The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

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The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby Hugh Manatee Wins » Sun May 25, 2008 1:59 am

The CIA and Washington Post - 2001 interview with Deborah Davis

(In 1979 Deborah Davis's book about the owner of the Washington Post and the paper's CIA history was recalled and shredded. Davis had exposed Operation Mockingbird at the the Washington Post plus the intelligence careers of Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward. Eventually, Davis was able to republish her book about owner Katherine Graham called, 'Katherine the Great.'

Originally on six webpages.

the real katharine graham: an interview with deborah davis
by Kenn Thomas ( - July 22, 2001

Editor's Note: Kenn Thomas publishes Steamshovel Press, the conspiracy theory magazine. Four issue subscription: $23; single issue: $6, from POB 23715, St. Louis, MO 63121. An anthology of back issues, Popular Alienation (Illuminet Press, 1995), is also available.

Deborah Davis wrote Katharine the Great, which documented the intelligence agency ties of Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward and reported on Phil Graham "suiciding" just after publically revealing the liaison between JFK and his acid mistress, Mary Pinchot Meyer. The late great Kate sued over the book and had its entire first print run shredded. Katharine Graham is being held up as a role model for women and journalists, but the real such person is Davis, who ultimately had two later editions done by small presses.

Q: Tim Leary suggested that your book was originally censored and pulped because of references to Mary Pinchot Meyer. Do you feel that way and can you tell us a little bit about Mary Meyer?

A: Mary Pinchot Meyer was the sister of Ben Bradlee's second wife, Tony Pinchot. She was a very beautiful, talented artist who was living in Washington in the early '65 and she was the lover, I would say the principal lover, of John Kennedy, who was President of the United States. He was supposedly very much in love with her and wanted to divorce Jackie and marry her.

The Timothy Leary connection is interesting because at that time in the early sixties there was a group of society-type women in Washington who thought that if they could get men in power involved in mind?altering drugs they could see the world in a different way and this would end the Cold War and end all warfare. It was a very ambitious plan and a lot of them got their marijuana and LSD from Timothy Leary, who at that time was a professor of psychology at Harvard and had access to these drugs. At that time were very experimental and they were going around in a lot of the elite circles. It didn't have the same connotation that it has today of the hard stuff, of the cocaine and the heroin. This was all very beautiful and mind-expanding type stuff. So she was involved with Kennedy and they used to supposedly smoke marijuana together in Kennedy's bedroom and I think Leary said that she also gave him LSD, although I couldn't swear to that.

Anyway, she got murdered. She was murdered a year after Kennedy died. Kennedy was killed in November '63 and Mary Meyer was killed in 1964. She was walking her dog in Georgetown through a wooded area and she was stabbed to death. And they never found the killer. Some young black man was put in jail for ten months, held over until his trial and then he was acquitted because there was no evidence. And they've never found the killer but people who have investigated the case say that it had all the earmarks of a professional assassination.

Q: She was, of course, married to Cord Meyer, who was an intelligence agent.

A: She had been. She was divorced from him at the time she was with Kennedy. She had been with Cord Meyer in Europe when they were living. He was involved in a lot of counter-espionage over in Europe and she was supposedly a security risk because she tended to fall in love and have affairs with handsome men. She had an affair with one Italian count who was supposedly an intelligence agent and this constituted a security risk. And I suppose that their divorce was partly caused by the gulf between them because he really just couldn't talk about his work. Anyway, she was a very talented painter and very charming and beautiful and Kennedy was in love with her.

Q: Let's talk a bit about what exactly happened to your book. The first edition came out in the late '70s, right?

A: 1979. November '79.

What happened was all part of one great big, giant society that these people in Washington have created for themselves where the most important thing to them is putting forward this myth about themselves that they are supremely moral, supremely powerful, all-knowing, all-caring. They'll take care of the rest of us and anything that they do that is questionable they try to cover it up. You might ask why they're so afraid of having these things found about them because after all nothing that anyone knows about them is going to take away their money, their power, their friends, their influence or anything else. It's a sense that they want to maintain this myth about themselves, because that's the only way that people will buy into everything else that they do. You know, the newspaper that they put out, the whole aura that they create, that they are the ones who are in charge--not only in charge of things, but should be in charge, and it's because they're morally and intellectually superior to the rest of us.

Q: The book was pulped before it was distributed?

A: No, it was distributed and they recalled it from the bookstores and shredded the entire print run of twenty five thousand copies. A few copies that had been sold out of the bookstores and had gotten into private hands in the six week period before it was recalled, those books are still around and they are very valuable. The last I heard they were going for sixty dollars in used bookstores.

But the book came out in November '79 and right away there was an orchestrated attack on it by the people that have reason to try to make common cause with the Post. The Post itself didn't attack me. They didn't need to. They had people do it for them. David Ignatius, who is now the foreign editor of the Washington Post, was a young, ambitious reporter at the Wall Street Journal at that time. He did a very, very nasty, damaging piece about my book.

If any of your audience have read the new paperback edition of Silent Coup, it describes the same process going on for that book. In the back there's an appendix that talks about the campaign against that book. And there so much alike, so much the same what happened to me. Because they start this thing about "errors" in the book. This is like the worst thing you can say about a book, right?

Q: Right.

A: "Errors" in the book. And then the authors: who are they? How do they know these things? They're outsiders. They weren't there the way we were. They're just speculating. Silent Coup is about a 400 page book. They named four errors. One of them is that it got somebody's name wrong. Of course, the people doing the accusing are lying, so they're not really errors to begin with. This is the same thing that happened with me. Errors in the book. Errors in the book. This was like a flag that was being waved. That David Ignatius did it in the Wall Street Journal piece and then Alexander Cockburn did it in the Village Voice. So they were attacking me from the left and the right, right?

Q: You were right in the middle.

A: It was a non-partisan attack on me because the attack came from two people that were in different places in the political spectrum. This was supposed to be an objective evaluation now.

Q: So we can assume that the authors of Silent Coup were on to something then, if the powers that be want to do away with the book. Am I mistaken in calling Silent Coup a pro-Nixon book? Isn't the issue here, what they're afraid of, is the story of Nixon's real fall from power as opposed to the way it was played in the media?

A: I don't think that characterizing it as a pro-Nixon book is very useful.

It's like the rationale Alexander Cockburn used for attacking the movie JFK because it's trying to bring back Camelot. I mean, that is sort of irrelevant. There is some merit to wanting to know the truth without having to say that it's furthering another agenda.

Q: Right. That's why I'm saying that isn't the real story, the thing that some people are afraid to get out, is the real reason that Nixon was run out of office, from whatever perspective?

A: Different people have different motives. The motive of the Washington Post in attacking Silent Coup was to protect the reputation of Bob Woodward because his reputation is what has earned the Post, and Woodward, and a number of people associated with him, many millions of dollars since then in book and movies and inflated salaries. I don't think the Post cares why Nixon was brought down. I don't think that that's what their interest is. Their interest is in closing ranks around Woodward and saying you can't question our golden boy because if you do the greatness of the Washington Post is all a lie.

Q: Let's question the golden boy a bit. Can you tell us what you know about Woodward?

A: Bob Woodward has consistently lied about his background ever since the first time anybody started asking who this person is. He came from Wheaton, Illinois. His father was a judge. He joined the Navy and became a communications officer, which is not Naval Intelligence per se. Naval intelligence is a separate organization. Communications officers are at the very highest level of receiving coded and top secret information from around the world and they get it before anybody else does. It's up to them to relay this information to the people in power.

In Woodward's case, first he was in the Navy serving somewhere in California for four years. At the end of his term he was in California, before that he was on a ship I believe. He's never said what he was doing in California. He just won't talk about it. But you remember that this was the time of the height of the anti-war movement and there was a domestic counter-intelligence operation going on called Operation Chaos, which was coordinating Army, Navy and FBI and CIA intelligence on the anti-war movement, spying on leaders and so on, trying to find foreign influence. And I believe that this is what Woodward was involved in at that time.

So after his four years were up he was eligible to leave the Navy, having completed his service. Instead he re-enlisted for another year and he came to Washington and he started working in a top secret Naval unit inside the Pentagon. Actually, they went between the Pentagon and the White House. This was during the first years of Nixon's presidency. And I believe that at this time he started working directly with Richard Ober, who was the deputy chief of counter-intelligence under James Angleton. He was the one who was running Operation Chaos and I believe that he was the one who was Deep Throat. I disagree with those people in Silent Coup, although it hardly matters who exactly it was because I know Woodward had many sources.

But the point is that at this time he was getting top secret information. He was briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was briefing the National Security Council and he was briefing Alexander Haig, who was Nixon's chief of staff. He was right in the very, very center of the Nixon White House in terms of the information that was being conveyed and the people he knew. After that, he decided for some mysterious reason that he wanted to be a reporter and he went to the Post and the Post has thousands of applications a year of experienced reporters, most of whom never get in. But instead they took this guy who couldn't write, who had never been a reporter in his life and they said, "You have to learn how to write better so go work on the suburban paper for a year and then we'll hire you." Now I don't know how they decided that he was somebody they wanted to cultivate or whether somebody had the word on him ahead of time or what. But after a year he came to the Post and right away Ben Bradlee, the executive editor, started giving him the choice assignments. They felt a common bond between each other because Bradlee had a very similar back ground in the Navy himself.

