From email@example.com Fri Aug 16 10:30:11 2002
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 16:34:42 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: From the archives: The US Office of Domestic Propaganda
Rich Winkel UMC Math Department (MATHRICH@UMCVMB.MISSOURI.EDU)
Subject: Reagan and reality
Date: 1989-04-11 10:35:09 PST
There’s a very interesting article in the Fall 1988 issue of
Foreign Policy. The article is
Story by Robert Parry (Newsweek national correspondent) and Peter
Kornbluh (National Security Archive analyst). Following is a brief
summary, followed by excerpts from a followup letter from the next
issue, written by several US congressmen.
The congressional investigation into the Iran/Contra affair uncovered
a domestic side to the Reagan administration’s efforts to
circumvent the law in pursuing its foreign policy aims. The chapter
dealing with this aspect of the scandal was deleted from the final
public report at the insistence of house and senate republicans.
According to anonymous sources on the staff of the investigative
comittee (and borne out in the letter in the next issue), the white
detailed a senior CIA propaganda expert to head up
covert domestic operation designed to manipulate congress and the
american public. In 1982, William Casey assigned Walter Raymond to
the NSC staff to set up a
public diplomacy program. Raymond is
a veteran of the CIA’s overseas media operations and has been
described as the CIA’s leading propaganda expert. Raymond put
Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the
Caribbean (S/LPD) in the State department, which took its orders
from, among others, Oliver North and Elliott Abrams.
An (anonymous) NSC official who worked with North and Raymond told the
they were trying to manipulate US public opinion,
using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned
from his career in the CIA covert operation shop. Another public
diplomacy official characterised the effort as
a vast psychological
The congressional investigation revealed that they: pressured journalists and news executives into giving a sympathetic portrayal of administration activities WRT latin america, deployed secretly funded private sector surrogates to attack anti-contra legislators in TV and newspaper ads, funded non-profit political organizations to push the contra cause, used the FBI to mount intimidating investigations into groups opposed to reagan’s policies in central america, and manipulated ongoing criminal investigations to protect their domestic operation from exposure.
Seeking to play down the government sponsored slaughter in El
Salvador, the reagan administration found itself repeatedly at odds
with human rights investigators and honest journalists. Its response
was to accuse the human rights groups of bias and to pressure critical
reporters to leave. US embassy officials boasted in 1982 that they
had forced the New York Times correspondent Raymond Bronner out of El
Salvador because of his unfavorable reporting on the Salvadoran
As a pretext for the contra war, the administration relied on the
myth that the sandinistas had fueled the salvadoran insurgency. In
December 1981, Casy misled congressional intelligence oversight
commitees by depicting the contras as an arms
force ... thereafter, virtually every component of US policy toward
nicaragua was misrepresented to congress and the public, often
cynically exploiting concerns and fears of everyday americans.
One deception fashioned by the CIA was described in an interview with
former contra director Edgar Chamorro. The administration accused the
sandinistas of anti-semitism, using as evidence the fact that much of
the jewish community had fled nicaragua after the 1979 revolution.
The administration made this allegation repeatedly, even after a
secret cable from the US embassy in managua reported that there was
no verifiable ground for the accusation, and that the jews who
left had been personally associated with Samoza.
The administration’s pollster found in 1983 that many americans
were afraid of an influx of refugees from south of the border.
Accordingly, in june of that year, reagan began harping on the theme
that unless a tough stand was taken, a
tidal wave of refugees
would be swarming into the US.
To overcome the contra’s military ineffectiveness in 1983 and
84, Casey ordered a series of cia-run costal attacks on nicaragua,
including mining its harbors. According to Chamorro, the cia then
instructed contra leaders to claim credit for the raids ... [the
raids were held to be proof that] the contras were capable of mounting
sophisticated military operations, thus justifying continued cia
Shaping the administrations thinking was the legacy of vietnam
where, many administration ideologes believed, the war had been lost
because the north vietnamese and soviets had tricked the american
people through clever disinformation.
PROFS message from Poindexter to North, Sept 13, 86:
Bill Casey was
in this morning and amongst other things he said that he still felt
that we needed somebody in the white house full time on central
american public affairs. I think what he really has in mind is a
political operative that can twist arms and also run a high powered
public affairs campaign.
In 1986, as congress debated sending $100 million to the contras,
North and Noriega (of panama) arranged to plant a shipment of
east-bloc weapons in El Salvador, where it would be
and used as the long missing proof that the sandinistas were supplying
arms to the salvadoran resistance, according to congressional
testimony by Jose Blandon, Noriega’s former consul. Blandon
said the plan went awry after Noriega became angry with US press
disclosures of his involvement in drug trafficing and seized the ship
carrying the armaments.
