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Covert Propaganda & Media Manipulation: Lew Rockwell interviews Doug Valentine

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ROCKWELL: Good morning. This is the Lew Rockwell Show. And how great to have as our guest this morning, Mr. Doug Valentine. Doug is a poet. He also is an expert on the CIA, on the DEA, on various other evil government agencies (laughing). And it's great to have him come on to talk about what I always think of, in some sense, as the secret government of the U.S. He's the author of The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA; The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs; The Phoenix Program; and two novels, too, TDY and The Hotel Tacloban.
So, Doug, those of us who were interested in the Church hearings, which we don't hear much more about, learned about Operation Mockingbird, the CIA's program to take control of the U.S. media. Has Operation Mockingbird continued? And, in fact, has it put Operation Mockingbird of the old days in the shadows? Is the American mainstream media just pretty much a P.R. operation for the CIA?
VALENTINE: It goes beyond the CIA, of course. The United States has a couple of agencies that are interested in propagandizing not only the American people but the world, including the State Department, which is the biggest federal agency involved in propaganda, and the military, which is probably a close second. The military is one of the biggest advertisers. And, of course, the media depends on its revenue, not on -- especially the television -- not on listeners or viewers, but on its advertisers. So there is relationships -- a much larger relationship between the U.S. media, the military, the State Department, than there is with the CIA.
The question one has to ask, given that all this propaganda from the various agencies is coming at the American people is, what makes CIA propaganda different than State Department propaganda or military propaganda or even just plain -- the propaganda that corporations and advertisers are throwing at the American people every second of every day. Everywhere you look there's signs, advertising signs, and that's all propaganda as well, too. So the question you have to ask is, what differentiates CIA propaganda from all this other propaganda.
ROCKWELL: And you also make an interesting point about the advertising. Doesn't the DEA do a huge amount of advertising, too?
VALENTINE: Well, sure. And they're always the biggest -- just as an example, you know, the biggest message that the DEA is trying to get across through its propaganda is that America, the United States is a victim of the War on Drugs; that other people, foreign countries are pushing drugs on us. And --
VALENTINE: -- we're just innocent victims of all these drug pushers and, therefore, the DEA has to have a $50 billion-a-year industry that goes around the world to try to stop these people. And even though that never happens and the war just goes on and on, the propaganda is convincing, and Americans feel good that it's not their own addictions or demands for drugs that's fueling this thing. But, you know, it's the fault of a couple of cartels in Mexico that all of this is going wrong.
But, yes, the DEA and the FBI -- the FBI is a huge propaganda machine. J. Edgar Hoover's strong suit was that he really understood how to create a P.R. machine that would promote FBI agents around the world as crime stoppers and, in America, as the people who got John Dillinger. And he knew how to manipulate statistics, to go after the correct criminals to promote the interests of his particular fiefdom within the United States government, which is composed of, you know, huge bureaucracies, which are all competing for federal dollars which come from taxpayers. And so they each have their P.R. machine, their own propaganda, which is just for bureaucratic reasons, so that they can get a bigger part of the congressional pie.
So there's all sorts of reasons for propaganda. There's all types of propaganda. And the CIA is one of those agencies that's trying to promote itself and get more money for itself. And all those things contribute to whether the CIA decides what kind of propaganda to promote in its decision making. There's those bureaucratic reasons as well as anything about spreading freedom and democracy.
ROCKWELL: As you asked earlier, what is it that differentiates CIA propaganda from all the rest of these agencies?
VALENTINE: We could go back to the ancient history of the Cold War and Mockingbird. In those days, it was a little bit easier to distinguish what the interests were of the CIA. And the CIA had an interest in promoting the unstated goals and policies of the United States, as opposed to the State Department, whose propaganda was in promoting the stated objectives of the United States, which were, of course, wrapped in the same kinds of deceptions and circumlocutions and euphemisms that the CIA uses, that the military uses. The language is pretty much the same for anybody who's propagandizing, which adds to the confusion of where it's coming from.
But the State Department was promoting the stated objectives, which is to promote democracy and free enterprise and the institutions that people identify with America. The CIA propaganda is to disguise the fact that there's an agency, a very powerful agency of the United States government that's promoting anti-democratic policies, policies that are designed to support tyrants overseas, for example, or terrorism overseas or sabotage overseas or subversion overseas of friendly government, even the promotion of political parties in foreign countries that are actually advancing anti-democratic ideals, all these sorts of things that would be, if the public was to find out that the United States government is doing these things, would cause the president and the government embarrassment.
