[SEE: Launching the Private Network–(for Soliciting Funds and Running Guns Past Congress) ;
The Subtle Seeds of the Terror War (1986)]
A CIA propaganda apparatus aimed at the American people
By Carla Binion
October 20, 2001 — The following events involving CIA propaganda aimed at the
American people occurred years ago. However, some of the events’ same participants
and their ideological heirs are around today wielding their influence on Congress, the
president and the public. One participant, Oliver North, now hosts a war stories
program on Fox network. This is a little slice of history worth remembering.
Journalist Robert Parry shows why remembering the past is important in “Lost History,”
(The Media Consortium, 1999.) Parry is an award-winning investigative reporter who has
worked at the Associated Press, Newsweek and for PBS’s “Frontline.” He broke a number
of stories on Iran-Contra and exposed Oliver North’s covert White House intelligence
Parry points out that certain unsavory chapters of American history have been lost to
the public memory. Some unpleasant historical facts have been glossed over or
whitewashed for innocuous reasons. However, the history Parry covers in his
above-referenced book has not been lost through benign neglect but, in the author’s
words, because of “a calculated abuse of information in the cause of raw power.”
Parry says that in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration debated the need for a
propaganda apparatus in order to control public opinion. “Summarizing this debate,”
writes Parry, “Kate Semerad, an external-relations official at the Agency for
International Development, expressed something like envy for the power of totalitarian
states to determine what citizens see and hear.”
In a memo circulated in the early 80s, Semerad wrote, “The totalitarian states whose
intelligence and propaganda apparatus we face have no internal problem in denying
their citizens access to information or even flagrantly lying to them. We have
neither the apparatus nor the legal mechanism which would allow the success of an
effort to emulate that of Moscow, Habana [sic] and Managua.”
Parry adds the Semerad memo said a U. S. propaganda apparatus was necessary. “We can
and must go over the heads of our Marxist opponents directly to the American people,”
Semerad wrote. She also said, “Our targets would be: within the United States, the
Congress, specifically the Foreign Affairs Committees and their staffs, … the general
public [and] the media.”
According to Parry, “the fledgling [propaganda] operation took the initial name of
‘Project Truth.’ Later…Reagan gave the concept the name ‘Project Democracy’ and its
ostensible focus was international.” Internal Reagan administration records show that
a Project Democracy draft proposal detailed plans to pay for the operation by
‘harnessing financial resources from a ‘coalition of wealthy individuals’; U. S.
defense contractors and private foundations.”
The Project Truth/Project Democracy group recruited CIA propaganda operations expert
Walter Raymond, Jr. President Reagan chose Raymond to manage both the domestic and
foreign “public diplomacy” campaigns aimed at the American public, the media and
Congress. Raymond was assigned to the National Security Council staff in 1982.
Presidential executive orders prohibited the CIA from influencing U. S. politics and
policies, according to Parry, as a “safeguard established to prevent the spy agency
from corrupting U. S. democratic institutions and creating a secret shadow
government.” Parry also writes that federal law barred the Executive Branch from
“spending money to lobby Congress, except for the traditional practices of giving
testimony, making speeches and talking one-on-one with members.”
Walter Raymond later told an Iran-Contra committee he resigned from the CIA in April
1983 so “there would be no question of any contamination of this.” However, Parry
says that Raymond’s colleagues “remarked that he ran domestic public diplomacy much
the same way he would have organized a CIA propaganda operation against a target
Raymond coordinated the “public diplomacy” efforts of the State Department, the
Defense Department, the CIA, the NSC staff, the United States Information Agency and
the Agency for International Development. Parry writes that a May 5, 1983 “public
diplomacy strategy paper” discussed ways to “correct” public opinion of those opposing
the Reagan administration’s support for the covert war in Nicaragua.
The strategy paper said that in order to alter public opinion, “diplomacy” efforts
should be persistently directed toward Congress and the news media. The paper said,
“Our public diplomacy effort must be directed to: obtaining congressional support for
economic and security assistance [in El Salvador and] to foster a climate of editorial
and public opinion that will encourage congressional support of administration policy.”
In addition, the strategy paper said “opinion leaders in the mass media” should be
used to convey the Reagan administration’s view to the American people. Edgar
Chamorro, a Jesuit-trained professor, was chosen by the CIA to help elevate the
contras’ public image. His job was to sell American journalists on the idea that the
contras were “no longer a bunch of murdering terrorists,” according to Parry.
However, Chamorro became disillusioned over being ordered to tell so many lies and
“felt compromised when instructed to claim contra credit for military actions
conducted by the CIA,” says Parry. Chamorro was also disheartened by the contras’
extensive, gratuitous brutality, including their kidnapping and killing of an elderly
Nicaraguan couple he knew personally.