Carl Bernstein was coming from a whole different place. He was a very messed up person, you know, had a lot of trouble keeping his job at the Post. He would always fall asleep on the job, stay up all night and miss deadlines and he was just a mess. If it weren't for the newspaper guild rules about not firing reporters, he would have been fired a long time ago. But he had a sense about politics. He still does. He had a very good sense about politics and he hated Nixon because during the McCarthy era, when Nixon was a congressman, his family, his father and mother, who were very left-wing, had experienced a lot of persecution during the McCarthy era. So he associated Nixon with this. And he had his won reasons for wanting to do a story that he thought might lead to exposing Nixon and bringing down Nixon.

It's a very strange friendship. There was a lot of tension between Woodward and Bernstein and there's a very strong bond between them because each of them owes the other one the fact that they are now millionaires and can get book contracts for any amount of money they want.

Q: Let's get back to Ben Bradlee. I know part of what's in the book and part of what upset those forces that caused the withdrawal of its first publication is what you've said about Ben Bradlee and his connection to the Ethyl and Julius Rosenberg trial. Would you talk about that a bit?

A: In the first edition, the one that was recalled and shredded, I looked in State Department lists for '52 and '53 when Bradlee was serving as a press attache supposedly in the American embassy in Paris. This was during the Marshall Plan when the United States over in Europe had hundreds of thousands of people making an intensive effort to keep Western Europe from going Communist. Bradlee wanted to be part of that effort. So he was over in the American embassy in Paris and the embassy list had these letters after his name that said USIE. And I asked the State Department what that meant and it said United States Information Exchange. It was the forerunner of the USIA, the United States Information Agency. It was the propaganda arm of the embassy. They produced propaganda that was then disseminated by the CIA all over Europe. They planted newspaper stories. They had a lot of reporters on their payrolls. They routinely would produce stories out of the embassy and give them to these reporters and they would appear in the papers in Europe. It's very important to understand how influential newspaper stories are to people because this is what people think of as their essential source of facts about what is going on. They don't question it, and even if they do question it they have nowhere else to go to find out anything else. So Bradlee was involved in producing this propaganda. But at that point in the story I didn't know exactly what he was doing.

I published the first book just saying that he worked for USIE and that this agency produced propaganda for the CIA. He went totally crazy after the book came out. One person who knew him told me then that he was going all up and down the East Coast having lunch with every editor he could think of saying that it was not true, he did not produce any propaganda. And he attacked me viciously and he said that I had falsely accused him of being a CIA agent. And the reaction was totally out of proportion to what I had said.

Q: You make a good point in the book that other people who have had similar kinds of--I don't even know if you want to call them accusations--but reports that they in some way cooperated with the CIA in the '5Os, that the times were different and people were expected to do that kind of thing out of a sense of patriotism and they blow it off.

A: That's right. People say, yeah, this is what I did back then, you know. But Bradlee doesn't want to be defined that way because, I don't know, somehow he thinks it's just too revealing of him, of who he is. He doesn't want to admit a true fact about his past because somehow he doesn't want it known that this is where he came from. Because this is the beginning of his journalistic career. This is how he made it big.

Subsequent to my book being shredded in 1979, early 1980, I got some documents through the Freedom of Information Act and they revealed that Bradlee had been the person who was running an entire propaganda operation against Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg that covered forty countries on four continents. He always claimed that he had been a low level press flack in the embassy in Paris, just a press flack, nothing more. Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg had already been convicted of being atomic spies and they were on death row waiting to be executed. And the purpose of Bradlee's propaganda operation was to convince the Europeans that they really were spies, they really had given the secret of the atomic bomb to the Russians and therefore they did deserve to be put to death.

The Europeans, having just very few years before defeated Hitler, were very concerned that the United States was going fascist the way their countries had. And this was a very real fear to the Europeans. They saw the same thing happening in the United States that had happened in their own countries. And so Bradlee used the Rosenberg case to say, "No this isn't what you think it is. These people really did this bad thing and they really do deserve to die. It doesn't mean that the United States is becoming fascist." So he had a very key role in creating European public opinion and it was very, very important. This was the key issue that was going to determine how the Europeans felt about the United States.

Some of the documents that I had showed him writing letters to the prosecutors of the Rosenbergs saying "I'm working for the head of the CIA in Paris and he wants me to come and look at your files." And this kind of thing. So in the second edition, which came out in 1987, I reprinted those documents, the actual documents, the readers can see them and it's got his signature and it's very, very interesting. He subsequently has said nothing about it at all. He won't talk about it all. He won't answer any questions about it. So I guess the point about Bradlee is that he went from this job to being European bureau chief for Newsweek magazine and to the executive editorship of the Post. So this is how he got where he is. It's very clear line of succession. Philip Graham was Katharine Graham's husband, who ran the Post in the '5Os and he committed suicide in 1963. That's when Katharine Graham took over. Bradlee was close friends with Allen Dulles and Phil Graham. The paper wasn't doing very well for a while and he was looking for a way to pay foreign correspondents and Allen Dulles was looking for a cover. Allen Dulles was head of the CIA back then and he was looking for a cover for some of his operatives so that they could get in and out of places without arousing suspicion. So the two of them hit on a plan: Allen Dulles would pay for the reporters and they would give the CIA the information that they found as well as give it to the Post. So he helped to develop this operation and it subsequently spread to other newspapers and magazines. And it was called Operation Mockingbird. This operation, I believe, was revealed for the first time in my book.

Q: To get back to Phil Graham for a minute. There are two things that I'd like to bring up about him: first, he supported Alger Hiss, first, right? And he flip "flopped on that issue". But he was at loggerheads with Nixon on that and that was the beginning of this kind of life-long enmity between Nixon and the Post?

A: Yes, he supported Alger Hiss largely because he had been a Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Felix Frankfurt. Frankfurt felt very strongly that Hiss was innocent. Hiss was accused of spying also. But Phil was interested in being a with-it kind of guy, very modern, up to the minute, involved in the thinking of his times. So the thinking of his times was the Cold War and was anti-Soviet and get all the domestic spies. He eventually gave in to this way of thinking, with the majority of his friends and associates thinking if Hiss wasn't a spy himself he should at least be made an example of because there were spies among us.

So he was instrumental in that, but before he did turn around on Hiss, I believe he accused Nixon of excesses in trying to prosecute Hiss. Hiss was one of the case was that Nixon made his reputation on as an anti-Communist and as an important national political figure. He was the one who was running around screaming about Hiss, so Phil Graham criticized Nixon for this.

Nixon takes things like that very personally and he never forgot it. So when he became president a number of years later, Phil Graham was dead, Katharine was the head of the Washington Post and she made her usual overtures to the incumbent president. You know, "Come over, get to know my editors, tell them how you want your stories covered." And Nixon, instead of accepting it, he rejected it because he was still angry about what happened fifteen years ago. So he rejected her overtures and then for her own reasons, I guess she had nothing to lose, went after him.

You see, everybody that was involved in that Watergate investigation was doing it from their own perspective. Woodward was doing it from the Naval Intelligence perspective, Bernstein was doing it from the perspective of being a reporter who finally wanted to do a story that would get him out of his suburban courtroom beat. Katharine Graham wanted to keep Ben Bradlee happy and Bradlee had his own sources of information about, you know, Nixon is going to be brought down and you're going to be the one to do it. And she didn't care because she hated Nixon by that time.

If she had had a close friendship with Nixon, if Nixon hadn't rejected her friendship, she would have protected him the way that she had protected Reagan. Because none of those Reagan scandals ever got pursued by the Post the way the Nixon scandals did. In fact, one of the first things that the Reagan people did when Reagan got into office was to make friends with Katharine Graham and that was precisely for that reason. They decided that Nancy should be best friends with Katharine Graham and they did it. They got her over there, they met her, they had her invited over to the White House, they just did all these things. And nothing bad about Reagan ever got in the Post unless it was somewhere else first They just had to do it to show that they were still a legitimate newspaper. But they never broke any stories on Reagan that were damaging and he sailed through eight years looking as good as she could keep him looking.

