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".
Davis also argued that Deep Throat was Richard Ober. Later, she claimed the source of this claim was a senior official in the CIA. As she pointed out in Katharine the Great: "The president also began to rely heavily upon the counsel of Richard Ober, Angleton's deputy, the man in the CIA most concerned with domestic counterintelligence, and one of the few whom Nixon trusted."
When the book was originally published in 1979 Katharine Graham (probably under instructions from the CIA) persuaded the publishers William Jovanovich, to 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.
In 1952 Cord Meyer showed up as a CIA official in Washington knowing the names and activities of these same trade union and national liberation organizations, and the public story was that he had defected from the one-world movement because he had suddenly seen that world government was in danger of being Communistic. This transformation, so out of character for a man of his methodical intellect, caused people within the movement to believe that World Federalism may have been a lengthy intelligence assignment.
It is 1956, then, and Ben Bradlee's brother-in-law is stationed as a covert operations agent in Europe. He travels constantly, inciting "student" demonstrations, "spontaneous" riots and trade union strikes; creating splits among leftist factions; distributing Communist literature to provoke anti-Communist backlash. This localized psychological warfare is ultimately, of course, warfare against the Russians, who are presumed to be the source of every leftist political sentiment in Italy, France, the entire theater of Meyer's operations. In Eastern Europe his aim on the contrary is to foment rebellion. Nineteen fifty-six is the year the CIA learns that the Soviets will indeed kill sixty thousand agency-aroused Hungarians with armored tanks.
All of this goes on quite apart from his marriage. Mary does not have a security clearance, so he cannot tell her what he is doing most of the time. They begin to drift apart, and Mary draws closer to her sister and to Ben. When in the late fifties her marriage to Cord ends, she goes to live with Tony and Ben in Washington, where Newsweek has transferred him, and sets up her apartment and art studio in their converted garage.
On a Saturday morning I went to my immediate boss, the embassy's public affairs officer, Bill Tyler, for help. Since we couldn't get any help from Washington, why didn't we send our own man - me, obviously - to New York to read the transcript of the entire Rosenberg Trial (and appeals), return to Paris as quickly as possible, and write a detailed, factual account of the evidence as it was presented, witness by witness, and as it was rebutted, cross-examination by cross-examination? Tyler thought that was a great idea. When could I - should I leave? Right away. Fine, but it was Saturday. The banks were closed and no one had cash for the air fare. "That's all right," said Tyler. "We'll ask Bobby for some francs."
Bobby was Robert Thayer, son of the founder of St. Mark's School, a longtime friend of my mother and father, and the CIA station chief in Paris. He reached nonchalantly into the bottom drawer of his desk and fished out enough francs to fly me to the moon, much less to the Federal Courthouse in the Southern District of New York, and I left that afternoon. This incident caused me some embarrassment years later, when a woman named Deborah Davis argued in a book about Katharine Graham that I had worked for the CIA as an agent. Her "evidence," obtained through a Freedom of Information request, was an internal CIA document noting that Bobby Thayer had advanced the cash for my air fare.
The Washington Post was in many ways like other "companies," as Walter Lippmann called the news organizations, fighting deadlines, living uneasily with unions, suffering with "technical conditions (that) do not favor genuine and productive debate." But the Post was also unique among news companies in that its managers, living and working in Washington, thought of themselves simultaneously as journalists, businessmen, and patriots, a state of mind that made them singularly able to expand the company while promoting the national interest. Their individual relations with intelligence had in fact been the reason that the Post Company had grown as fast as it did after the war; their secrets were its corporate secrets, beginning with MOCKINGBIRD. Philip Graham's commitment to intelligence gave his friends Frank Wisner and Allen Dulles an interest in helping to make the Washington Post the dominant news vehicle in Washington, which they did by assisting with its two most crucial acquisitions, the Times-Herald and WTOP. The Post men most essential to these transactions, other than Phil, were Wayne Coy, the Post executive who had been Phil's former New Deal boss, and John S. Hayes, who replaced Coy in 1947 when Coy was appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
The minor deception in the book is that only Woodward knew who Deep Throat was. Bradlee knew him, had known him far longer than Woodward. There is a possibility that Woodward had met him while working as an intelligence liaison between the Pentagon and the White House, where Deep Throat spent a lot of time, and that he considered Woodward trustworthy, or useful, and began talking to him when the time was right. It is equally likely, though, that Bradlee, who had given Woodward other sources on other stories, put them in touch after Woodward's first day on the story, when Watergate burglar James McCord said at his arraignment hearing that he had once worked for the CIA. Whether or not Bradlee provided the source, he recognized McCord's statement to the court as highly unusual: CIA employees, when caught in an illegal act, do not admit that they work for the CIA, unless that is part of the plan. McCord had no good reasons to mention the CIA at all, except, apparently, to direct wide attention to the burglary, because he had been asked to state only his present occupation, and he had not worked for the CIA for several years.
