Tag Archives: CIA

Culture on the Battlefields of the Cold War

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The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) was “a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War — the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture. This left a complex legacy. During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument — including the magazines on this left — were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement”:

From, and more: https://theawl.com/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked-93e65a5a710a#.wmnc741ah

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Literature as a Weapon

“Words matter. A society’s books and movies impact the world. Books, in particular were often internationally influential during the Cold War. …

The CIA funded the production and distribution of individual literary projects. …

Eric Bennett, a professor of English at Providence College and author of the forthcoming Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle and American Creative Writing During the Cold War, wrote that the CIA’s efforts produced lasting and potentially damaging effects.

According to Bennett, the CIA and other conservative organizations actually infiltrated the United States’ leading writing programs and literary journals. The goal was to establish an American literary tradition that would “venerate and fortify the particular, the individual, the situated, the embedded, the irreducible.”

That literary voice would be an alternative to the Soviet Union’s socialist realism — and its selfless heroes sacrificing themselves for good of the revolution.

Soon after Pres. Harry Truman founded the CIA with the National Security Act of 1947, the agency began focusing on the arts.”

From, and continue reading on the CIA role in shaping American literature: isnblog.ethz.ch/intelligence/the-cia-battled-the-kremlin-with-books-and-movies-2

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How the CIA Shaped Western Literary World

“During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument [including literary magazines] were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement.

Probably the finest literary magazine in American history, the Kenyon Review was founded by John Crowe Ransom in 1939. The intellectuals and CIA officers who ran the Congress for Cultural Freedom loved Ransom, and used him and his literary networks to locate promising students and literary friends that it could recruit to work for it. Even Ransom’s technique of “New Criticism,” seen as a quintessentially conservative Cold War form of analysis because it eschewed examination of the social and political context of literary works, has sometimes been compared to the work of espionage, by which careful reading can unearth hidden plans and meanings.”

From, and more, on 7 Influential Literary Magazines with CIA ties: theawl.com/2015/08/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked

Related: CIA involvement in the shaping of American Literature https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Writers, Surveillance, and Self-Censorship

“Writers are reluctant to speak about, write about, or conduct research on topics that they think may draw government scrutiny. This has a devastating impact on freedom of information as well: If writers avoid exploring topics for fear of possible retribution, the material available to readers—particularly those seeking to understand the most controversial and challenging issues facing the world today—may be greatly impoverished.”

… “according to the survey, writers living in countries defined as “Free” by U.S.-based NGO watchdog Freedom House expressed an almost equal level of concern about surveillance as those living in countries defined as “Not Free” (75% and 80%, respectively), prompting notable levels of self-censorship.

“The levels of self-censorship reported by writers living in liberal democracies are astonishing, and demonstrate that mass surveillance programs conducted by democracies are chilling freedom of expression among writers,” the report notes. According to the survey, 34 percent of writers living in liberal democracies admitted to self-censoring, compared with 61 percent of writers living in authoritarian countries, and 44 percent in semi-democratic countries.”

From: commondreams.org/news/2015/01/05/fear-government-spying-chilling-writers-speech-worldwide

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The CIA, Ideology, and American Literature

“In a lengthy piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, writing professor Eric Bennett makes a case that the Iowa program, arguably the most influential force in modern American literature, was profoundly shaped by a CIA-backed effort to promote a brand of literature that trumpeted American individualism and materialism over airy socialistic ideals.”

“The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed,” Bennet writes. “More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in MFA programs is true enough.”

…”it’s just a reminder that we need to be wary of the sandboxes we’re building our castles in, of the institutions that define our creative thought so wholly that we often forget (or never bother to ask) how and why they were established in the first place. The MFA factory first farmed out postwar American lit according to a specific ideological rubric, it turns out.”  

From: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-the-cia-turned-american-literature-into-a-content-farm

Conspiracy Theory vs Official Lies

“The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.”

“Recent studies by psychologists and social scientists in the US and UK suggest that contrary to mainstream media stereotypes, those labeled “conspiracy theorists” appear to be saner than those who accept the official versions of contested events.

“The authors [of a new online study] were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to leave so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones… In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority.”