So the CIA is given the charge of doing these things that are essentially illegal and anti-democratic. And it's propaganda, which is generally referred to as black propaganda, as opposed to State Department propaganda, which is generically called white propaganda. The CIA has its black propaganda, which is to utterly and completely disguise its operations and blame them on our enemies.
ROCKWELL: You know, Doug, the CIA has always specialized in assassinations.
ROCKWELL: The military, too. Of course, now we have the president openly assassinating people and claiming he has the right to. In the earliest days, the CIA was allegedly prevented from operating within the U.S. I think that was always a myth. Now, the CIA is just openly and massively involved within the United States. Do you think it's committing assassinations here as well?
VALENTINE: Well, the thing with the CIA, it's always hard to prove anything. When you start dealing with the CIA and somebody says, well, show me a document that says the president ordered the CIA to kill, let's say, just as an example -- and I'm not saying this is true -- Senator Paul Wellstone, or some critic of government policies, and he dies in a suspicious plane crash, well, you're never going to find a document. You're never going to find any proof that can be used in a court of law which would show that the CIA conducted that kind of a political assassination within the United States, because the CIA doesn't conduct its operations unless they're deniable. And they won't go ahead and conduct that kind of an operation unless it's not connected -- it can't be connected to them.
So there's always, when talking about whether -- making an accusation about the CIA, because it's impossible to back it up with proof, it becomes an area that's difficult to tread upon. My inclination, based on everything I know as an expert of the CIA, is that, yes, they do. But can I prove it? I can't prove it because of the reasons I've just stated.
ROCKWELL: What's your opinion of Philip Agee's book? He's, of course, a former CIA agent who defected and wrote about just how many people were on the payroll and how many people were controlled by the agency. Do you think that's a -- is that a persuasive book?
VALENTINE: Absolutely, it is. And I think that much of the modern history of the CIA begins with Agee and his revelations as a person who was on the inside. Nothing he has ever said has been disproved. Nothing that he ever -- none of the hundreds of CIA offices that he outted, none of the methods that he ascribed to the CIA, none of that has ever been -- the CIA has not been able to say we don't do that or we didn't do that. Everything Agee said was true. Agee's problem was that he was considered a traitor for revealing these things. And so he was discredited on that basis and that basis alone. And any appeal that's made to people to disbelieve anything that Phil Agee said is made strictly on the basis of him having revealed secrets that he wasn't supposed to reveal, but not on the actual factual evidence. Everything he said was true.
He opened up to the public, and through his publishers, a lot of the inner workings of the CIA. And with that, it's not coincidental that the Church hearings follow pretty much on the heels of his revelations. At the time, there was a lot of things coming out, but he was the first and, as far as I know, the only CIA officer to ever reveal the inner workings of the CIA in that detail.
ROCKWELL: You know, we're finding out just now a lot more information about the Paris Review, a very influential literary publication, being, in effect, a CIA front. I've always been interested in National Review, one of my least-favorite publications, which was founded by Bill Buckley, a former CIA agent -- maybe I should put "former" in quotes. Whether these people ever really are "former" or not, I guess, is a question -- and a number of other former CIA people involved. And this is a magazine that set out as its goal to destroy any anti-war feelings on the so-called right, which it did help succeed in almost entirely doing. Do you think that perhaps the National Review was set up -- we've never known where the money came from. It didn't come from the Buckley family.
VALENTINE: Well, that's an interesting point. And I'm glad that you asked me that particular question, because there are agents of the CIA who work for a case officer and are on the payroll, and then, like in any spy business or propaganda people, there's people who do it for love, who will inform, or help a spy agency or a particular cause purely for ideological reasons. Somebody like Buckley is a perfect example of this. There's a lot of people who, even though they're, or by their inclination, they're predilections, might appear to be a CIA officer, they're simply in ideological sync with the CIA and they would be doing these things anyway. But I don't think that it's, in his case, necessary to try to distinguish whether or not he was an agent of the CIA or just somebody who was doing it out of, like I say, love.
