Propaganda and Disinformation:
How the CIA Manufactures History
By Victor Marchetti
In the eyes of posterity it will inevitably seem that, in safeguarding our freedom, we destroyed it. The vast clandestine apparatus we built up to prove our enemies’ resources and intentions only served in the end to confuse our own purposes; that practice of deceiving others for the good of the state led infallibly to our deceiving ourselves; and that vast army of clandestine personnel built up to execute these purposes were soon caught up in the web of their own sick fantasies, with disastrous consequences for them and us.
– Malcom Muggeridge, May 1966
“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
― Malcolm Muggeridge, Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society
That, in a nutshell, sums up what the CIA has accomplished over the years through its various clandestine propaganda and disinformation programs. It has unwittingly and, often, deliberately decieved itself — and the American taxpayer. The CIA is a master at distorting history — even creating its own version of history to suit its institutional and operational purposes. It can do this largely because of two great advantages it possesses. One is the excessively secret environment in which it operates, and the other is that it is essentially a private instrument of the presidency.
The real reason for the official secrecy, in most instances, is not to keep the opposition (the CIA’s euphemistic term for the enemy) from knowing what is going on; the enemy usually does know. The basic reason for governmental secrecy is to keep you, the American public, from knowing — for you, too, are considered the opposition, or enemy — so that you cannot interfere. When the public does not know what the government or the CIA is doing, it cannot voice its approval or disapproval of their actions. In fact, they can even lie to your about what they are doing or have done, and you will not know it.
As for the second advantage, despite frequent suggestion that the CIA is a rogue elephant, the truth is that the agency functions at the direction of and in response to the office of the president. All of its major clandestine operations are carried out with the direct approval of or on direct orders from the White House. The CIA is a secret tool of the president — every president. And every president since Truman has lied to the American people in order to protect the agency. When lies have failed, it has been the duty of the CIA to take the blame for the president, thus protecting him. This is known in the business as “plausible denial.”
The CIA, functioning as a secret instrument of the U.S. government and the presidency, has long misused and abused history and continues to do so. I first became concerned about this historical distortion in 1957, when I was a young officer in the Clandestine Services of the CIA.
One night, after work, I was walking down Constitution Avenue with a fellow officer, who previously had been a reporter for United Press.
“How are they ever going to know,” he asked.
“Who? How is ‘who’ ever going to know what?” I asked.
“How are the American people ever going to know what the truth is? How are they going to know what the truth is about what we are doing and have done over the years?” he said. “We operate in secrecy, we deal in deception and disinformation, and then we burn our files. How will the historians ever be able to learn the complete truth about what we’ve done in these various operations, these operations that have had such a major impact on so many important events in history?”
I couldn’t answer him, then. And I can’t answer him now. I don’t know how the American people will ever really know the truth about the many things that the CIA has been involved in. Or how they will ever know the truth about the great historical events of our times. The government is continually writing and rewriting history — often with the CIA’s help — to suit its own purposes. Here is a current example.
Just last month in Moscow, there was a meeting, a very strange meeting. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara met with former Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko and a member of the Cuban Politburo. These three men, along with lesser former officials of their governments, has all been involved in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and they had gathered intheSoviet capital to discuss what has really occurred in that monumental crisis, which almost led to World War III.
Since I, too, had been personally involved in that crisis, I took some interest in the news reports coming out of Moscow concerning the doings of this rather odd gathering of former officials. Much to my surprise, I learned that Robert McNamara was saying that neither he nor the U.S. intelligence community realized there actually had been some 40,000 Soviet troops in Cuba in the autumn of 1962. The former defense chief of the Kennedy administration was also saying that he and the U.S. government did not realize that the few dozen medium and intermediate range missiles the Soviets had tried to sneak into Cuba were actually armed with nuclear warheads and ready to be fired at targets in the U.S.
Furthermore, he was claiming that the U.S. did not understand that this huge military build-up by the Soviets had been carried out to protect Cuba and to prevent the U.S. from attacking the island’s Communist regime. He added, for good measure, that he was surprised to learn from the talks in Moscow that the Soviets and Cubans thought the U.S. had plans to bring down the government of Fidel Castro through the use of force. According to McNamara, the entire Cuban missile crisis was a dangerous misunderstanding that came about because of the lack of communication among the governments involved in the near catastrophe.