individuals around the world for intelligence and influence upon public opinion through propaganda. Although Mockingbird was publicly halted, many believe that the program continues to this day.
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