Read More: presstv.ir

Population Surveillance

What every regime, regardless of ideology, fears the most is the people. In this respect Uncle Sam is no different from North Korea or East Germany, as evidenced by actions taken against its population: targetting peace activists, labor unions, students, etc. Today American citizens are the most spied on in the world, but this massive surveillance operation is nothing new…

“In a secret program called HTLINGUAL, the CIA screened more than 28 million first-class letters and opened 215,000 of them between 1953 and 1973, even though the Supreme Court held as far back as 1878 in Ex parte Jackson and reaffirmed in 1970 in U.S. v. Van Leeuwen that the Fourth Amendment bars third parties from opening first-class mail without a warrant. The program’s stated purpose was to obtain foreign intelligence, but it targeted domestic peace and civil rights activists as well. In a 1962 memo to the director of the CIA’s Office of Security, the deputy chief of the counterintelligence staff warned that the program could lead ‘to grave charges of criminal misuse of the mails’ and therefore U.S. intelligence agencies must ‘vigorously deny’ HTLINGUAL, which should be “relatively easy to ‘hush up.'”

From: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-CIA-Burglar-Who-Went-Rogue-169800816.html?c=y&page=2

SpyWriter Jack King, the author of:
Agents of Change, WikiJustice, The Black Vault, and The Fifth Internationale.
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The subtle difference between a “spy” and an “intelligence agent”

Q: “What exactly were you doing in the U.S.? What is it called? Spying?”

A: “It’s the same thing the American special services are doing in Russia. The English word “spy” may refer to what the Russians call “spy” or “intelligence agent.” It depends on how you look at it. It’s no accident that, in the Soviet Union, the good guys were called “intelligence agents” and the enemies were called “spies.” …

“intelligence does not work against specific people. It’s not permanent and assignments can change. As a secret agent, you work for the good of your country. Crimes may be committed against specific people, but intelligence is a patriotic business.”

More: http://indrus.in/articles/2012/10/19/russian_spy_reveals_his_secrets_18485.html

The Shop

“The CIA is not in the habit of discussing its clandestine operations, but the agency’s purpose is clear enough. As then-chief James Woolsey said in a 1994 speech to former intelligence operatives: “What we really exist for is stealing secrets.” […]

That is why by 1955, and probably earlier, the CIA created a special unit to perform what the agency calls “surreptitious entries.” This unit was so secret that few people inside CIA headquarters knew it existed; it wasn’t even listed in the CIA’s classified telephone book. Officially it was named the Special Operations Division, but the handful of agency officers selected for it called it the Shop.

[…] in the 1980s and early ’90s, the Shop occupied a nondescript one-story building just south of a shopping mall in the Washington suburb of Springfield, Virginia. The building was part of a government complex surrounded by a chain-link fence; the pebbled glass in the windows let in light but allowed no view in or out. The men and women of the Shop made up a team of specialists: lock pickers, safecrackers, photographers, electronics wizards and code experts. One team member was a master at disabling alarm systems, another at flaps and seals. Their mission, put simply, was to travel the world and break into other countries’ embassies to steal codes”

More: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-CIA-Burglar-Who-Went-Rogue-169800816.html?c=y&page=2

Jack King’s new novel: The Black Vault

How To Beat a Lie Detector

You don’t have be employed in the security sector to be subjected to a polygraph test. Sooner or later, on a variety of reasons, you may face one. It doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, it won’t be if you take the time to prepare. It may even turn out to be quite fun. Purchase a set (available directly from China) that plugs into your laptop, invite some friends, and play a round of truth or lies…

“First, Tice says, a person can trick the tester on “probable-lie” questions. During a polygraph’s pre-test interview, the tester usually asks a person to answer questions they are likely to lie about.

These include questions like: ‘Have you ever stolen money?,’ ‘Have you ever lied to your parents?,’ or ‘Have you ever cheated on a test?’.

Most people have done these at least once, but lie about it. So the tester uses a person’s response to a likely lie as a way to establish how a person physically reacts while lying.

Tice says to trick the tester, a person should lie in response to these questions like most other people would, but also bite their tongue hard while doing so, which will set off other physiological reactions in the body.

The tester’s “needles will fly everywhere,” says Tice, “and he will think, ‘This guy is a nervous nelly. He has a strong physical reaction when he’s lying.'”

“And you’re skewing the test,” he says. Tice says it’s also easy to beat a polygraph while telling a real lie by daydreaming to calm the nerves.”

More: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/09/25/nsa-whistleblower-reveals-how-to-beat-a-polygraph-test

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