During the early 80s, a number of journalists also reported contra wrongdoing,
including violence against innocent civilians. For example, correspondent Raymond
Bonner in his series of reports for the New York Times, revealed that the U.
S.-supported contras were involved in drug dealing and human rights abuses.
Walter Raymond wrote in a memo to his subordinates that it was important for the
Reagan “perception management” team to work at “gluing black hats on the Sandinistas
and white hats on the [Contras].” The Sandinistas were essentially labeled evildoers,
while the contras were glamorized as “freedom fighters.”
A National Security Council official told Parry that the Reagan team’s propaganda
campaign was (in Parry’s words) “modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a
political goal is more important than the truth.” The official said, “They were
trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion — using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade
craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop.”
Parry writes that another administration official told the Miami Herald’s Alfonso
Chardy, “If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out
a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the
population in denied or enemy territory.”
In order to promote the idea that there was a groundswell of public anti-Sandinsta
sentiment (and therefore influence Congress to go along with Reagan’s policies), the
CIA secretly funneled money to human rights and church groups to encourage them to
promote the Reagan administration’s view of the Sandinistas, according to Parry.
He points out that in “Packaging the Contras: A Case of CIA Disinformation,” Edgar
Chamorro wrote that the CIA funneled money to Nicaraguan exile Humberto Belli to help
publish Belli’s “Nicaragua: Christians Under Fire,” a book attacking the Sandinistas.
Chamorro added, “of course the CIA told us to say that the money for the book…was from
private individuals who wanted to remain anonymous.”
According to Parry, in order to help control American dissenters, Oliver North urged
rightwing security consultant Philip Mabry and others to ask the FBI to open
investigations on contra opponents. Mabry informed the Boston Globe that North told
him that “if the FBI received letters from five or six unrelated sources all
requesting an investigation of the same groups, that would give the Bureau a mandate
to go ahead and investigate.” (The Boston Globe, February 29, 1988.)
The FBI had already investigated the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El
Salvador [CISPES] starting in 1981. Documents released under the Freedom of
Information Act showed that 52 FBI field offices investigated CISPES and 138 related
groups over a four-year period. Parry writes that the documents revealed that
“enthusiastic FBI agents saw their job as silencing dissent, not enforcing the law.”
He quotes one November 10, 1983 memo from the FBI’s New Orleans office, saying, “It is
imperative at this time to formulate some plan of attack against CISPES and
specifically against individuals who defiantly display their contempt for the U. S.
government by making speeches and propagandizing their cause.”
Parry also says the Philadelphia FBI office, on March 6, 1984, cited 12 organizations
that had protested U. S. intervention in Central America, including the Friends Peace
Committee and a hospital workers union. A December 14, 1984 FBI report from
Cincinnati, Ohio targeted individuals and groups “involved in activities contrary to
the foreign policy of the United States in Central America.”
(The new Office of Homeland Security recently created by George W. Bush, will have the
authority to suspend a number of citizens’ rights. This office has potential for
abuse of power far more serious than the above-referenced FBI abuses.)
“While the FBI harassed these peace groups,” writes Parry, “the Reagan administration
relied on the most visible arm of the Casey-Raymond ‘perception management’ network to
pummel out-of-step journalists.” This public arm was a new office called the Office
of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.
This office was opened at the State Department, and the Reagan administration chose
Otto Reich, a former Miami city official, to run the operation. Part of Reich’s job
was to pump the Reagan team’s Central American propaganda “through as many outlets as
possible,” says Parry.
Once, when Reagan became angry at CBS News for its coverage of his Central American
policies, Reich visited the CBS News Washington office. Parry says Secretary of State
George Schultz later sent Reagan a memo saying Reich had complained for one hour to
the offending correspondent, and for two more hours to his Washington bureau chief “to
point out the flaws in the information.”
Schultz also told Reagan that this was only one example of “what the Office of Public
Diplomacy has been doing to improve the quality of information the American people are
receiving….It has been repeated dozens of times over the past months.”
Parry writes that according to Paul Allen of National Public Radio [NPR], Otto Reich
“went ballistic,” demanding meetings with NPR’s executives and reporters after NPR did
a story about a contra massacre of farm workers. Allen said the segment was “a long
piece and very, very moving….There was no particular effort to apologize for the
contras. This was just a story about a bunch of people who got caught up in the war
and were shot up.”
Allen says Reich and one of his aides, Jonathan Miller, “made the point that our
broadcasts were being measured….Miller said some ungodly number of minutes were
‘anti-contra.’ We said, ‘how could you decide what was anti-contra?’ But the point
was, ‘we’re monitoring you — holding a stop watch on you.’”
