Operation Mockingbird

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Operation Mockingbird is a CIA project started in the early 1950s to control the corporate media, and has been so successful that this site refers to them as the "corporate/controlled media", to contrast with independent publishers on the internet. The implications for Wikipedia's policy of deeming big media a "reliable" and "notable" are obviously dire.|

Event.png Operation Mockingbird (propaganda)  Sourcewatch SpartacusRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Date1950 - Present
PerpetratorsAllen Dulles, Cord Meyer, Frank Wisner, CIA
Exposed byCarl Bernstein, Deborah Davis
Interest ofJoseph Alsop, Victor Lasky
DescriptionOperation Mockingbird is a CIA covert operation that began in the 1950s and is a continuing manipulation and control of the media by the CIA.

Operation Mockingbird is a CIA project to subvert the original mission of the news media, to control corporate media for its own purposes. The existence of such projects should explain the rationale of this website.


Operation Mockingbird began in 1950, organized by Allen Dulles and Cord Meyer.[1] The CIA spent today's equivalent of one billion dollars a year hiring journalists from Corporate Media including CBS, The New York Times, ABC, NBC, Newsweek, Associated Press and others, to promote their point of view. The original operation reportedly involved some 3,000 CIA operatives and hired over 400 journalists. [2]

Implications for Wikispooks

This ongoing CIA operation naturally raises problems with Wikipedia's policy of deeming commercially-controlled media as reliable, and even more serious problems for policy of using corporate media attention to determine "notability". Most seriously of all, if the CIA (or anyone else, such as the deep state) can control big media, then Wikipedia's policy will continue the censorship by default. This realisation underlies the rationale of Wikispooks.


Many other quotes illustrate that Mockingbird is indeed widespread. Philip Graham of the Washington Post quotes a CIA operative that "You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month."[3]

Control of individual journalists is often superfluous since, to quote William B. Bader (ex-CIA, ex-ONI) “there is quite an incredible spread of relationships. You don't need to manipulate Time Magazine, for example, because there are [Central Intelligence] Agency people at the management level.” [4]

Former CIA director William Colby is reputed to have said this,[5] but no evidence has emerged prior to Dave McGowan's unreferenced attribution in Derailing Democracy, published 4 years after Colby's premature death.

Selected Examples

"It was only in late 1947 - 2½ years after the end of World War II that the United States formally decided that clandestine intelligence collection activities had to be supplemented by what was described at the time as covert psychological operations. These were described as propaganda and manipulation of the press, and the like."[6]

The CIA's best-known proprietaries were Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, both established in the early 1950s. The corporate structures of these two stations served as something of a prototype for other agency proprietaries. Each functioned under the cover provided by a board of directors made up of prominent Americans, who in the case of RFE incorporated as the National Committee for a Free Europe and in the case of RL as the American Committee for Liberation. But CIA officers in the key management positions at the stations made all the important decisions regarding the programming and operations of the stations.[7][8]

"As far as propaganda is concerned, as revealed in the staff paper, the largest covert action activity in Chile in the decade 1963-73 was propaganda. The CIA station in Santiago placed materials in the Chilean media, maintained a number of assets or agents on major Chilean newspapers, radio, and television stations, and manufactured "black propaganda"--that is, material falsely purporting to be the product of a particular group. Let me give you an illustrative range of the kinds of propaganda projects that were undertaken in Chile during the years under discussion, 1963 to 1973: subsidization of two news services to influence Chilean public opinion; operation of press placement service; support of the establishment of a commercial television service in Chile; support of anti-Communist propaganda activity through wall posters, leaflets, and other street actions; use of a CIA-controlled news agency to counter Communist influence in Chile and Latin America; placement of anti-Soviet propaganda on eight radio news stations and five provincial newspapers. By far the largest-and probably the most significant in this area of propaganda, was the money provided to El Mercurio, the major Santiago daily during the Allende regime. " $12 million in total.


The media received particular attention during this period. One project supported and operated wire services, equivalent to our AP and UPI. Another supported a right-wing weekly newspaper. The CIA also developed "assets" within the Chilean press. Assets are foreign nationals who are either on the CIA payroll or are subject to CIA guidance. One of these assets produced radio political commentary shows attacking the political parties on the left and supporting CIA selected candidates. Other assets placed CIA-inspired editorials almost daily in El Mercurio and, after 1968, exerted substantial control over the content of that paper's international news section. $11/2 million went to one opposition publication alone, the major Santiago newspaper, El Mercurio, Chile's oldest newspaper. The U.S. Government calculated that El Mercurio, under pressure from the Allende government, would not survive without covert U.S. support. At the same time, however, CIA documents acknowledged that only El Mercurio, and to a lesser extent, the papers belonging to the opposition parties were under severe pressure from the Chilean Government. Freedom of the press continued in Chile until the military coup in 1973. The 40 Committee authorized $700,000 for El Mercurio on September 9,1971, and added another $965,000 to that authorization on April 11, 1972. A CIA project renewal memorandum concluded that El Mercurio and other media outlets supported by the Agency had played an important role in setting the stage for the September 11, 1973, military coup which overthrew Allende. [9]

Until February 1976, when it announced a new policy toward U.S. media personnel, the CIA 'maintained covert relationships with about 50 American journalists or employees of U.S. media organizations. They are part of a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence foreign opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of foreign newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.