What you need to -- where you need to focus is not on people whose ideology is the same as the CIA, but on, for example, the left. And now I'll raise -- just as an example, The Nation is a very popular leftist magazine. The question you have to ask is, would The Nation be promoting a CIA line in a particular instance? Would it be infiltrated? Would it -- because that's where the CIA would be directing its efforts. It would be directing its efforts at what Cord Meyer called -- and Cord Meyer was the CIA agent who was most commonly associated with Mockingbird -- what Cord Meyer called courting the compatible left. This is the area that the CIA would be involved in, not William Buckley and the National Review, because the CIA doesn't have to tell them what to say. They know what to say. They say the same thing as the CIA anyway. It's the newspapers and magazines that are promoting themselves as, let's say, fair and balanced or objective or non-partisan or even leftist. That's where the CIA would be concentrating its efforts. The further to the left a magazine or a media outlet is, that's where the CIA would be found.
ROCKWELL: For example, the Congress for Cultural Freedom in the early years, too.
VALENTINE: Yes. This, again, is -- so what you have to understand about the CIA, they don't have to tell J. Edgar Hoover what to say. These people know what to say. They're on the same wavelength, you know? They have all the same interests, the same -- if not the same patrons in private industry, they certainly have patrons who work on the same economic class or the same political class, you know, and so they have all the same interests.
What the CIA is going to do is it's going to try to infiltrate the Vietnamese Lao Dong Communists and bring them closer. It's going to try to go into France and infiltrate the Socialist parties and try to bring them further over to -- you know, even if it's just marginally -- towards, you know, free enterprise or whatever its drift is. They're going to concentrate in areas that are thought to be enemies of the United States. They're going to infiltrate those groups.
That would apply also domestically. They're going to try to move the Black Panthers to, you know, the mainstream. They're going to focus on areas that are needed; what the government sees to be needed in that sense.
ROCKWELL: You know, Doug, if somebody wanted to learn about the CIA, what would be the books that you would tell them to read?
VALENTINE: Well, I would start in the beginning with Agee, and Marchetti with The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. I think that another one from days gone by would be Fletcher Prouty, The Secret Team. I would stay away from books that are written by establishment figures, reporters for The New York Times. You know, Evan Thomas, do not read his books. I'd also stay away from academic books.
So those early books are important, but somebody would have to read something more recent because the CIA has undergone a lot of organizational changes in the last 10 years. The whole clandestine services have been reorganized and they're under new names. So these older books refer to the CIA organizationally in ways that are outdated, although the policies and operations haven't really changed. And so it would be important for people even to just read whatever information the CIA -- (laughing) -- puts out itself about its own organizational structure. It's a bureaucracy and it has to be understood as an organization, and how that organization is structured, what its different branches and divisions are, and what they do, simply in that kind of a straight-forward way. You can't understand the CIA without understanding how it's structured. And so, you know, looking at an organizational chart is, for me, always the first step. And then to understand that, as with any organization, the true channels of power happen off the -- (laughing) -- organizational chart. An organization like the CIA has built-in back channels and ways of doing things that defy any kind of structural analysis, too.
It's really difficult to understand, as is algebra or the petro-chemical industry. These are things that take serious study and a lot of effort. You have to read a lot of books and you have to stay up to date.
If I could, could I just mention something about how complicated things have become now a days? And --
ROCKWELL: Yes, please.
VALENTINE: 20 years ago, in 1989, actually 23 years ago, there was an article in Marine Corps Gazette, and it was talking about modern warfare at that time, 23 years ago. And if I just read something that was said 23 years ago, I think it will help people to understand just how things have evolved.
In this article from October 1989, in Marine Corps Gazette, they said, "The new type of warfare will be widely dispersed and largely undefined. Distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point. There will be no definable battlefields or fronts. And the distinction between civilian and military will disappear. Success will depend heavily on effectiveness and joint operations" -- the kind that, I would add, 10 years ago, became standard through Homeland Security. Anyway -- "as the lines between responsibility and mission become blurred." And then the kicker was they said that, "This war, new type of warfare will depend on psychological operations manifested in the form of media information intervention." Again, that's the military itself intervening into media information. "One must be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion. On this new psychological battlefield, television news may become a more powerful operational weapon then armored divisions."
23 years ago, before the Internet was even here, already the military was talking about how, as the world becomes a global village, state boundary lines disappear and the United States became the hegemonic world power with influence everywhere around the world. These types of psychological operations, which is propaganda, would become the defining factor in whether or not the United States would continue to dominate the world and its affairs, its political affairs.
