Readings on intelligence

Academia / CIA

Coleman, Peter. The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe. New York: The Free Press, 1989. 333 pages.
Peter Coleman is a former member of the Australian parliament and editor of the Australian journal “Quadrant,” one of the literary magazines established in the 1950s by the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom. This explains his interest in exposing and apologizing for the “liberal conspiracy” of post-war intellectuals who fed at the trough of the Western spymasters. He inadvertently exposes them because even though the facts were well-established they have never been coherently compiled. But Coleman would rather apologize for them, as most of these “idealistic, courageous, and far- sighted” men did not know that the CIA regarded them as just another front.
From 1950 until the exposure of the CIA’s penetration of domestic foundations in the mid-1960s, the Congress for Cultural Freedom spawned international seminars, regional programs, and about two dozen cultural, literary, and political magazines throughout the Western world (the flagship was England’s “Encounter”). Many leading intellectuals were involved: Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler, Melvin J. Lasky, Irving Kristol, Dwight Macdonald, Daniel Bell, Edward Shils, and Ignazio Silone. After CIA funding ended in 1967 the Ford Foundation tried to take up the slack, but CCF was never quite able to recover from the embarrassment.

Diamond, Sigmund. Compromised Campus: The Collaboration of Universities with the Intelligence Community, 1945-1955. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 371 pages.
Sigmund Diamond is a Columbia professor who received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1953. In 1954 he was offered a position by Harvard dean McGeorge Bundy. But McCarthy was playing to audiences everywhere, and Bundy withdrew the offer after discovering that Diamond would refuse to name names if asked by the FBI or a congressional committee. Now it is almost forty years later. Diamond has the inside scoop after numerous FOIA requests filed with the FBI, access to private collections and archives, and dozens of interviews.
Much of this book deals with the FBI on campus and their use of informants (including Henry Kissinger and William F. Buckley), although it breaks off before the FBI got really nasty in the late 1960s. That still leaves two revealing chapters on Harvard’s Russian Research Center. The first scholars who specialized in international studies were sponsored by the OSS/CIA, with funding laundered by the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations. These scholar-spooks prostituted their prestige to rubber- stamp the Cold War (possibly the biggest waste of precious resources ever devised in human history to respond to a nonexistent threat). They had a lot of fun doing it, and would probably do it again. This book is essential for anyone interested in the CIA-campus connection.

Saunders, Frances Stonor. The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. New York: The New Press, 2000. 509 pages. First published in 1999 by Granta (UK) as Who Paid the Piper?
If you ever had any doubt that “free” Western liberals were hiding as much dirty laundry as the Commies they criticized, then answer this: Why was a book of this caliber so long in coming? Why did it take an independent film producer from London (she is also arts editor at New Statesman) to write the best book on the CIA since The Invisible Government appeared in 1964 — before she was even born? Are U.S. journalists and publishers simply asleep at the wheel of history, or is something more sinister going on? Is U.S. culture rot merely becoming painfully obvious, or are we getting dumbed down by design?
Saunders is a relentless investigator, and she writes with a gifted blend of reserve, irony, and passion. Her book is about how the CIA massively funded cultural activities during the Cold War, including books, journals, magazines, films, international conferences, and even Abstract Expressionism. Although many of the foundations and conduits used by the CIA were exposed in 1967, about 70 percent of the information in this book, by Saunders’ estimate, has never before appeared in print. It took her six years of pursuing interviews, private collections of papers, and foundation records (the CIA ignored her FOIA request). Truly a brilliant achievement.

Simpson, Christopher. Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. 204 pages.
Communication research is a small academic field that evolved within the social sciences, and is reflected today in the fields of print and broadcast journalism, public relations, and advertising. Its early research was sponsored by government funding for psychological warfare, which reached $1 billion annually in the early 1950s. Carnegie and Ford, working closely with the government, were secondary sources of funding. Behind this money was a massive U.S. intelligence bureaucracy that was honing techniques for clandestine warfare around the globe. Soon it became “counterinsurgency” and “special forces,” and now it is called “low-intensity conflict.”
The scholars who cashed in thought they were engaged in “value-free science.” Simpson argues that they actually avoided the consideration of values altogether, and absorbed by default the values of their sponsors. The model for psychological warfare, and all of its research, was one of domination. When the government shifted its focus from anti-Sovietism to Third World manipulation, these scholars failed to notice that their craft was essentially destructive. “The supposed beneficiaries of U.S.-sponsored psychological warfare in a long list of countries are worse off today than ever before.” (page 116)

Simpson, Christopher, ed. Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences During the Cold War. New York: The New Press, 1998. 277 pages.
This is a collection of ten heavily-footnoted essays by scholars. Most of them examine the role of American universities and government funding during the Cold War. Classic examples of this included CIA-funded centers at MIT, Harvard, and Columbia. There was also a heavy CIA presence, usually through the Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller foundations, in the development of international studies and area studies on other campuses. Research in such topics is often hampered because documents are still classified, so this book can be considered the tip of the iceberg.
Ellen Herman contributes an excellent chapter on Project Camelot, which was the Pentagon’s ambitious 1963 plan to research Latin American populations, in order to develop a database for waging psychological warfare. Editor Christopher Simpson does the introduction, and has also treated his specialty, the influence of psywar spooks in the development of social science and communications studies, in his book “Science of Coercion.” Finally, Lawrence Soley writes about the invasion of the big corporations. Since Vietnam, these have replaced the Pentagon and CIA on campus, and have compromised many universities just as thoroughly. Soley also treats this better in his own book, “Leasing the Ivory Tower.”

Winks, Robin W. Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961. New York: William Morrow, 1987. 607 pages.
Robin Winks is a history professor at Yale, a university which has thoroughly earned its reputation as the CIA’s alma mater. That this should be a source of pride for Winks is par for the course. One huge chapter (117 pages) is on James Angleton; one long endnote (pp. 495-7) brags about all the historians in academia who were in OSS, and proceeds to list 50 along with their current positions. Despite (or perhaps because of) all this expertise, Winks still gets things wrong: He agrees with his friends that “the CIA played no significant role in the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973” (p. 446).
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the major U.S. intelligence agency during WW2. Its research branch consisted largely of conscientious humanities and social science liberals from Harvard and Yale. Their sudden access to international secrets, when mixed with inbred academic elitism, proved quite compelling. By war’s end, these opinion-makers had become converts to OSS director William Donovan’s vision of a postwar agency. Despite Truman’s reluctance, Donovan’s old-boy network was formalized into the CIA; the pipe-smoking liberal of the thirties became the cold warrior of the fifties. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the academic community would begin to recover its social conscience.

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