What matters is not how the connection with Deep Throat was made, but why. Why did Bradlee allow Woodward to rely so heavily upon it, and ultimately, why did the leaders of the intelligence community, for whom Deep Throat spoke, want the president of the United States to fall?
What we have seen so far has been Nixon's attempt, after the Pentagon Papers, to bludgeon CIA director Helms and FBI director Hoover into cooperating with his campaign to use the papers against the Democrats. Actually, Watergate goes back to the early days of the Nixon administration, when Henry Kissinger, the head of the National Security Council, issued NSSM (National Security Study Memorandum) 1 (ironically, Daniel Ellsberg had helped him draft it), which required different intelligence agencies and departments to provide him with independent answers to comprehensive sets of questions about the Vietnam war. The purpose of NSSM 1 was not only to be able to run the war better, for Kissinger was running the war the way he wanted to in Vietnam and Cambodia anyway, but to play the agencies off against each other, with the power, in the confusion, going to Kissinger. He was, of course, understood to be operating for Nixon.
NSSM 1 came out on February 1, 1969, about a week after Nixon took office; in February 1970 Kissinger then formed the infamous 40 Committee, to which the CIA was to submit all plans for covert actions. In December 1970 Kissinger assigned James Schlesinger, assistant director of the budget, the task of analyzing the intelligence budget with an eye to cutting back the department of Thomas Karamessines, Helms's deputy and the director of plans...
Three months later he authorized John Mitchell to provide Justice Department cover for an Intelligence Evaluation Committee (IEC, for which Hoover refused to provide FBI staff), which monitored civil disturbances and coordinated and evaluated domestic intelligence. The president also began to rely heavily upon the counsel of Richard Ober, Angleton's deputy, the man in the CIA most concerned with domestic counterintelligence, and one of the few whom Nixon trusted. Ober was given a small office inside the White House, where he was known only to Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and possibly Kissinger. He had unlimited access to the president, could pass Haldeman at any time without permission and without going on the record (his name was never recorded in White House logs), and was present at many of the meetings that took place after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, when Nixon's obsession with his enemies pushed him to the limits to rational thought. The president, in his confusion, began to equate the Democrats with both the war (the Kennedy Democrats) and the antiwar movement (the McGovern Democrats); decided that a McGovern victory in the approaching presidential election would be a victory for the movement's Communists; and became more firmly convinced than he had always been that his reelection was synonymous with the best interests of the nation. He also knew, and must have complained to his personal intelligence consultant, Ober, that neither the CIA nor the FBI would help ensure that he would win.
Nixon's confidence in Ober did not come automatically; a man like Nixon must have proof of loyalty. He would have had to see, from Ober, the evidence that he did not care for bureaucratic battles, that he put the president's interests above those of the CIA. The most effective way for Ober to have proven himself was to have acted as consultant when Ehrlichman, Nixon's domestic affairs adviser, was ordered to establish (without experience in such matters) the president's personal intelligence unit, the Plumbers, in the summer of 1971. Ober would have found Ehrlichman the right men for the job (men like former CIA operative James McCord); he would have provided equipment, given detailed instructions, helped Ehrlichman to analyze their results. He would have shown Nixon that he was willing to risk his career for him by doing what the CIA would not have done-for example, overseeing the burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist-which more than anything else would have demonstrated Ober's correct state of mind and persuaded Nixon that he could finally trust him.
The essential rule of counterintelligence is to use an enemy's weaknesses against himself, to one's own advantage. Haldeman and Ehrlichman held the authority in the Nixon White House for political intelligence and sabotage, but Nixon, by his nature, needed to keep secrets even from them; he needed to think that certain plans were too sensitive to share with anybody except Ober. This operative, who was next to Angleton the most skilled counterintelligence man in the nation, understood Nixon's fear of the Democrats and did not tell him that with his thirty-point lead in the polls the fear was illogical. Instead, he played upon it; he either persuaded Nixon or agreed with him that the Plumbers ought to stop working on the fringes of the campaign, that they should be sent directly into Democratic National Committee headquarters to plant telephone bugs and steal documents, which they did for the first time on May 1, 1972, the day, coincidentally, before J. Edgar Hoover died.
Alfred Friendly was a Post reporter while also serving in Air Force intelligence during World War II and as director of overseas information for the Economic Cooperation Administration from 1948-49. Joseph B. Smith (Portrait of a Cold Warrior) reports that the ECA routinely provided cover for the CIA. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were set up by the CIA and John S. Hayes was their chairman by 1974. Years earlier when Hayes was vice-president for radio and television at the Post, he was appointed by Kennedy to a secret CIA propaganda task force. Friendly left the Post soon after Bradlee came on board, and Hayes left when Johnson appointed him ambassador to Switzerland in 1966.