Q: Before we get too far from Phil Graham, I'd like to talk a little bit more about his suicide. Getting back to the article that Leary wrote, he seemed to suggest that there was a reason to believe that it could have been something more than suicide, that there's no indication or public record that Graham wasn't done in. And that the "suicide" happened shortly after this public event where Graham was talking about the JFK/Mary Meyer liaison. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

A: Phil died in 1963 and it's now 1992. There's still continuing speculation, 29 years later that he was murdered. In my book, I wrote it as a suicide because that's the way it's been represented and I didn't have any independent knowledge of anything else. If I were doing it today, or if I ever do another edition, I will probably expand on that and spend some time investigating it and finding out whether there is any evidence that it was murder. There were a couple of reasons why it could have been murder. One is the one you mentioned. The people that were protecting Kennedy might have done it because of he was a manic depressive. He was in and out of institutions and he was very mentally unstable. A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that he married into a wealthy family. He married the boss' daughter and they gave him the newspaper, but they were watching every move he made. So he did not react well to the fact that Katharine Graham's father had owned the Washington Post. He may have been killed for that reason, if he was killed.

He may have been killed because he had a mistress named Robin Webb. By that time he had moved out of Katharine's house and he was living with Robin Webb in another house and he was actually behaving as if they were married. He had dinner parties over there with her and invited various members of the Washington elite over there for dinner parties and making it very clear that this was the woman he preferred to Katharine. And at the same time, he was re-writing his will. He re-wrote his will three times. Edward Bennet Williams was his attorney. Edward Bennet Williams, who is very well-known as a Washington power broker. He recently died, but he was very much involved in this. Each time, he willingly, at Phil's request, wrote a will that gave Katharine less and less of a share of the Washington Post and gave more and more of it to Robin Webb. By the third rewrite she had nothing and Robin Webb had everything. And this was at a time when Katharine had pretty much given up on the marriage and realized that in order to save the newspaper, which she thought of as her family newspaper--her father built that newspaper and she didn't want to let it go to some mistress of her husband's--and she had come to the conclusion that she either had to divorce him and win the paper in a divorce settlement, or she had to have him declared mentally incompetent. Each of these alternatives was very unattractive to her. And so there's some speculation that either she arranged for him to be killed or somebody said to her, "don't worry, we'll take care of it" and there's some speculation that it might have even been Edward Bennet Williams.

She took him out of the sanitarium one weekend and took him out to their farm in Virginia and this was where he blew his brains out with a shotgun. And the police report was never really made public. After my paperback edition was published this fall, I got a call from some woman who claims that she knew for a fact that it was murder. And if I ever do publish another edition, I intend to look into that.

This is the kind of talk that people live with in Washington, DC.

Q: Tim Leary's speculation seemed to be that if it was a murder it was connected with this public statement that Phil Graham made, apparently at a convention of journalists in Phoenix, Arizona. This is an extraordinary story to me considering the flap that one hears about JFK's liaisons with Marilyn Monroe and Judith Exner, Mary Pinchot Meyer's name it's not a name that's brought up a lot. You indicate in the book that she had a diary and that it may still exist, that James Angleton took it. There's so much to this story that never gets talked about. May we explore it a little bit more?

A: Mary Pinchot Meyer, after she divorced Cord Meyer, moved to Washington and she was living in Ben Bradlee's garage, which had been made into an art studio and this is where she was living. And when she was killed on this tow path, James Angleton showed up at the garage at the studio. There's two versions of the story that I've heard. One is that he searched for the diary and found it and took it away, and the other is that Ben Bradlee handed it to him and he took it away. Supposedly he burned it, but people that knew Angleton say he never burned anything, he saved everything. So supposedly it still exists. Angleton is dead now, so if anybody has it it's probably his widow.

Q: There's no Freedom of Information way of accessing it I guess.

A: Not unless it's in official government files. It's a sketchbook. Bradlee talked about this in an interview with David Frost a couple of months ago and he said that it was just a sketch book and he's seen it and it only has sketches in it and a few pages of writing, but it wasn't a diary per se. Now I trust Bradlee about as far as I can throw him.

Q: NBC did a series on the JFK assassination this week and the last thing they did was roll a list of people who had been killed that were somehow connected to the JFK assassination and there Mary Meyer's name rolled by.

A: She was alive for another year. I don't know what went on in that year.

Maybe she was trying to expose something. That's something that also worth looking into. There's a man right now doing a book on Mary Meyer which should be very interesting. His name is Leo Damore and I'm very much looking forward to reading that book. I'm sure it's going to have a lot of new information in it. It's not out yet but it will be soon.

Q: Let's turn the conversation back to this term that you coined in the book, mediapolitics, the political uses of information. Is there a way that any average person who picks up the paper to read it and judge it against what is just a regurgitation of a government report or press release and what is actually true?

A: The way to read the Washington Post, and I suppose this applies to any newspaper in any city that you live in, is certain reporters of certain beats. They develop certain contacts with certain politicians, and if you know that and if you know who they're talking to every day and you can just sort of know by whose by-line is on the story where their information is coming from. So you don't read it as this reporter's story, you read it as the politician using this writer to say something. In the case of the Post, even Katharine Graham has described it this way, that the Post is the internal memo system of the U. S. government. I mean, politicians try to get things in the Post to talk to each other. To say, "I have something on you, if you don't play something my way I'm going to leak more of this. This is just a taste of what I know about you." This kind of thing. So that goes on all the time and you have to kind of spend some time studying who your reporters are and who their sources are.

I look at the Washington Post and I see a Bob Woodward piece in there and I say, "Oh, OK," like when he did the series on Dan Quayle. A seven part series on this complete non-entity, all about what a decent human being he is and even though he doesn't have brains, his wife does. It took up more column inches probably than any story they've done since Watergate, and it was Bob Woodward doing it. I thought, "OK, now either he has gotten the word to push Dan Quayle or he's gotten the word that Dan Quayle is going to be it and he wants to get on the band wagon and look like he's in on the big thing." That's the only two ways you can read it with Bob Woodward. And depending on what you know about the reporter, you can understand that.

Now some people are very independent and they won't really probe all with their sources. They'll ask hard questions and not just be a cipher for letting the politician say whatever he wants through them. But these people tend to lose their access and the sources tend to get mad at them and not talk to them anymore and start giving the good stuff to reporters who will tell it their way. They know that the reporters have a job and they've got to fill a certain number of inches everyday or they're in trouble. You just don't have time to go running around digging. That's why I personally never really wanted to be a reporter because I like to spend my time developing stories for as long as it takes. So it's just a way of looking at the newspaper where it's not facts but it's people fighting to get their points of view out to you through using the reporter as a vehicle.

And if you're interested, if you're really interested in the story, you make phone calls and ask your own questions. The publications that really want to be in the big time are the ones that are most suspect because they are the ones that are most vulnerable to blackmail or withdrawal of prestige or that kind of thing, like the Post and the Times. They are also the ones that are in a very strong position to go against the grain if they really want to because they are financially independent and don't need to be worried that they're going to lose their advertisers or lose readers if they do something courageous once in a while.

It's ironic because it's the very function of being so inside, and playing the game so well and getting so much money and so much power that they can occasionally turn against the establishment and really do something courageous if they only want to. But they don't want to do it too often because they don't want to make a habit of it and they don't want to get a reputation of being like that. After the Watergate stories, the first number of speeches Katharine Graham made were all about getting back to business. She didn't want the reporters to think that they were always going to be against the government, that they were always going to exposing politicians. That was her first concern. She didn't want to be like that ever again. That was it. That was an aberration. She wanted her reporters to understand that. And to underline this, she withheld a contract for three years, a Newspaper Guild contract. She made them work without a contract, no raises, made them very vulnerable to being fired or being moved to night assignments or out of town if they didn't do what she wanted in the way of just cooling it in terms of the way of antagonism to the powers that be.

Q: Had your book been given the push that they originally intended to give its original edition, how do you assess what kind of impact it would have had back then, in the late '75? I wasn't familiar with the second edition, I'm not sure who published it or how well known it is, and this third edition, the publisher is Sheridan Square Press. The editions have all been much smaller than they would have been had there not been such a reaction to its original publication.

A: The first edition was their biggest book for that season. The first printing was 25,000 and it was sold out before publication. And they were already into a second printing and it was a Literary Guild selection and it had a publisher in London and it had seven paperback houses bidding on it at the time they pulled the book off the market. I think it would have had a very big impact because it was the first book about the truth underneath the myth of the Washington Post which had come out ever since Watergate. And these people were at the height of their power, the height of their glamour and nobody really thought twice about who these people were. I think it would have had an enormous impact.

Q: And you sued, right?

A: I sued Harcourt Brace for breach of contract for taking my book off the market.

Q: And won.

A: And won, yeah.

Q: Who published the second edition?

A: A little publisher called National Press in Bethesda, Maryland. That was out for a year or two but they didn't promote it. And the third edition is now out with Sheridan Square Press, which is small but a very good publisher. And they're the people that published the Jim Garrison book that became the JFK movie.

Q: On the Trail of the Assassins.

A: That's right. And they're very sharp politically and they're very courageous and I like them a lot.

Q: What you do now? You've got the book out. Are you a reporter?