Parry says that in September 1984 he received a Spanish-language manual called
“Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare.” Most of the text was routine
instruction on the use of propaganda, but, according to Parry, some of the advice
“veered off into violent techniques, apparently drawn from longstanding U. S.
The CIA had prepared the instruction manual for the contras. Parry reported to the AP
wires that, “The CIA produced a psychological warfare manual for Nicaraguan rebels
that instructs them to hire professional criminals for ‘selective jobs’ and says some
government officials can be ‘neutralized’ with the ‘selective use of violence,’
intelligence sources say.”
Parry’s AP report continued, “The 90-page manual, written in Spanish, also urges the
rebels to create a ‘martyr’ by arranging a violent demonstration that leads to the
death of one of their supporters, and it tells how to coerce Nicaraguans into carrying
out assignments against their will.” [AP, October 14, 1984.]
The murder manual story was later picked up by the New York Times and put on the front
page. Parry says congressional Democrats blasted the CIA “for publishing a booklet
more befitting the traditions of communist Russia than a democracy.”
Days later, Edgar Chamorro affirmed that it was common practice for the contras to
execute Nicaraguan government officials. [AP, October 20, 1984.] Parry says the CIA
was enraged because its “perception management” code had been violated.
According to Parry, in October 1987, while the congressional Iran-contra committee
prepared its final report, he discovered a draft chapter had been written on the CIA’s
role in the Reagan team’s propaganda apparatus. However, certain Republicans fought
to eliminate the story.
The Democrats asked three moderate Republicans — Warren Rudman, William Cohen and
Paul Trible — to sign the majority report. The moderates said they would sign only
if the draft chapter on public diplomacy was excluded, according to Parry.
The eventual compromise allowed some parts of the draft chapter to remain. “But,”
writes Parry, “the full chapter with a detailed explanation of the public diplomacy
operation was left on the editing room floor.”
He adds, “The American people were thus spared the draft chapter’s troubling
conclusion: that a domestic covert propaganda apparatus had existed, run by one of the
CIA’s most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by [CIA director] Bill Casey, to create
and coordinate an inter-agency public diplomacy mechanism [that] did what a covert CIA
operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the
Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration’s policies.”
In the end, Otto Reich’s office at the State Department was shut down. However, one
senior public diplomacy operative told Parry, “they can shut down the public diplomacy
office, but they can’t shut down public diplomacy.”
Remembering this slice of history gives context and perspective to current events. It
should also inspire a healthy amount of skepticism regarding what we’re being told
about the war on terrorism, and an interest in learning all we can from reliable
alternative news sources and not exclusively from politicians or from the
corporate-owned media. If we remember these mistakes from the Iran-contra era, we
might avoid repeating them as we face the era defined by the war on terrorism.
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The dreaming . . . And then we all woke up
By Bryan Zepp Jamieson
October 20, 2001-I knew I was dreaming.
I knew that I only had to open my eyes, and I would find myself in my bedroom. I would
have one ankle wrapped around my wife’s ankle, and there would be an elderly Maine
Coon cat, in the crook of one arm, between me and my wife. Our big black Maine Coon
FOUS, the Carpet Weasel, would be stretched out along the length of my back, forepaws
pressed against the back of my neck. Upon feeling me stir, he would attempt to placate
me back to sleep with a loud purr and gentle kneads. Outside, it would be utterly
silent, the crickets stilled by the frosts of October, no wind to rustle the dying
leaves, the bears foraging less now that berry and grub season were passed. As I moved
along the corridors of what is real and what is not, I heard my wolf yawn, snapping
his jaws shut with a self-satisfied yawlp and a faint booming reverberation of his
vast nasal passages. I was on the mountain, home.
But the knowing in dreams is endlessly malleable, and the knowing of my real, physical
location was as distant, as a realization, as the knowledge that I could jump in my
vehicle and drive to South America if I wanted.
I was in Washington, DC. More specifically, I was in the White House.
With no sense of surprise, I found myself amidst the cast of “The West Wing.” This was
as it should be, this was right, in the dream sense of rightness.
CJ told me there was something I needed to see, and we went along a subterranean
corridor of the White House, and turning a corner, we went into a necropolis, a
granite forest of tombstones and crypts and mausoleums. A sullen night sky yawned,
wetly and blackly above. I understood in the dream way of understanding, that this was
Arlington. Not the green and trim Arlington of white crosses and marines in dress
uniform, but something darker, far more mediaeval, an Arlington of black plague times,
a mossy boneyard where Vincent Price might laugh.
Looking about (I was alone now) I could see that the dark grey of the steles and
mausoleums had red markings on them, and peering closer, I could see that they were
words, in an alphabet I could not read, written on the noncommittal granite in fresh
“How trite,” I thought.