But poor Bradlee claims he didn't know that Cord Meyer was a globetrotting CIA destabilizer in the fifties, just as he knew nothing about CIA links when he took time off from the Post to work as a propagandist for the U.S. embassy in Paris from 1951-53. Deborah Davis includes in her book a memo released under the FOIA that shows Bradlee responding to a request from the CIA station chief in Paris, Robert Thayer. His assignment was to place stories in the European press to discredit the Rosenbergs, who had been sentenced to death, and Bradlee followed orders.
Benjamin Bradlee: from Post reporter to embassy propagandist, then on to Newsweek and back to the Post as executive editor, without breaking stride. The point of Davis' book is that this pattern is repeated again and again in Post history; she calls it "mediapolitics" -- the use of information media for political purposes. Robert Thayer's status as CIA station chief in Paris is confirmed in Richard Harris Smith's book OSS. While in Paris, Bradlee already knew Thayer, having attended the preparatory school Thayer ran while Robert Jr. was his classmate. Bradlee categorically denies any CIA connection, but it's a toss-up as to which is more disturbing: Bradlee in bed with the CIA and lying about it, or Bradlee led around by the CIA and not knowing it.
Unlike Bradlee, Katharine does not seem as sophisticated or conniving; she was apparently completely sucked in by such charmers as Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, and even Henry Kissinger, who took her to the movies. She supported Nixon in 1968 and 1972, changed her mind about him later, but has yet to waver from the anti-Communism that kept the Post from criticizing U.S. policy in Vietnam. Her idea of an awkward situation is asking Nixon for National Guard protection during anti-Vietnam demonstrations in Washington; Lyndon never made her ask. The demonstrators had to be duped -- after all, she had taken the time to get her facts straight with a trip to Vietnam in 1965, where she shopped for blue and white china, and had access to all the assorted power brokers and opinion makers who showed up at the 1966 masked ball that Truman Capote gave for her. Between Bradlee and Katharine, with journalism such as this it's a wonder that the Vietnamese people survived.
The elitist conservatism and intelligence connections of the Post are as important today as they ever were; Katharine and Bradlee are still in control. Davis could have remarked on the current New Right editorial line in the Post, or added the fact that former editorial page editor (1968-79) Philip Geyelin joined the CIA for a year in 1950, while on leave from the Wall Street Journal, but found the work boring and went back to the Journal. And she also doesn't mention that Walter Pincus, a Post reporter who still covers intelligence issues, took two CIA-financed trips overseas to international student conferences in 1960, and waited to write about them until 1967 when reporters everywhere were exposing CIA conduits. Informed readers of Geyelin (who stills does a column) and Pincus can learn much from they way these writers filter history. This may qualify them as good journalists among their colleagues, but for the unwitting masses it simply amounts to more disinformation.
The CIA connections that Davis does mention are dynamite. The issue is relevant today because frequently the D.C. reader has to pick up the Washington Times to get information on the CIA the Post refuses to print. For example, while almost every major newspaper in the country, as well as CBS News and ABC News, use the real name of former CIA Costa Rican station chief "Tomas Castillo," the Post, as of late June, continues to gloat over their use of the pseudonym only. This is probably Bradlee's decision, not Katharine's, because Newsweek let former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry use Castillo's real name (Joseph F. Fernandez, age 50) when Parry joined the magazine earlier this year. According to Davis, Katharine doesn't make editorial decisions these days unless they threaten the health of the company.
The question, then, becomes one of myth-management, and attempting to discern why the Post enjoys such a liberal reputation in spite of its record. Once you redefine liberalism as something slightly closer to the center than the New Right, it means that "genuine" liberalism (if such a thing was ever important) is stranded and soon becomes extinct. Add to this the fact that U.S. liberalism since World War II, whether "genuine" or contemporary, has a record on foreign policy that would make Teddy Roosevelt proud. That leaves two media events to explain the Post puzzle: the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Forget the first event, because the Post was merely trying to keep up with the New York Times so as not to lose face. Besides, they didn't make a movie about it.
Watergate and the Post, the stuff of great drama. Much has been written already about the probability that Nixon was set up. McCord as a double agent has been covered neatly in Carl Oglesby's Yankee and Cowboy War, Bob Woodward's previous employment with a Pentagon intelligence unit was mentioned in Jim Hougan's Secret Agenda, and the motive -- that Nixon was losing perspective and becoming a threat to those who were still able to see their long-range interests clearly -- is evident after reading Seymour Hersh's The Politics of Power.