A: I'm writing a book on Henry and Clare Booth Luce, which is going to be a further investigation of mediapolitics. But it's going to be a much broader scope book. It's going to be about Time magazine and how it transformed American culture. And it's going to be a psychological portrait of Henry Luce and Clare Booth Luce and how these people projected their own needs to be powerful on to this enormously successful, influential magazine. It is really one of the most-- I want to use the word Thought Control--it really worked on peoples' minds in a way that nothing else had before it.

Q: If that book is any bit the eye opener that your current book is, it's certainly going to be interesting reading.

A: Thank you.
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:05 pm

How al-Qaeda tried to control the media
By David Ignatius, Published: March 20

Among the last known images of Osama bin Laden is a video seized at his compound the night he was killed, which shows the al-Qaeda leader hunched before a television screen studying a video of himself. It’s testimony to bin Laden’s obsession with the media side of his war against the United States.

This modern face of bin Laden’s jihad comes through clearly in a 21-page letter from his media adviser, a U.S.-born jihadist named Adam Gadahn. The letter is undated, but it appears to have been written after November 2010, in the last six months of bin Laden’s life.

Gadahn wrote much as if he were a media planner corresponding with a client. He included suggestions about the timing of video appearances after the 2010 U.S. midterm elections and use of high-definition video, and made snarky evaluations of major U.S. networks.

As I wrote last week, Gadahn hated Fox News (“falls into the abyss”); he liked MSNBC but complained about the firing of Keith Olbermann; he had mixed feelings about CNN (better in Arabic than in English) and made flattering comments about CBS and ABC. Basically, he wanted to play them all off to al-Qaeda’s best advantage. He also mentioned print journalists, most prominently Robert Fisk of The Independent of Britain. He cites three Americans (“Brian Russ,” “Simon Hirsh” and “Jerry Van Dyke”), though it’s uncertain whom he meant.

The media guidance was among the documents taken from bin Laden’s compound the night of May 2. It was made available to me, along with a small sample of other documents in the cache, by a senior Obama administration official.

Gadahn’s memo shows an organization struggling to stay on the media offensive despite devastating U.S. attacks. It’s partly aspirational, with dreams of jihad, but there’s a core of sharp self-criticism that makes clear Gadahn, like his boss, understood that al-Qaeda was losing its war.

Gadahn even worried that al-Qaeda’s reversals in Iraq and elsewhere represented “punishment by God on us because of our sins and injustices.” Like bin Laden, he was deeply upset that al-Qaeda’s affiliates had killed so many Muslims and listed 13 operations that showed “the tragedy of tolerating the spilling of [Muslim] blood.”

Gadahn is an intriguing figure whose life story would seem far-fetched if sketched by a Hollywood screenwriter. He was born Adam Pearlman in 1978, grandson of a California doctor who had served on the board of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. Gadahn converted to Islam when he was 17, migrated to Pakistan at 20 and then disappeared in March 2001 into al-Qaeda’s world. In 2006, he was indicted by the United States for treason.

In the letter, the media adviser focuses on “how to exploit” the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, on television. He worries that CNN “seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others,” though he praises its “good and detailed” Arabic coverage. “I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit,” he continues, but then notes the firing of Olbermann.

The media chatter continues: CBS “has a famous program (‘60 Minutes’) that has some popularity and a good reputation.” ABC “is all right; actually, it could be one of the best channels,” because of its chief investigator and terrorism expert, Brian Ross. But all the networks, he complains, will bring in analysts who will “conduct a smearing” of al-Qaeda figures.

Gadahn discusses how to game the coverage. Bin Laden could offer “an exclusive press scoop” to one network; but better to spread the material “so that there will be healthy competition.” As for the print journalists, he suggests informing 30 to 50 of them that they’ve been selected to “receive special media material” for the 9/11 anniversary. If just a third of them respond, he notes, al-Qaeda will have 10 journalists who “will display our mission.”

Gadahn argues that the aftermath of the November 2010 U.S. elections is “very suitable” for new video: “All the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role in weakening the economy.” He says bin Laden shouldn’t worry about being overexposed, because he can reach “millions of admirers” in the Muslim world, and “raise the morale” of al-Qaeda fighters who are “facing disaster after disaster.”

The al-Qaeda spinmeister didn’t like Fox News (“let her die in her anger”), but it’s hard to understand why. Surely Rupert Murdoch’s network, with its saturation coverage of the war on terror, did more to elevate bin Laden’s profile than any other news outlet. ... story.html

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Why we mistrust the media

...Example 2: Osama versus Obama. A few days ago, David Ignatius of the Washington Post informed us that documents recovered from the Bin Laden compound outlined a plot to kill Barack Obama.

The plot to target Obama was probably bluster, since al-Qaeda apparently lacked the weapons to shoot down U.S. aircraft.

Yeah. About that.

The U.S. sold Stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance during the war with the Soviets -- a very dubious decision, even though those missiles turned the tide of the war. When the U.S. went into Afghanistan after 9/11, everyone expected to see Stingers in the skies.

Instead...nothin'. Lots of other problems, yes. But no Stingers.

We then saw a flurry of news stories which alleged that the 2000 Stingers had either been recaptured by the CIA or had been shipped off to places like North Korea. Neither claim is terribly convincing. Why on earth would the Taliban give such prizes away? (I can see them selling some Stingers, but not the entire stock.) In 2005, this little-noticed piece revealed that a number of the Stingers had never, in fact, left Afghanistan, and that the Americans were trying to buy them back.

In late 2001, Pentagon officials acknowledged that some of the 2,000 missiles sent to Afghan fighters during the 1980s might have fallen into the hands of Taliban or Al-Qaeda fighters.

No U.S. aircraft has been downed by a Stinger missile in Afghanistan. But pilots of low-flying U.S. aircraft have reported seeing surface-to-air missiles fired at them -- particular near the southern city of Kandahar. It remains unclear whether those were Stinger missiles or Soviet-built SAM-7 missiles.

So how does David Ignatius know that Al Qaeda has no ability to bring down aircraft?

Then again: How do we know that these recovered documents are real?

We have some reason to mistrust Ignatius. The WP has been the home for a number of spooked-up journalists over the years -- the most famous suspected example being Bob Woodward. (Woodward has always denied the charge.) The Soviets openly accused Chris Wren -- who used to cover Russia for the Post -- of being CIA. (A boyhood friend of Wren's once told me that there was indeed a recruitment approach.)

Is Ignatius a member of Club Spooky? Well, take a look at this passage from his Wikipedia page...

Ignatius's coverage of the CIA has been criticized as being defensive and overly positive. Melvin Goodman, a 42-year CIA veteran, Johns Hopkins professor, and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy has called Ignatius "the mainstream media’s apologist for the Central Intelligence Agency," citing as examples Ignatius's criticism of the Obama administration for investigating the CIA's role in the use of torture in interrogations during the Iraq War, and his charitable defense of the agency's motivations for outsourcing such activities to private contractors. Columnist Glenn Greenwald has levied similar criticism against Ignatius and has dubbed him "the CIA's spokesman at The Washington Post".


Ignatius’s novels have also been praised for their realism; his first novel, Agents of Innocence, was at one point described by the CIA on its website as "a novel but not fiction."

I think we get the picture. Goodman's piece on Ignatius is particularly revealing.

Example 3: Yet more JFK disinfo. A CIA guy named Brian Latell spews yet more Castro-diddit nonsense.

Latell writes that Oswald, a belligerent Castro supporter, grew frustrated when officials at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City refused to give him a visa to travel to the island, and promised to shoot Kennedy to prove his revolutionary credentials.

“Fidel knew of Oswald’s intentions — and did nothing to deter the act,” the book declares.

Even so, Latell maintains his work is sober and even reserved. “Everything I write is backed up by documents and on-the-record sources,” he told The Miami Herald.

For the truth about Oswald's trip to Mexico, see the expanded paperback edition of John Newman's Oswald and the CIA. For a summary of Newman's conclusions, go here. Yes, of course Cuban intelligence knew something was up...

They'd be pretty god damn stupid not to know about it. Oswald's in their embassy making the threat.

In reality, the CIA knew about it, the FBI knew about it, the Office of Naval Intelligence knew about it, the State Department knew about it, the Mexicans knew about it, the Cubans knew about it, and the Soviets knew about it. The point of Oswald, or an impostor, or both, making a threat to JFK's life was to get that piece of info into U.S. intelligence agency files as a dormant virus that would lie low, not ring any alarm bells, and once the assassination occurs use it as blackmail against those U.S. agencies...

Only someone very high up with the right kind of knowledge of how intelligence agencies work could conceive and carry out such a plan. And John Newman points his finger at the CIA's chief of counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton.

If that seems hard to swallow -- well, read Newman's book. His documentation is solid.

There's a lot more JFK disinfo in the pipeline. Bill O'Reilly -- who, in the pre-Fox days, actually did a piece of decent reportage on the case (believe it or not!) -- is coming out with a book called "Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot." (The book was written "with" Martin Dugard. That's "with," not "by." Honest. Would you be willing to call Bill O'Reilly a liar?) I don't know what O'Reilly's take on the case will be, but I'll be very surprised if his book is anything other than right-wing garbage. ... media.html
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:46 am

John Simkin, on 21 February 2012 - 05:50 AM, said:
Tom Fairlie wrote:Just read Deborah Davis's book Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and The Washington Post.