The administration drummed up monetary support from private donors and
channeled money to several
independent organizations to front
for their PR campaign. Accuracy in Media, Freedom House and the
National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty were among groups
receiving such funds. A key advantage to using outside groups was the
perception that they were more objective than administration
officials. Their advice was even sought out at times by congressmen
who were unaware of the source of their financial backing. The
strategy also circumvented laws against executive branch lobbying and
In testimony to a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee
on Western Hemisphere Affairs in april 1985, Tom Dowling, dressed in
the garb of a roman catholic priest, denounced sandinista human rights
abuses to counter testimony of other religious figures about contra
abuses. Committee members did not discover until later that Dowling
had been working for North and was not an ordained roman catholic
priest, but belonged instead to an unrecognized sect called the Old
The contras were coached by the cia to prepare for their testimony before congress. They were told to downplay their goal of overthrowing the sandinistas, and instead stress a desire for a negotiated settlement.
[former Contra director Edgar] Chamorro said in his 1987 book
Packaging the Contras: A Case of CIA Disinformation that CIA
money was channeled to the Nicaraguan exile Humberto Belli to help
found the Puebla Institute, which published his book
Christians Under Fire and later printed reports denouncing the
Sandinista human rights record.
Of course the CIA told us to say
that the money for the book and Institute was from private individuals
who wanted to remain anonymous, Chamorro wrote. The Puebla
Institute denies that it received CIA money or that it has any
association with the CIA.
In 1984, North oversaw a
sting operation in which a
convicted narcotics smuggler, Barry Seal, piloted a shipment of
cocaine into Nicaragua and secretly photographed a Nicaraguan official
carrying one of the sacks to a second plane, which was then flown to
Florida. The story was promptly leaked to the press and became the
basis of Reagan’s charge that the Sandinistas were poisoning the
youth of America. The Drug Enforcement Agency later acknowledged that
it had no evidence of drug running by any other Nicaraguan government
After an NPR report on contra abuses, Otto Reich of S/LPD called NPR
editors and said he had a special consultant monitoring NPR, and that
he considered their report to be biased against US policy in the
region. Bill Buzenberg (then NPR foreign affairs correspondent)
recalled that Reich said he had
made similar visits to other
unnamed unewspapers and major television networks and had gotten
others to change some of their reporters in the field because of a
leaking of cooked information was used to manipulate
the media. During the 1984 administration-fabricated
crisis, an internal memo (dated 2/8/85) from the S/LPD stated that
over 30 briefings were held for media representatives. The story was
false, but the public perception of a military threat from nicaragua
Private sector surrogates were also used to target uncooperative
congressmen during congressional elections. When Michael Barnes (Dem,
Maryland) initiated probes into North’s secret contra supply
network, NEPL placed TV and newspaper ads labeling Barnes as a
sandinista sympathizer. The night Barnes lost, NEPL head Carl Channel
sent North a telegram proclaiming
an end to much of the
disinformation and unwise effort directed at crippling your foreign
policy goals. The anti-Barnes ads, since they were shown on
washington area TV, also had the side effect of intimidating other
congressmen who might buck the reagan line.
FBI memo, 11/10/83:
It is imperative at this time to formulate some
plan of attack against CISPES (Committee In Solidarity with the People
of El Salvador) and specifically, against individuals who defiantly
display their contempt for the US government by making speeches and
propogandizing their cause.
A disaffected american mercenary named Jack Terrell went public in 1986 with accounts of contra atrocities, corruption and drug trafficking. North assigned a former CIA operative named Glenn Robinette to investigate and discredit him. The FBI also launched an investigation into allegations that Terrell had threatened the president. After a campaign of harrassment culminating in a 2 day polygraph interrogation, the FBI dropped the investigation, but not before Terrell was convinced to lower his public profile. At the same time, North was receiving reports from his field operative, Rob Owen, which corroborated Terrell’s claims.
S/LPD spread rumors questioning the motives of uncooperative
reporters. The attacks served two purposes:
to intimidate targets
into self censorship, and to
controversialize them, leading to
greater skepticism about their articles.
The list goes on and on ....
The next issue of Foreign Policy contains a letter signed by 7
prominent House leaders, defending the article against a letter from
Walter Raymond, who of course denies everything. The congressmen cite
an apparently secret
executive summary from the Iran-Contra
investigation, parts of which are quoted below:
During the period when the administration was denying to congress
that it was involved in supporting the contras war effort, it was
engaged in a campaign to alter public opinion and change the vote in
congress on contra aid. Public funds were used to conduct public
relations activities, and certain NSC staff members, using the
prestige of the white house and the promise of meetings with the
president, helped raise private donations both for media campaigns and
for weapons to be used by the contras.
... S/LPD’s activities were coordinated not within the
state department, but by an interagency working group established by
the NSC. The principal NSC staff officer was a former senior CIA
official with experience in covert operations ...
... S/LPD produced and widely disseminated a variety of pro-contra
publications and arranged speeches and press conferences. It also
disseminated what one official termed
pro-contra newspaper articles by paid consultants who did not disclose
their connection to the administration.
The letter was signed by Dante Fascell, Jack Brooks, Lewis Stokes, Peter Rodino, Edward Boland, Thomas Foley and Les Aspin.
Sorry for the length of this thing ... I just thought it might be interesting reading.