And, like I said, this is before the Internet, before Facebook allowed people to get on in the morning and talk to somebody in Brazil and somebody in the Philippines and somebody in Russia and China, individual, and to have access to information from all over the world at our fingertips as individuals, and to be able to put on BBC or to read Russia Times, to get information from everywhere all the time. The military and the State Department and the CIA all understood that this was evolving and this was happening.
So to be called a person, an individual who can look at all this information and to understand that the instruments of American statecraft are trying to manipulate them, to make you think and feel a particular way, becomes a breathtakingly complex thing to do, to try to figure out where a particular piece of information is coming from. Is it coming from the State Department or the military or the CIA? And this article said these boundaries are breaking down. You can't even distinguish any more where a particular piece of propaganda is coming from. You can't -- the information is so rapid and overwhelming and mixed in with corporate messages, other kinds of messages that are coming at us. It's just like the person said, who wrote that article, it's a blur.
So how does an individual adapt themselves, adjust themselves to be able to discern in all this what's happening and where messages are coming from? You know, that's an incredible challenge. And people tend not to think that it's something they can even begin to deal with or recognize, let alone reading a book here or there, if you see what I'm trying to say (laughing).
ROCKWELL: But it still is possible, isn't it? It's just as you say --
VALENTINE: Oh, absolutely.
ROCKWELL: -- a matter of a lot of work?
VALENTINE: Yes, it's possible. It certainly is, because all the information is there.
ROCKWELL: Doug, I want to ask you one last question. This is a huge question, so you may just want to sort of skip over it lightly. But since you're an expert on the DEA as well as the CIA, what about the story of the CIA and drug running? Is it really true that, in the late 1940s, they were -- they began to get involved in the Golden Triangle and so forth, and maybe until recently, used drugs for political and maybe financial purposes?
VALENTINE: Oh, absolutely. The CIA and drugs, or the DEA and drugs?
ROCKWELL: Well, the -- well, -- (laughing) -- you can tell me about both, I guess. But I mean the CIA.
VALENTINE: Yes, yes. You know, the CIA made a point of infiltrating the DEA under the Nixon administration. But prior to that, you didn't have to tell the people who ran the DEA or its predecessor organizations that the drug wars were essentially political.
In the 1940s, the United States -- starting in 1949, it was official U.S. policy to blame China, Communist China for America's drug problem. It was not true. You know, that was the propaganda. And you didn't need the CIA to tell the old Bureau of Narcotics to do that. In fact, the guy who was the commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics, a guy named Harry Anslinger, was one of the great propagandists -- (laughing) -- of all time. He associated pot smoking with Negros trying to corrupt white women; you know, drug addicts with black musicians. You know, this guy, he taught the CIA how to propagandize, and that's true. When the OSS was formed, Harry Anslinger helped form the OSS. And his agents from the Bureau of Narcotics -- one of his senior agents went over to England in 1942. His name, the narcotic agent's name was Garland Williams. He went over there with a man named Millard Preston Goodfellow, who was a Hearst executive and on the Brooklyn Eagle; a newspaper man. And they came back with the British SOE training manuals and set up the OSS. So the guys who created the CIA included a narcotics agent who taught CIA agents how to avoid the security forces of foreign nations, which is what the narcotics people had been doing for decades.
All this stuff is old standard operating procedure. It really doesn't matter whether it's the DEA or the CIA or the FBI or the military. These people all know what to do. It's just, they do it for their own different bureaucratic reasons.
ROCKWELL: Well, Doug Valentine, thank you for what you do. This is not the sort of career that leads to power and pelf, which you've chosen. You've chosen the path of truth and of teaching truth, and we're all very much in your debt.
So, of course, we'll list all your books on the podcast page, your own web site.
Please come back on the show again. This has been terrific.
VALENTINE: You're very welcome. I would love to.
If I may just gratuitously thank my wife?
VALENTINE: People in my -- who follow this path, tend not to make a lot of money, and I've benefited from having a spouse who backed me 100%.
ROCKWELL: Great, Doug. Thank you very much.
VALENTINE: You're welcome.
ROCKWELL: Bye-bye.
Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There's a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.
Podcast date, June 26, 2012
January 18, 2013
Douglas Valentine [send him mail] is the author of four previously published books: The Hotel Tacloban (Lawrence Hill, 1984), The Phoenix Program, (William Morrow, 1990), TDY (, 2000), and The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs (Verso, 2004). His latest book is The Strength of the Pack (TrineDay, 2009). For more information about the author and his works, please visit his websites at and
Copyright 2013 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr, former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of See (more...)
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