Originally published on September 8, 2014, at NationofChange.org
In violation of journalistic ethics and the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, former Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Dilanian allowed CIA handlers to edit his articles prior to publication and reported false information to manipulate his audience. Responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the CIA released hundreds of pages documenting the agency’s dubious relationship with national security reporters. Operating under a glaring lack of oversight, the CIA has been exploiting establishment journalists since its inception.
The newly released documents cover Dilanian’s correspondence with the CIA from March to July 2012. In his emails, Dilanian repeatedly broke ethical guidelines by submitting his articles to the CIA allowing them to alter facts in order to portray the agency in a more favorable light. Receiving false intelligence from the CIA, Dilanian reported a drone strike had successfully killed Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi without causing any collateral damage. According to Amnesty International and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, at least 20 people were killed in the attack and several more wounded. Although some of the casualties had probably been Al Qaeda members, the other victims were rescue workers slaughtered in a follow-up drone strike.
While collaborating on an article with L.A. Times reporter David Cloud, Dilanian submitted a draft asking his CIA handlers to approve the version before it went to print. Dissatisfied with the earlier draft, the CIA later approved a softened version of the article that Dilanian and Cloud published on May 16. While collaborating with L.A. Times reporter Rebecca Keegan, Dilanian downplayed the CIA’s participation in leaking classified information to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal for their factually inaccurate propaganda film, Zero Dark Thirty.
After leaving the L.A. Times last May, Dilanian has become an intelligence reporter for the Associated Press. He claims the AP does not allow him to submit articles to the CIA prior to publication and admits, “I shouldn’t have done it, and I wouldn’t do it now.”
Other national security reporters who corresponded with the CIA during this timeframe include Brian Bennett of the L.A. Times, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal, Adam Goldman of The Washington Post, and Scott Shane of The New York Times.
Following the suspicious death of Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings, Robin Abcarian of the L.A. Times reported Hastings had been investigating CIA Director John Brennan at the time of his demise. Within hours, her colleague Brian Bennett contradicted her story claiming Hastings had been researching Florida socialite Jill Kelley instead. A few days later, L.A. Times reporter Andrew Blankstein debunked Bennett’s article and confirmed Hastings had been investigating CIA Director John Brennan when he died in a fiery explosion. Although Bennett’s article is full of false information, the editorial staff has refused to make any corrections.
As a contributing editor for Rolling Stone in 2011, Michael Hastings revealed Lt. Gen. William Caldwell had been illegally deploying psychological operations (psy-ops) against U.S. Senators visiting Afghanistan. According to the Defense Department, psy-ops utilize propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors on hostile foreign groups. Federal law has forbidden the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans since the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. But a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) overturned parts of the Smith-Mundt Act by authorizing propaganda produced by the State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors to be used against U.S. citizens.
After New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh exposed CIA corruption and massive spying programs against U.S. citizens on December 22, 1974, the government launched a series of investigations revealing illegal CIA activities. The toothless Rockefeller Commission, Church Committee, Nedzi Committee, and Pike Committee exposed several scandals and eventually led to the creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. During Operation CHAOS, the CIA infiltrated domestic anti-war groups while reading U.S. mail delivered to and from foreign countries. One of the first illegal programs implemented by the CIA was Operation Mockingbird, which recruited journalists to work for the agency on a volunteer or paid basis.
On October 20, 1977, Carl Bernstein wrote a Rolling Stone article revealing over 400 American journalists secretly working for the CIA. The agency manipulated hundreds of journalists, editors, and executives into reporting propaganda and false information to the American public. CIA collaborators worked within The New York Times, CBS, Time Inc., ABC, the Associated Press, NBC, Reuters, Newsweek, Hearst Newspapers, and numerous other media organizations. Between 1954 and 1961, CBS President Sig Mickelson compromised journalistic ethics by secretly entering into an agreement with the CIA.
Only a few reporters have admitted to working at the CIA before becoming journalists. NBC producer Frank Snepp, Veterans Today contributor Susan Lindauer, and Buck Sexton of TheBlaze.com do not shy away from their shadowy past. Walter Pincus of The Washington Post admitted to working for the CIA when he wrote an article for the San Jose Mercury News titled “How I Traveled Abroad on C.I.A. Subsidy” on February 18, 1967.
An example of the incestuous relationship between establishment media and the government is evident in the case of Geoff Morrell. He left his job parroting White House press releases at ABC News to become Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Morrell resigned in 2011 and is currently BP’s senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs.
Other reporters suspected of compromising their journalistic integrity include CNN’s Barbara Starr, Bret Baier of Fox News, Dina Temple-Raston of NPR, former L.A. Times reporter Robert Kaplan, Thom Shanker of The New York Times, Lesley Stahl of CBS News, Andrew Sorkin of The New York Times, Mark Moyar of The Wall Street Journal, Lara Logan of CBS News, Eric Schmitt of The New York Times, Tom Ricks of ForeignPolicy.com, S.A. Miller of The Washington Times, former Washington Post contributor Andrew Exum, Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker, and Perry Bacon, Jr. of NBC News.
Bearing a sordid history of torture, domestic surveillance, kidnapping, assassinations, and co-opting journalists, the CIA continues to operate without oversight. After the CIA hacked into computers belonging to the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director John Brennan was caught lying about the crime and making false accusations against the oversight committee. Operating with impunity, the CIA continues to compromise American journalists and commit further atrocities without fear of consequence.