A great book. I tried to get her to participate on the forum but unfortunately, the writing of this book has frightened her off talking about the CIA. ... 741&st=180

An interview with Deborah Davis

Deborah Davis wrote:Posted 21 June 2006 - 01:40 PM

Deborah Davis is a journalist who has published articles in the New York Times, Village Voice and Ramparts. In 1979 Davis published a book about Katharine Graham (Katharine the Great). The book also looked at the connections between Philip Graham and the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Davis the owner of the Washington Post was a key figure in Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program to influence the American media. According to Davis, Cord Meyer was Mockingbird's "principal operative".

When the book was originally published in 1979 Katharine Graham persuaded the publishers William Jovanovich, to recall and pulp 20,000 copies of the book. Davis filed a breach-of- contract and damage-to-reputation suit against Jovanovich, who settled out of court with her in 1983. ... topic=7185

Carl Bernstein, CIA and the Media, Rolling Stone Magazine

Phil Graham and the Department of Justice

The CIA and Hollywood

Ben Bradlee
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby elfismiles » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:14 pm

:thumbsup Thanks MinM.
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:19 pm

Watergate's Lessons for the New media Age
Posted: 04/ 9/2012 5:42 pm

The shadow of Watergate falls only lightly across the U.S. political landscape. Instead, the epic scandal is discernible mainly in the absence of the evils that engendered it. Even during the panicky post-9/11 era, when the temptation to ignore the law at times overwhelmed good judgment, never were even the most zealous of Bush-Cheney toadies accused of using the machinery of state to punish partisan adversaries.

No, that was a uniquely Nixonian response to political challenge: shadowy operatives with national security credentials tapped phones of columnists; dissidents were burgled and bullied; critics had their taxes audited; black bag operations were authorized at cabinet level and above.

That was Watergate, and since it cost Richard Nixon his presidency, it seems now to have been banished from the political sphere, an absence that is rarely noticed. So Watergate's traces on the political culture are, I think, faint.

But for journalists it's quite a different matter: For them, Watergate remains the defining event of the past half-century. It was a towering moment of heroism, an episode of legendary stature in which journalism's foundational purposes were triumphantly validated and a drift toward despotism was stopped, all thanks to a single-minded dedication to the craft of determined reporting.

And it has been a powerful inspiration for the two generations of journalists that came since. "We're all the sons and daughters of Watergate," as Jeff Leen, investigations editor of the Washington Post, told a gathering at the American Society of News Editors annual conference in Washington last week.

Leen's comment came during a remarkable panel marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, when burglars hired by the Nixon re-election campaign were busted while trying to plant listening devices at Democratic Party headquarters. (The anniversary isn't until June, but nobody seemed to care.)

The ASNE panel included both reporting stars of the Post's historic investigation, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. No less important, in the front row of the audience were their then-editor, Ben Bradlee, now 90, and Donald Graham, CEO of the Post organization, whose late mother Katharine, then publisher, stood firm before the fierce counterattack of the Nixon cabal.

The panel's ostensible topic was how the media would handle that affair today, in a radically different informational world. Now, with cascading opportunities for news to come to light and for informants to go public at dizzying speed, and with a burgeoning corps of amateur and semi-pro sleuths and commentators, wouldn't the secrets of the vast conspiracy have surfaced months sooner, with no need for two reporters to place calls, ring doorbells and trudge along with notebooks and questions?

Surely nowadays an election-season break-in at opposition headquarters would trigger an informational avalanche, and the mystery would unravel in days, rather than the nearly two years of courthouse and congressional hearings that it took to eviscerate Nixon's administration and force him out.

But the panel was skeptical, and it was hard not to wonder whether, paradoxically, exposing a conspiracy of that scope might actually be harder now. For one thing, Bernstein suggested, he and Woodward were writing for an audience that was interested in facts. Today's readers are looking more single-mindedly to confirm what they believe. "I'm not sure the story could withstand that cultural reception," he said. "It'd get ground up."

For another, he and Woodward both spoke reverently about the steadfastness of the institution that sheltered them. Watergate, Bernstein said, "was about a newspaper." Faced with the possibility they might be compelled to turn over their records, Woodward recalled, Katharine Graham responded, "They're not their notes, they're my notes."

That kind of resoluteness is in short supply in an era when newsroom staffs have shrunk and public mission is a line item on a quarterly marketing plan.

And there's yet another reason to wonder how readily Watergate would be exposed today. That's the capacity of authorities to identify and move against sources. The warm reception President Obama received from the editors conference a few hours before the Watergate panel was ironic in view of the unprecedented six Espionage Act prosecutions his Justice Department has mounted against people who leaked information to the press -- information that while institutionally embarrassing, was miles from constituting any detectable security threat.

Nowadays, those sources are being ferreted out and shut down with 21st century techniques of surveillance and digital information retrieval. It's good that Nixon's henchmen didn't have those tools to roll up the network of sources so patiently cultivated by Woodward and Bernstein. ... ?ref=media

Deep Throat: Shallow story hides deeper history

By Larry Chin
Online Journal Associate Editor ... 5chin.html

June 3, 2005—The "Mark Felt is Deep Throat" story is not much of a revelation, despite the ridiculous and off-target tempest in the national teapot that has ensued. Felt has been at the top of the short list for a long time, suspected by many historians.

What's not being discussed amidst the ridiculous Republican-Democrat arguments, and raging battles between new Felt cult worshippers ("he's a hero!") and Felt attackers ("he's a traitor!") are the darker historical realities that remain dangerously misunderstood.

Who was Mark Felt? Felt may have leaked on Nixon, but was he at all heroic over the course of the rest of his career?

Described as the FBI's "Fair Haired Boy," he was a J. Edgar Hoover right hand man, immensely loyal to Hoover, and was involved in all of the FBI's dirtiest COINTELPRO operations. In other words, Felt was a lieutenant to one of the great political criminals in modern history. Curt Gentry's J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and His Secrets is one book that exhaustively documents that history.

Two days after Hoover's death, Felt personally took control of the notorious Official/Confidential file (the one used by Hoover to blackmail and control his political enemies, and secure supreme status for himself), after which the file was spirited around the FBI, excised, hidden or destroyed. Needless to say, Felt did not go running to Bob Woodward or any other reporter with information that could have saved American democracy.

After Felt and fellow FBI agent Edward Miller were eventually convicted for FBI COINTELPRO break-ins, outgoing President Ronald Reagan pardoned them. (A Hoover loyalist, and pardoned by Reagan. Think about that.)

Watergate was not, as the stereotypical myth and breathless legends go, a great moment for democracy in which a corrupt president was brought down, and a great "investigation" reformed Washington. It was an inside coup d'état, and a limited hangout, that saved Nixon and his cabal from true exposure and jail time, and helped preserve—not reform—the system that made his crimes possible. Felt must be judged against this context.

Watergate gave the naïve public a false sense of security—the fallacy that "they" (Washington) were "cleaning up"—and ushered in a new era of corruption. Gerald Ford, J. Edgar Hoover's right hand man on the Warren Commission, became president. Ford pardoned Nixon, and selected Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. The CIA learned how to do a better job covering up their activities and controlling information. America's corporate media, long infiltrated and controlled by government operatives, would be increasingly corrupted and corporatized, and made into the voices of the White House. The Washington Post, never a paragon of investigative reporting, became even worse with time. Bob Woodward became a buddy stenographer for the Bush presidents, and the author of stomach-turning George W. Bush 9/11 myths.

Peter Dale Scott in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK concisely summarized it:

"But the in-house coalition of conservatives who opposed the Nixon-Kissinger moves toward detente in 1972 was similar to the one which opposed the Kennedy-Harriman detente initiatives in 1963. It still includes James Angleton in the CIA, who in the 1960s had suspected Harriman of being a Soviet spy, and who in the 1970s "reportedly 'objectively' believed Kissinger to be a Soviet spy." Nixon, like Kennedy was having trouble with his Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of whom, Admiral Zumwalt, resigned over his differences with Kissinger. Those who believe that Nixon's betrayer 'Deep Throat' was a real official, and not a composite, advanced well-argued reasons that he must have been a senior FBI official, probably Mark Felt, John Mohr, or L. Patrick Gray.

"In all four cases, one sees the recurrence of CIA and other intelligence officials and assets, repeatedly those with more militant anti-Communist stances than the Presidents they have worked under. Another common denominator for such individuals had been an exposure to narcotics trafficking, from the China Lobby of the 1950s to the Contra support networks of the 1980s."

Felt was no more a saint than Bob Woodward is an epitome of heroic muckraking. In both cases, they are insiders with connections who have not always acted in the best interests of democracy, but who now have shining reputations built entirely on one (let's call it "interesting") episode.

