The CIA infiltrates top US news organizations by recruiting hundreds of assets at CBS, ABC, NBC, Time Magazine, Associated Press, Reuters and the Washington Post.

The CIA set up newspapers, magazines, newswires, and published thousands of books worldwide.

CIA-funded Animal Farm animated film (1954)
CIA-funded Animal Farm animated film (1954)

Mockingbird recruits over 400 journalists from news organizations including ABC, CBS, NBC, Reuters, Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, Time and Life Magazines.

In addition to the obvious benefits of containing information, spreading propaganda and disinformation, the op financed the production of films including the animated version of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The CIA used its media assets for intelligence gathering, as go-betweens with foreign agents, and for journalistic cover.

“”The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”

CIA Director George Bush constantly blocked Church Committee member William Bader from obtaining necessary information on Operation Mockingbird or any of the CIA’s ties to US domestic media organization. The Church Committee eventually published a whitewashed version of Mockingbird.

“In 1948, Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects (OSP). Soon afterwards OSP was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the covert action branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated 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.”

Later that year Wisner established Mockingbird, a program to influence foreign media. Wisner recruited Philip Graham from The Washington Post to run the project within the industry.

According to Deborah Davis in Katharine the Great; “By the early 1950s, Wisner ‘owned’ respected members of The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles.” Wisner called this propaganda network the “Mighty Wurlitzer”.”


Sources and further information:

Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities. – B. Covert Relationships With the United States Media chaired by Senator Frank Church (See p.191-200)

The Cia and the Media
Carl Bernstein, Rolling Stone – October 20, 1977

5 documents containing the term “Mockingbird” from the Black Vault
CIA Records on Operation Mockingbird

The Family Jewels
Informal name for a report was commissioned by CIA Director James R. Schlesinger. In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the director asked all the heads of division to submit reports on any iffy activities. (Mockingbird on p.21)

See the National Security Archive for a more complete background.

Also available at here. (MORI ID 1451843)

Interview with Senator Frank Church and clips from hearings.
Running Time: 3 min 12 seconds