John D. Marks

John D. Marks

John D. Marks worked for five years with the State Department as an analyst and staff assistant to the Intelligence Director. After leaving the State Department he worked with Victor Marchetti on a book about the need to reform the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence was completed in 1973. CIA officials read the manuscript and told Marchetti and Marks that they had to remove 399 passages, nearly a fifth of the book. After long negotiations the CIA yielded on 171 items. That left 168 censored passages. The publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, decided to go ahead and publish the book with blanks for those passages, and with the sections that the CIA had originally cut but then restored printed in boldface.

The publication of Marchetti's censored book raised concerns about the way the CIA was censoring information. It led to investigative reports by Seymour Hersh in The New York Times and the decision by Frank Church to establish a Select Committee to study government operations. The report, Foreign and Military Intelligence, was published in 1976.

Other books by Marks include The CIA File (1976), The Search for the Manchurian Candidate (1991) and Our Context (2002).

Marks later became a fellow of Harvard's Institute of Politics and an associate of the Harvard Negotiation Project and director of the Nuclear Network in Washington.

Primary Sources

(1) Victor Marchetti and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974)

The Dulles years ended with two disasters for the CIA that newspapers learned of in advance but refused to share fully with their readers. First came the shooting down of the U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1960. Chalmers Roberts, long the Washington Post's diplomatic correspondent, confirms in his book First Rough .Draft that he and "some other newsmen" knew about the U-2 flights in the late 1950s and "remained silent." Roberts explains, "Retrospectively, it seems a close question as to whether this was the right decision, but I think it probably was. We took the position that the national interest came before the story because we knew the United States very much needed to discover the secrets of Soviet missilery."

Most reporters at the time would have agreed with Richard Bissell that premature disclosure would have forced the Soviets "to take action." Yet Bissell admitted that "after five days" the.. Soviets were fully aware that the spy planes were overflying their country, and that the secrecy main- . tained by the Soviet and American governments was an example "of two hostile governments collaborating to keep operations secret from the general public on both sides."

The whole U-2 incident may well have been a watershed event. For much of the American press and public it was the first indication that their government lied, and it was the opening wedge in what would grow during the Vietnam years into the "credibility gap." But as the Eisenhower administration came to an end, there was still a national consensus that the fight against communism justified virtually any means. The press was very much a part of the consensus, and this did not start to crack until it became known that the CIA was organizing an armed invasion of Cuba.

Five months before the landing took place at the Bay of Pigs, the Nation published a secondhand account of the agency's efforts to train Cuban exiles for attacks against Cuba and called upon "all U.S. news media with correspondents in Guatemala," where the invaders were being trained, to check out the story. The New York Times responded on January 10, 1961, with an article describing the training, with U.S. assistance, of an anti-Castro force in Guatemala. At the end of the story, which mentioned neither the CIA nor a possible invasion, was a charge by the Cuban Foreign Minister that the U.S. government was preparing "mercenaries" in Guatemala and Florida for military action against Cuba. Turner Catledge, then the managing editor of the Times, declared in his book My Life and The Times: "I don't think that anyone who read the story would have doubted that something was in the wind; that the United States was deeply involved, or that the New York Times was onto the story."

As the date for the invasion approached, the New Republic obtained a comprehensive account of the preparations for ; the operation, but the liberal magazine's editor-in-chief, Gilbert Harrison, became wary of the security implications and submitted the article to President Kennedy for his advice. Kennedy asked that it not be printed, and Harrison, a friend of the President, complied. At about the same time, New York Times reporter Tad Szulc uncovered nearly the complete story, and the Times made preparations to carry it on April 7, 1961, under a. four-column headline. But Times publisher Orvil Dryfoos and Washington bureau chief James Reston both objected to the article on national-security grounds, and it was edited to eliminate all mention of CIA involvement or an "imminent" invasion. The truncated story, which mentioned only that 5,000 to 6,000 Cubans were being trained in the United States and Central America "for the liberation of Cuba," no longer merited a banner headline and was reduced to a single column on the front page. Times editor Clifton Daniel later explained that Dryfoos had ordered the story toned down: "above all, (out of) concern for the safety of the men who were preparing to offer their lives on the beaches of Cuba."

Times reporter Szulc states that he was not consulted about the heavy editing of his article, and he mentions that President Kennedy made a personal appeal to publisher Dryfoos not to run the story. Yet, less than a month after the invasion, at a meeting where he was urging newspaper editors not to print security information, Kennedy was able to say to the Times' Catledge, "If you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake."

(2) Victor Marchetti and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974)

The CIA is perfectly ready to, reward its friends. Besides provision of big news breaks such as defector stories, selected reports may receive "exclusives" on everything from U.S: government foreign policy to Soviet intentions. Hal Hendrix, described by three different Washington reporters as a known "friend" of the agency, won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1962 Miami Daily News reporting of the Cuban missile crisis. Much of his "inside story" was truly inside: it was based on CIA leaks.

Because of the CIA's clever handling of reporters and because of the personal views held by many of those reports ers and their editors, most of the American press has at least tacitly gone along, until the last few years, with the agency view that covert operations are not a proper subject for journalistic scrutiny. The credibility gap arising out of the Vietnam war, however, may well have changed the attitude of many reporters. The New York Times' Tom Wicker credits the Vietnam experience with making the press "more concerned with its fundamental duty.." Now that most reporters have seen repeated examples of government lying, he believes, they are much less likely to accept CIA denials of involvement in covert operations at home and abroad. As Wicker points out, "Lots of people today would believe that the CIA overthrows governments," and most journalists no longer "believe in the sanctity of classified material." In the case of his own paper, the New York Times, Wicker feels that "the Pentagon Papers made the big difference."

The unfolding of the Watergate scandal has also opened up the agency to increased scrutiny. Reporters have dug deeply into the CIA's assistance to the White House "plumbers" and the attempts to involve the agency in the Watergate cover-up. Perhaps most important, the press has largely rejected the "national security" defense used by the White House to justify its actions. With any luck at all, the American people can look forward to learning from the news media what their government - even its secret part - is doing. As Congress abdicates its responsibility, and as the President abuses his responsibility, we have nowhere else to turn.