Exemplified by successful and continuous Bush administration crimes and cover-up, Watergate was a valuable lesson to government criminals. The American public, meanwhile, has learned nothing. ... gi.54.html
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Sun May 06, 2012 11:26 am

Biography of Editor Keeps Watergate Twists Coming

Published: May 1, 2012
The New York Times

It might say something about the state of politics that the biggest story in Washington on Monday happened 40 years ago. And it involves a potted plant.

In a new authorized biography of the journalism legend Ben Bradlee, “Yours in Truth,” by Jeff Himmelman, Mr. Bradlee is quoted expressing some anxiety over some of the most provocative and enduring details of “All the President’s Men,” the famous unfurling of the Watergate scandal by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

While Mr. Himmelman uses material from Mr. Bradlee’s old memos, letters, interviews and photos to write a “personal portrait” of the former Washington Post editor, the source of the Watergate conversation was an unpublished interview conducted in 1990 by Barbara Feinman, who was working with Mr. Bradlee on his memoir.

At one point, Mr. Bradlee told Ms. Feinman, “You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat.”

“Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? ... And meeting in some garage,” Mr. Bradlee said, according to Mr. Himmelman’s book. “One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage. ... There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.”

In an interview Monday, a day after New York magazine published an excerpt from the book, Mr. Woodward described Mr. Bradlee’s comments as outdated, long before the identity of Deep Throat, Mr. Woodward’s anonymous source, was revealed.

“I can understand in 1990, when Ben doesn’t know all the details, he’s kind of musing and saying, ‘Gee, I’m not sure this is all straight because it seems so incredible,’ ” he said.
“But all of Watergate was incredible.”

He added, “This is a classic case of manufactured controversy, as best I can tell.”
Mr. Himmelman, through his publisher, declined to be interviewed.

The cinematic details of the secret meetings between Mr. Woodward and Deep Throat in a parking garage, including the use of the potted plant on Mr. Woodward’s terrace as a signal, helped turn “All the President’s Men” into a journalistic classic and an Oscar-nominated movie. Mr. Himmelman’s account has what could be called a twist out of another film, “All About Eve”: he once worked as a research assistant to Mr. Woodward, who hired him when he was 24.

Mr. Woodward kept the identity of Deep Throat a secret for more than three decades until W. Mark Felt, a longtime official with the F.B.I., unmasked himself in 2005.

Many of the details that Mr. Bradlee expressed his concern about would be known only to Mr. Woodward and to Mr. Felt, who died in 2008. The potted plant is mentioned in Mr. Felt’s book, “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington,” but his co-author, John O’Connor, told Politico that he had never confirmed that detail.

Mr. Woodward’s books are known for their ability to rattle Washington with shadowy revelations about people in power, and he was once criticized for saying William J. Casey, a former director of the C.I.A., had given him a deathbed confession that he had known about money funneled to the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Perhaps trying to calm the latest Watergate storm, Mr. Bradlee released a statement on Monday to Politico through his wife, Sally Quinn, in support of Mr. Woodward. “No editor, no reader, can hope for more than Bob Woodward’s byline on a story that really matters,” Mr. Bradlee said in the statement. “I always trusted him, and I always will.”

Ms. Quinn added that there was “nothing specific” that Mr. Bradlee had doubts about.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 1, 2012, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Biography of Editor Keeps the Watergate Twists Coming. ... opic=19057

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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Sun May 06, 2012 11:44 am

Saturday, May 5, 2012 1:00 PM UTC
Watergate’s final mystery
Underneath the media's obsession with the scandal lies the neglected story of the CIA's role
By Jefferson Morley

Journalists are obsessing over Watergate again. Debate exploded this week over a new biography of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, excerpted in New York magazine. It suggests the legendary editor privately doubted aspects of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting that helped bring about the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

The story prompted a strong denial from Woodward, a demurral from Bradlee, an online chat at Poynter and a Daily Beast story by independent scholar Max Holland, who argues Woodward and Bernstein’s book about the scandal, “All the President’s Men,” is “a fairly tale, albeit a compelling one.” After hyping the story for a couple of days, Politico then dismissed it as “a storm in a Washington teacup.”

Not quite. As Reuters columnist and Watergate buff Jack Shafer points out, “Watergate is the Ur-journalism story.” It is a true tale that defines the profession’s imagination and its relation to Washington power. But this latest round at the Watergate cooler has been stronger on the Ur- than the journalism, focusing more on the implications of Woodward and Bradlee’s thinking than on the abuses of power that they sought to uncover.

That’s too bad. If Watergate still matters, it is because the story tells us something about the intersection of power and journalism in Washington. The ur-personalities of these veteran newsmen are important but so are new facts, and recent revelations illuminate one aspect of the story that is often overlooked: the role of the CIA.

Woodward acknowledged as much in what is perhaps the single most interesting Watergate revelation of recent years. In June 2007, the CIA released most of the so-called “Family Jewels,” a long-suppressed internal report on the agency’s abuses of power. The newly declassified documents, Woodward wrote in the Post, showed in “telling detail” how the CIA, under the leadership of director Richard Helms, served as “the perfect Watergate enabler.”

The Helms/Nixon relationship lies at the heart of the Watergate story. Nixon, of course, was a paranoid genius, a master of resentment politics at home and geopolitical maneuvering abroad. Helms, his long-serving director of Central Intelligence, was the epitome of a CIA man in the Cold War: correct, discreet and ruthless.

The CIA’s involvement in Watergate, Woodward noted, “is one of the murkiest parts of the story.” He and Bernstein didn’t write about it much in “All the President’s Men,” not because they didn’t have suspicions but because they could not pin the story down. Howard Baker, vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, likened the Agency’s role to “animals crashing around in the forest — you can hear them but you can’t see them.” And Helms’ role was especially elusive. Said Baker: “Nixon and Helms had so much on each other that neither one of them could breathe.”

Thanks to the release of the “Family Jewels” report and an extraordinary collection of 11 conversations between Helms and Nixon in 1971-73 (first published online in 2009) we can see (and hear) what Nixon and Helms had on each other: knowledge of the other guy’s record of ”dirty tricks.”

Plenty of people suspected this at the time. The Agency’s fingerprints were evident in the botched burglary at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate apartment complex. It was well known that five of the seven burglars had worked for the CIA. Four were Cuban-Americans from Miami involved in the Bay of Pigs operation. It was less well-known that the two ringleaders, James McCord and Howard Hunt, were career officers who had been personally close to Helms for more than a decade.

In his 2007 Post story, Woodward revealed that McCord had written the CIA director after his arrest in June 1972, seeking assistance. Another senior Agency official told Helms that he “felt strongly” that the letter should be turned over to the FBI, which was supposedly conducting a rigorous investigation of Watergate.

“It was a critical moment in the Watergate probe,” Woodward wrote, “with Nixon seeking reelection that fall and desperate to keep the botched burglary from spoiling his chances.” He went to write:

McCord’s letter to the CIA could have been important evidence; according to later testimony, he was seeking assistance from the CIA, where he had worked for decades, and was on the verge of blowing the whistle about Watergate, as he did months later in a famous March 21, 1973, letter to Judge John J. Sirica.

Instead, Helms told the FBI nothing. Investigators never learned the story and Woodward and Bernstein could never shake Helms’ dubious denials of any connection to the burglars, whom the Agency blandly portrayed as “retired” employees acting on their own.

In hindsight, Woodward wrote that Helms “was anything but forthcoming.”

“The CIA had no involvement in the break-in. No involvement whatever,” Helms testified to the Senate Watergate committee on Aug. 2, 1973. “The agency had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in,” he added. “And I hope all the newsmen in the room hear me clearly now.”

You get the feeling Woodward felt Helms was personally lecturing him. (I left a message for Woodward requesting comment; he did not respond.)

The question, Woodward wrote in 2007, was, “What could have Helms known?”

One possibility, he said, was that he knew Howard Hunt was carrying out burglaries for the president. Another document made public in 2007 showed that Hunt had sent a memo to the CIA two months before the Watergate burglary seeking to hire a former CIA employee “accomplished at picking locks.” Helms, Woodward suggested, might have gotten wind of what Hunt was doing.

The question of what Helms knew about Watergate still matters because, amazingly enough, after 40 years later, we still don’t know who ordered the burglary or why. As Shafer told the Poynter discussion, “I’ve read all the books, listened to all the lectures, and even eaten dinner in the Watergate and I don’t know why Nixon’s people broke into the DNC twice and bugged it.”

What is certain is that Helms knew Hunt was working for the White House as early as April 1971. In response to Nixon’s pestering, Helms had offered the president two CIA reports on the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961 and a report about the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Nixon was looking for facts that would impugn the reputation of President John F. Kennedy and thus harm the presidential ambitions of the martyred president’s younger brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy who was expected to run for president in 1972.