Failure to regulate

On February 11, 1976, the CIA announced new guidelines governing its relationship with U.S. media organizations" "Effective immediately, CIA will not enter into any paid or contractual relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station." Of the approximately 50. U.S. journalists or personnel of U.S. media organizations who were employed by the CIA or maintained some other covert relationship with the CIA at the time of the announcement, fewer than one-half would be terminated under the new CIA guidelines.[10] By this stage, the deep state had offshored its key operations[11] so international working relations stemming from international deep state milieux already meant that this policy, even if followed, was effectively meaningless as an operational restriction.


John Simkin writes that "In January 2005, I wrote an article entitled Operation Mockingbird. At that time very little was known about this highly secret Central Intelligence Agency media operation."[12]

Udo Ulfkotte

Full article: Udo Ulfkotte

In 2014 Udo Ulfkotte stated that the CIA bribed European journalists to write pro-American articles and publish CIA material them under their own names:

When you fly to the US again and again and never have to pay for anything there, and you’re invited to interview American politicians, you’re moving closer and closer to the circles of power. And you want to remain within this circle of the elite, so you write to please them. Everyone wants to be a celebrity journalist who gets exclusive access to famous politicians. But one wrong sentence and your career as a celebrity journalist is over. Everyone knows it. And everyone’s in on it.[13]
Udo Ulfkotte, former editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung[14]

2017 document release

In response to a lawsuit by MuckRock, the CIA published more than 12 million pages of declassified documents online, many of which revealed working closely with corporate media.[15]


Related Quotations

"Disinformation"“On 28 September 2023, the US Department of State released a landmark report on how the People’s Republic of China seeks to reshape the global information environment to its advantage by investing billions of dollars to construct a global information ecosystem that promotes its propaganda and facilitates censorship and the spread of "disinformation".<a href="#cite_note-4">[4]</a>
:China responded: "The US Department of State report is in itself disinformation as it misrepresents facts and truth. In fact, it is the US that invented the weaponizing of the global information space. The relevant center of the US State Department which concocted the report is engaged in propaganda and infiltration in the name of “global engagement”. It is a source of disinformation and the command center of “perception warfare”.
:"From Operation Mockingbird which bribed and manipulated news media for propaganda purposes in the Cold War era, to a vial of white powder and a staged video of the 'White Helmets' cited as evidence to wage wars of aggression in Iraq and Syria earlier this century, and then to the enormous lie made up to smear China’s Xinjiang policy, facts have proven time and again that the US is an 'empire of lies' through and through.
:"Even some in the US, such as Senator Rand Paul, acknowledged that the US government is the greatest propagator of "disinformation" in the history of the world."<a href="#cite_note-5">[5]</a>
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The People's Republic of China
30 September 2023
George Carlin“Smug, greedy, well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins. It's as simple as that. The CIA doesn't kill anybody anymore, they neutralize people, or they depopulate the area. The government doesn't lie, it engages in disinformation. The Pentagon actually measures nuclear radiation in something they call sunshine units. Israeli murderers are called commandos, Arab commandos are called terrorists. Contra killers are called freedom fighters. Well, if crime fighters fight crime, and firefighters fight fires, what do freedom fighters fight?”George Carlin
Warren Hinckle“While the ADA-types and the Arthur Schlesinger model liberal kewpie dolls battled fascism by protecting their right flank with domestic Red-baiting and Cold War one-upmanship, the Ivy League delinquents who fled to the CIA – liberal lawyers, businessmen, academics, games-playing craftsmen – hatched a master plan of Germanic ambition that entailed nothing less than clandestine political control of the international operations of all important American professional and cultural organisations: journalists, educators, jurists, businessmen, et al. The standing CIA subsidy to the National Student Association was but one slice of a very complex pie.”Warren Hinckle1967
Theodore ShackleyBill Casey was one of the key men in the acquisition of media after WW2. It was one of his proteges (a young German immigrant to the US) who was sent back to Germany after the war to take over Bertelsmann and build it up. Rupert Murdoch was very tight with Shackley, which is how he got launched on his global acquisitions and has now taken over the WSJ. Murdoch was running a failed national newspaper in Australia while Shackley was station chief in Oz. Then suddenly he becomes a US citizen literally overnight and goes on an endless buying spree. Shackley's pockets were infinitely deep. At the time, Murdoch was facing the likely closure of his newspaper The Australian. His ticket out was Shackley. This also explains why Murdoch was allowed to break all the rules in acquisition of media in America.”Theodore Shackley
Sterling Seagrave
Merriman Smith“Reporters struggled to find pay phones or other phones so they could get out the story. A few, like UPI reporter Merriman Smith — an unparalleled hustler — had amazing access to the scene. Smith got right next to the blood-spattered presidential limousine outside Parkland Hospital even before Kennedy was taken to the emergency room, and later witnessed Lyndon Johnson's historic swearing-in aboard Air Force One.”Merriman Smith
Time Magazine“You don't need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are [Central Intelligence] Agency people at the management level”William Bader1976


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
CIA Media Operations in Chile, Jamaica, and NicaraguaArticle16 March 1982Fred LandisHow the CIA takes over the major newspaper in a country targeted for regime change, and uses it as an instrument of destabilization. The method is still very much used in 2021.
Document:Covert Action in Chile, 1963-73report1976Church CommitteeA Church committee report of the hearings before them to study governmental operations with respect to intelligence activities of the United States Senate. A very thorough, but lengthy, investigation into CIA activity in Chile. Includes numerous instances of media manipulation and propaganda in the millions of dollars.
Document:Operation Mockingbirdwebpage20 August 2011John Simkin
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