I walked to the far side of the boneyard, and as I did, it changed to the charred
skeleton of a hi- rise district, blasted girders pointing to the sky in a “We’re
number one!” gesture in a world where nobody was counting. Off to one side was the
bleached ivory half-dome of the national capitol, lying in the sand like the skull of
a forgotten warrior.
I continued down the corridor, toward my office. I stopped at the office adjoining
mine and popped my head in to say good morning. The guys were there, and returned my
greetings in sober tones. Washington was destroyed, and the pain and shock and grief
went so deep that none of us could talk about it, and so we pretended to function with
the cheery platitudes of a humdrum Monday morning. Did Arizona win? Was Johnson
pitching? How did he do? Who wants a bagel? Cheery notes in minor keys.
Washington was destroyed, and with a pang, I realized I would never watch “West Wing”
again because there was nothing for the show to be about.
Then I woke up.
I woke up to a world where the size of an enemy is described in microns and the depth
of his hatred in religious beliefs.
I went in to the Monday world of cheery platitudes and heard, after shaking my head
over the demise of the A’s, what is inexplicably known in these parts as “the Charlie
If you know any other human beings, then you’ve certainly heard one of the variations
on it. The variations I first got were that someone, a friend of a friend of a friend
of a brother-in-law who knew a guy who worked at a pizza place in New Jersey and who
had a niece dating a nice Saudi boy, heard about a note the niece got on September 11.
In some cases, she sees the planes flying into the towers, and wonders if her
boyfriend is okay, since the events of that day put all Middle Easterners at risk from
vengeful pseudo-patriots. Or she is immediately suspicious, because the guy was always
so mysterious with his wads of plastique and packets of white powder and leadlined
cases and all.
In any event, the niece (it’s always a niece) goes to the boyfriend’s apartment, and
finds that the place has been cleaned out. Everything is gone, clothes, furniture,
television prayer mat, the works. Everything is gone, in fact, except a note,
addressed to the girl. The note talks in varying degrees of vagueness, about how the
young man is leaving on a jet plane and doesn’t know when he’ll be back again.
Leaving. In other variations, he talks about how he will die this day at the Pentagon
or World Trade Center or the Capitol building.
He finishes up with an admonition that no matter what else she does, she must stay out
of (a list of) major cities on October 31, 2001. In some instances, he tells her to
stay upwind, or 50 miles away, or consider a quick trip to Nepal or some place like
that. Bioweapons will be used, or there are nukes in abandoned warehouses in the
downtown district and no Batman to find them, and on Halloween, all the cities will go
blooie and millions will die.
Is there anything to the story?
Well, we live in times when a lot of scary stuff is going on all at once, and we’re on
the Internet, where rumors and urban legends breed like rats in the dump. In truth, I
would be a lot more surprised if there weren’t stories like this going around.
Keyboards and monitor screens haven’t reduced our ability to huddle around the fire
and enjoy a good, scary story. And the best kind of scary story is the kind where you
walk away, shaking your head and thinking, “It could happen. The story could be true.”
Is the story true? Ask me on November 1. But I’ll give long odds that the story is
totally without foundation, and we’ll all be here to laugh about it on All Saints’ Day.
Of course, I don’t suggest you take that bet. It’s a sucker’s bet. If you win, how are
you going to collect?
We’re all a bit scared, jumpy. If I see a flash from behind on Halloween, the first
thought might not be that the sunlight bounced off the windshield of a passing truck.
I won’t be entirely surprised if old friends in the city don’t call up and remark that
they’ve always wanted to enjoy a peaceful Halloween out of the city, and it’s been
ages since we got together.
I also can’t help but think the envelopes with the childish addressing and lethal
mists are misdirection, intended to distract, to get us focusing on the wrong thing.
It reminds me, once again, that the brave idiot leaders who are blindly smashing the
remains of Afghanistan still don’t know who the enemy actually is, or if there is more
than one group. Or much of anything, for that matter.
I don’t have any faith in our so-called leadership. An illegitimate puppet, held up by
timid neo-fascistic corporate interests, is going to save the world? Ouch.
But I do have faith in We the People. We’ve always had the insulating effects of our
location, and in the past half century, a vast military machine capable of destroying
the world. It’s been quite a while since our capital was threatened, and we’re still
getting used to this novel concept.
But what frightens us also makes us stronger, a uniflex for the emotional muscles. And
we are learning-quickly-that we are not above the world, nor out of it. We have to
stop fooling ourselves now, and realize that we cannot ignore the world, because the
world has no intention of ignoring us.
Perhaps, if we’re very lucky we will learn that we aren’t as bad as the rest of the
world. Rather, we’ll learn the rest of the world is as good as us. It’s a knowledge
we’re going to need, now that we are, once again, a part of the world.
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