“Obviously, I’m going to hand this stuff over to the President,” Helms told Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, “but I’d be terribly glad if you would get his backing not to share it with a lot of the staff of there. For example, I know that Howard Hunt has been doing some work. There’s nothing he’d like better than, as an old Agency hand to run around in some of the soiled linen there is around here, in the garbage cans and so forth.”

Here you can almost hear the clench-jawed East Coast mandarin that Helms was — “terribly glad” and “soiled linen” and all that — doing his damnedest to suck up to the president. The Nixon-Helms collaboration deepened in October 1971 when Nixon summoned the CIA director to the White House. Before the meeting, Ehrlichman briefed Nixon why Helms’ was visiting: He had “dirty line” to share. He said the CIA director had told him

that his relationship with past presidents had been such that he would not feel comfortable about releasing some of this very, very dirty linen to anyone without first talking it through with you because he was sure that when you became a former president you would want to feel that whoever was at the Agency was protecting your interest in a similar fashion.

Ehrlichman also reminded Nixon of Helms’ concerns about Howard Hunt, the White House “consultant.”

“Helms is scared to death of this guy Hunt that we got working for us because he knows where a lot of the bodies are buried,” he said.

When Helms arrived in the Oval Office, Nixon wasted no time in assuring him that he would keep the secrets of the CIA, which he called without irony, the “Dirty Tricks Department.” Nixon said:

“I know what happened in Iran [CIA-sponsored coup in 1953] and I also know what happened in Guatemala [CIA-sponsored coup in 1954] and I totally approve of both. I also know what happened at the Bay of Pigs [the failed invasion to overthrow socialist Fidel Castro in 1961], which was planned under Eisenhower. I totally approved of it. The problem was not the CIA. …

Nixon wanted it to be known that he could be trusted to defend the agency.

My interest there is solely to know the facts in the event that as time goes on here, things heat up, and this becomes an issue. That is what I want you to understand regarding any information.I need it for a defensive reason … “

Then, in his abrupt, awkward way, Nixon launched into a soliloquy about what political controversies the documents might shed light on:

Who shot John? Is Eisenhower to blame? Is Johnson to blame? Is Kennedy to blame? Is Nixon to blame?

In the context of a negotiation over sensitive government records from the early 1960s, Nixon’s aside — “Who shot John?” — could only have been a reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. But if Nixon was implying that the CIA might have something to hide on the question of who ambushed the liberal president in Dealey Plaza, he was also assuring Helms he would keep the Agency’s secrets.

“I need to know what is necessary to protect frankly, the intelligence gathering and the Dirty Tricks Department and I will protect it,” Nixon said. “I have done more than my share of protection, and I think it’s totally right to do it.

Helms sensed his opportunity and spoke for the first time. He had an offering.

“Sir, as a matter of fact the reason that I want to speak …” he began. Helms said he had found a previously unknown document about the assassination of Diem in South Vietnam in 1963.

“When I saw this document I thought to myself, ‘This is the kind of document that I would be rather irresponsible if I didn’t go to the president and tell him what this document was,’” Helms explained. “I’ve got it right here. It’s got extracts from State Department cables, Defense Department cables …”

Helms passed the documents to Nixon. Nixon didn’t get anything with “who shot John” but he get a lot of who shot Diem (rival generals) and he might be able to use that against the hated Teddy Kennedy. The meeting ending on a satisfactory note for both men.

Nixon then passed the Diem cables to aide Chuck Colson (whose recent death was another blast from the Watergate past) who gave them to none other than Howard Hunt. A veteran undercover officer and dirty tricks specialist who loathed President Kennedy, Hunt doctored the cables to create the impression that JFK was complicit in the assassination of Diem, a pro-American despot. The forged documents were then shown to a Life magazine writer in the hopes of creating problems for Ted Kennedy’s expected presidential candidacy. Life magazine turned down the story, perhaps because the animus behind the story was so transparent. Hunt moved on to other missions for the White House. The story of the doctored Diem cables was later uncovered by Watergate investigators but Helms’ supporting role remained obscure.

Helms and Nixon had forged an effective partnership. They spoke at least five more times in the coming months. On June 16, 1972, Nixon called him to tell about certain secret CIA operations involving Mexican President Luis Echeverria, the details of which are still secret. So when Hunt and other former CIA men were arrested at the Watergate the next day, Nixon simply assumed the CIA director would help him stonewall the investigation.

“We’ve protected Helms from a hell of a lot of things,” Nixon told his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman on June 23, 1972. He wanted to remind Helms that the investigation might lead to Cuba-related revelations that would harm the CIA.

“You open that scab and there’s a hell of a lot of things,” Nixon went on, “and we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have things go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.”

Nixon could be sure Helms would know what he was talking about. He had been seeking sensitive CIA reports about the Bay of Pigs operations for more than a year; Hunt was a leading figure in that operation. In his 1979 memoir, Haldeman speculated that Nixon was tacitly reminding Helms of two extraordinarily sensitive issues: the CIA’s plots to kill Fidel Castro and the assassination of JFK. The Oct. 8, 1971, tape lends credence to the notion. If Nixon had offered to protect the Agency’s interests on “who shot John” then surely Helms would cooperate with the White House in smoothing over what his press secretary described as a “third rate burglary.”

Nixon assumed wrong. “This has nothing to do with the Bay of Pigs,” the normally calm Helms shouted at Haldeman, who was surprised as his rage. Helms was a canny bureaucratic operator who was sensitive about Cuba and assassinations. He knew he could not block the FBI’s investigation without risk to his own position and he saw no reason why he should. Hunt was a useful scoundrel whose screw-ups were legendary but whose loyalty to the Agency was assured. Publicly and privately, Helms maintained the fiction that the Agency knew nothing of Hunt’s proclivities — and he kept very quiet about his own back channel to McCord. As Nixon and his aides scrambled to cover up the White House’s “dirty tricks,” the FBI — and the young reporters at the Washington Post — began to unravel the story, albeit without much insight into Helms’ role as enabler.

The secrets that Nixon and Helms shared exerted invisible gravitational force on the unfolding scandal. From his jail cell, Hunt let it be known that he would talk about his knowledge of “highly illegal conspiracies” at the CIA unless he was paid off. To underscore his point, he then published a memoir of the Bay of Pigs operation, “Give Us This Day,” which opened with a denunciation of President Kennedy for his “shameful” failure to support the Agency’s anti-Castro rebels. His point was blunt and subtly ominous: if JFK had backed the CIA venture, he might not have been killed by an allegedly pro-Castro gunman in Dallas. Hunt was not one to get sentimental about the playboy president’s bloody end in Dallas. Like others in the CIA, he thought JFK was a contemptible weakling who had it coming. The “whole Bay of Pigs thing” was fraught indeed.

Amid such black intrigue, the spymaster proved more agile than the president. Helms avoided talking about what he knew of Hunt’s service to the White House while Nixon succumbed to the burglar’s blackmail, ordering aides to raise money to pay off Hunt for his silence. The CIA man cultivated Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham as a social friend. Nixon enmeshed himself further in the scandal.

Nixon and Helms parted ways in December 1972. Nixon forced the CIA director to resign; Helms extracted an ambassadorship so that his exit from Washington would not be tainted with Watergate or presidential disfavor. Besieged by investigators and the press, Nixon resigned 20 months later. Helms had to plead guilty to charges of lying to Congress about a CIA assassination conspiracy in Chile. But admiring colleagues rallied to his defense and, he was never held accountable for the Agency’s deeply suspicious role in the intelligence failure that culminated in the crime of Dallas. Thanks to the forgiving culture of Washington, both men outlasted their notoriety in the 1970s and lived out their lives as controversial but ultimately respectable statesmen.

The Shakespearean struggle of Richard Nixon and Dick Helms is central to the Watergate story. It speaks a volume about the covert workings of power in Washington and is still shrouded in official secrecy 40 years later. (For example, the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the National Archives contains 366 pages of CIA documents on Howard Hunt that have never been made public.) But the unfinished story of the CIA and Watergate fits awkwardly in the annals of the scandal. Its implications eluded the best journalists of a generation and its legacy is not reassuring to readers.

Read: “The Keeper of Secrets Earns His Reputation,” by Bob Woodward, Washington Post, June 27, 2007.

Listen: “Who shot John?” Richard Nixon and Dick Helms’ discuss CIA dirty tricks on Oct. 8, 1971; read a summary here. Courtesy of ... opic=19069

From Watergate to Wikileaks

FBI agent takes down Nixon

What about Watergate?
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:55 am

Rethinking Watergate/Iran-Contra
March 9, 2013

Special Report: New evidence continues to accumulate showing how Official Washington got key elements of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals wrong, especially how these two crimes of state originated in treacherous actions to secure the powers of the presidency, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

A favorite saying of Official Washington is that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But that presupposes you accurately understand what the crime was. And, in the case of the two major U.S. government scandals of the last third of the Twentieth Century – Watergate and Iran-Contra – that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Indeed, newly disclosed documents have put old evidence into a sharply different light and suggest that history has substantially miswritten the two scandals by failing to understand that they actually were sequels to earlier scandals that were far worse. Watergate and Iran-Contra were, in part at least, extensions of the original crimes, which involved dirty dealings to secure the immense power of the presidency.