If you put it all together and summarize it in the context of Deep Throat and the Post, along with Bradlee's CIA sympathies, you must agree with Davis that Nixon wasn't the only one set up; Deep Throat led the Post by the nose. Whether they knew it or not, whether they cared or not assuming that they knew, and whether or not a noble end can justify shabby means -- all this pales next to Davis' main point. That point is this: the Post, whose history of journalism by manipulation helped create the conditions that led to Vietnam, the demonstrations, and the psychosis of Nixon, ended up using or responding to these same manipulative methods to avoid political obsolescence, and somehow it worked.
Davis identifies Deep Throat as Richard Ober, the chief of the CIA's domestic spying program called Operation CHAOS. The evidence is circumstantial and her sources remain anonymous. According to Davis, Kissinger moved Angleton into the White House and set him up with his own Israeli intelligence desk in 1969. This sounds like vintage Kissinger as he acts swiftly to capture the foreign policy apparatus, but it's the first I've heard that Angleton, who thought the Sino-Soviet split was a ruse designed to catch the West napping, was on any sort of terms with the China-hopping, detente-talking Kissinger.
Davis writes that Angleton's deputy Ober was also given a White House office, and after the Pentagon Papers were published Ober had privileged access to Nixon and was able to observe his deterioration. Again, this is news to me. If Davis is correct, it means Angleton and Ober were running Operation CHAOS out of the White House, Nixon knew about it while Kissinger didn't, but both Kissinger and Nixon were deeply suspicious of the CIA and felt it necessary to start up the Huston Plan to cover the CIA's shortcomings in domestic intelligence. At least the book includes a photograph of Ober -- the first one I've seen. Davis makes more sense than some of the Watergate theories that have kicked around in past years, but this is still the most speculative portion of her book.
Part of the Post success story has to do with sheer wealth. As one of the world's richest women, Graham has the empire backed up with many millions, which guarantees continued access to privilege and power. Another part is an ability to play dirty. Katharine Graham, who became one of Washington's most notorious union-busters in the name of a free press, used her "soft cop" with Bradlee's "hard cop" to insure that William Jovanovich, who published the first edition of this book in 1979, was bullied into recalling 20,000 copies because of minor inaccuracies alleged by Bradlee. Jovanovich made no effort to check Bradlee's allegations. Deborah Davis filed a breach-of- contract and damage-to-reputation suit against Jovanovich, who settled out of court with her in 1983.
The entire saga of Katharine the Great is a sobering antidote to the intoxication I felt when All the President's Men first played. A myth has been more than punctured; Davis bludgeons it mercilessly -- yet in a manner that shows far more journalistic integrity than one can expect from the Post or from Jovanovich. This bludgeoning was overdue for eight years, delayed by exactly the sort of Washington hardball that Davis exposes. Indeed, there can be no more eloquent testimony to the substantive nature of Davis' material than the sound that those 20,000 copies must have made as they, at the behest of Post power, went through a shredding machine.
Kenn Thomas: 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?
Deborah Davis: 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.
Kenn Thomas: 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.
Deborah Davis : 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 '50s 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: 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.
Following the establishment of the CIA in 1947, Graham also forged close ties to the CIA to the point that he was described by author Deborah Davis, as "one of the architects of what became a widespread practice: the use and manipulation of journalists by the CIA"- a CIA project known as Operation Mockingbird.
According to Davis, the CIA link was integral to the Post's rise to power: "Basically the Post grew up by trading information with the intelligence agencies." In short, Graham made the Post into an effective and influential propaganda conduit for the CIA...
In her critical biography of Mrs. Graham, Davis never once suggested that Philip had been murdered but has said in interviews that "there's some speculation that either (Katharine) arranged for him to be killed or somebody said to her, 'don't worry, we'll take care of it' " and that "there's some speculation that it might have even been Edward Bennett Williams."
Under Katharine Graham's rule, The Washington Post grew more powerful than ever, and in 1974 played the pivotal role in the destruction of Richard Nixon who was evidently perceived as a danger to the CIA and to the plutocratic elite.
In her book, Katharine the Great-which Mrs. Graham worked hard to suppress-Deborah Davis perhaps provided the real key to Watergate, charging that the Post's famed Watergate source - "Deep Throat" - was almost certainly Richard Ober, the right-hand man of James Angleton, the CIA's counterintelligence chief and longtime liaison to Israel's Mossad.
Miss Davis revealed that Ober was in charge of a joint CIA-Israeli counterintelligence desk established by Angleton inside the White House. From this listening post, Ober (at Angleton's direction) provided inside information to the Post about Watergate that helped bring down the Nixon administration.