In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.

Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.

The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. However, as the new President was taking steps in 1969 to extend the war another four-plus years, he sensed the threat from the wiretap file and ordered two of his top aides, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to locate it. But they couldn’t find the file.

We now know that was because President Johnson, who privately had called Nixon’s Vietnam actions “treason,” had ordered the file removed from the White House by his national security aide Walt Rostow.

Rostow labeled the file “The ‘X’ Envelope” and kept it in his possession, although having left government, he had no legal right to hold onto the highly classified documents, many of which were stamped “Top Secret.” Johnson had instructed Rostow to retain the papers as long as he, Johnson, was alive and then afterwards to decide what to do with them.

Nixon, however, had no idea that Johnson and Rostow had taken the missing file or, indeed, who might possess it. Normally, national security documents are passed from the outgoing President to the incoming President to maintain continuity in government.

But Haldeman and Kissinger had come up empty in their search. They were only able to recreate the file’s contents, which included incriminating conversations between Nixon’s emissaries and South Vietnamese officials regarding Nixon’s promise to get them a better deal if they helped him torpedo Johnson’s peace talks.

So, the missing file remained a troubling mystery inside Nixon’s White House, but Nixon still lived up to his pre-election agreement with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to extend U.S. military participation in the war with the goal of getting the South Vietnamese a better outcome than they would have received from Johnson in 1968.

Nixon not only continued the Vietnam War, which had already claimed more than 30,000 American lives and an estimated one million Vietnamese, but he expanded it, with intensified bombing campaigns and a U.S. incursion into Cambodia. At home, the war was bitterly dividing the nation with a massive anti-war movement and an angry backlash from war supporters... ... an-contra/

3/27 Thom CIA Hartmann prepping for MLK killed-4/4 day
@froomkin: Theme emerging here that Watergate was, in retrospect, a triumph of oversight more than it was an ethical disaster. #watergate40

@Slate: Bob Woodward's troubling secret as revealed by his 1984 biography of John Belushi: #correx

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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:16 pm

Image Lew Rockwell ‏@lewrockwell: Another Victory for Watergate Revisionism

Watergate Bugging-again
Newly released wiretap list raises questions on '72 break-in

The faintly smoldering embers of the legendary Watergate scandal got a puff of oxygen yesterday with the release of long-sealed files on the four-decades-old political affair, which toppled a president and sent his closest aides to jail.

Yet it's what's not in the approximately 950 pages ordered released by a federal judge that's really interesting, according to Watergate scholars who have never accepted the standard version of events.

It's a name: Larry O'Brien.

Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1972, O'Brien has long been said to be the target of the Nixon White House "plumbers," the off-the-books squad of political dirty-tricksters, break-in artists and wiretappers arrested in the Watergate office building on June 17, 1972.

But O'Brien's name is not on the list of bugging targets released Monday by the National Archives and Records Administration, on order of Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. And that throws a wrench into generally accepted answer to the affair's central question: What were the burglars doing in the Watergate?

"Watergate remains American's greatest political scandal, and greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War," Luke A. Nichter, the Texas A&M history professor whose legal petition led to the release of documents, told SpyTalk. "However, 40 years later, we still do not have answers to the most basic questions: Why did the burglary take place? Who ordered it? What were the burglars looking for?"

According to the standard narrative of the Watergate affair, propounded most prominently by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the plumbers had been dispatched by Nixon officials to bug O'Brien's phone and gather political and financial intelligence on the Democrats and their ticket, headed by Sen. George McGovern (D-SD).

Woodward and Bernstein based their conclusion mainly on the word of Watergate burglar James McCord, who testified about the plumbers to the Senate Watergate Committee.

McCord testified that O'Brien's phone was the target. But later evidence revealed that the listening post across the street was out of position to pick up the bug's broadcasts.

A contending theory, proposed by other journalists, including New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winner J. Anthony Lukas, has long posited that neither O'Brien nor the Democrats' political and financial secrets were the plumbers' target: They were after another phone at DNC headquarters, which was allegedly being used to set up dates with prostitutes for visiting out-of-town Democratic officials.

That phone belonged to DNC official R. Spencer Oliver, who was often away on business, according to these accounts. In his absence, they say, it was used by Oliver's secretary Ida Wells to set up dates with hookers for prominent Democrats visiting town.

Tuesday's release revealed that the names of Oliver and Wells were on the bugging target list, compiled by the White House plumbers' wiretapper, Alfred Baldwin, and promptly sealed for 40 years--until now.

But O'Brien's name was not on it.

Not only is O'Brien's name not on the list, but the Washington, DC detective who nabbed the burglars in the act, Carl Shoffner, testified in one Watergate proceeding that he had wrested a key from one of the perps that turned out to belong to Ida Wells' desk.

A 1992 book, Silent Coup, by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, had alleged that Nixon's White House lawyer, John Dean, had orchestrated the Watergate burglary to find out whether the Democrats knew that his future wife, Maureen, was connected to the madame of the call-girl ring.

The book was ridiculed and denounced by leading publications and reviewers but embraced by Nixon partisans. Dean sued the authors and their publisher and one of their key sources, convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, for defamation and reached an out-of-court settlement that he said "satisfied" him, according to erroneous news reports.

In fact, according to a little-noticed Sept. 27, 1999 judge's order, Dean dropped his suit against Colodny. The author (and the judge) accepted the deal only on condition that the former White House lawyer promise never sue him for defamation again. Colodny's insurance company also paid him $410,000 to make the suit go away.

"I, of course, was satisfied," Colodny said by email Wednesday.

Asked for comment Tuesday, Colodny told SpyTalk, "I think this release makes it clear that Larry O'Brien's phone was not the target of the Watergate break-in."

Author Jim Hougan, who was also sued by Dean but later dropped from the case, pursued similar alternate explanations for the Watergate break-in in a 1984 book, Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA.

On Tuesday he cheered the release of the bugging list.

The "newly released documents revealing the identities of those who were eavesdropped upon by the Watergate burglars are clearly at odds with the orthodox narrative put forward by the Washington Post," he said in an email.

"Contrary to what we would expect from the Post's reportage, there is no reference to DNC Chairman Larry O'Brien, and nothing to suggest the burglars had an interest in the Democrats' finances. What the documents do suggest is that the Watergate break-ins were not so much an exercise in political intelligence-gathering as an effort to obtain information about a call-girl operation that had established a working relationship with the Democratic National Committee."

The content of the bugged conversations remains sealed.

"The release of the names alone does not confirm or deny the traditional explanation of why the Watergate break-in occurred, or any of the alternate theories surrounding Watergate," Nichter said. But "the records released provide new grist for the alternate versions [of the Watergate affair], because they reveal that Oliver and Wells were among the individuals overheard by wiretapper Alfred Baldwin. At any rate, the release certainly doesn't disprove any of the alternate versions."

"While they differ on some points," Nichter added by email, "one thing Lukas, Hougan, and Colodny all have in common is that they said the phone used for the sex ring/escort service was R. Spencer Oliver's phone, which was used by Ida Maxine Wells to set up the dates/escorts."

In four decades, Woodward and Bernstein have not altered their version of events.

Baldwin is in fragile heath and could not be reached. "He wants to come out publicly about this, but he wants to get McCord's permission first," Nichter said.

McCord, now "on his deathbed at a military hospital in Pennsylvania" and "refusing to talk," Nichter said, has stuck to his story about O'Brien's phone being the plumbers' target.

But the FBI never did find a bug in O'Brien's phone or desk, Nichter and others point out.

"I do not take sides on this dispute," Nichter said. "My goal is to unseal as many records as possible, in order to fill in gaps in the historical record."

Forty years later, we still asking, Why did the burglary take place? Who ordered it and why?
vealed that the listening post

Image Jeff Stein ‏@SpyTalker: SpyTalk: #WATERGATE BUGGING--AGAIN. Newly released #wiretap target list raises questions on '72 break-in. ... l?spref=tw
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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:28 pm

@Slate: Bob Woodward's troubling secret as revealed by his 1984 biography of John Belushi: #correx

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Re: The CIA and Wash. Post - 2001 interview w/Deborah Davis

Postby MinM » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:23 am

Nathaniel Heidenheim‏

Truth dies in darkness, especially wherever a Tom Hanks movie unwinds 'round vacuum-spool of CIA, Washington Post Official History. ... n-post.pdf

Nathaniel Heidenheim‏

"Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg Mythologize the Washington Post" (for CIA) ... ngton-post

As a corrective to yet another tendentious Hanks-Spielberg historical rewrite


I watched The Post. Thought it was pretty weak—like an inadequate attempt at an All The President’s Men prequel. Don’t @ me.

Dec 15

All the President's Men took Katharine Graham out of history. The Post puts her back in:

Dec 15

George Clooney is working on a Watergate series for Netflix

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