All the News the CIA Sees Fit To Print

John Kiriakou looked up from his desk at CIA headquarters and was stunned to see The Washington Post investigative reporter, Bob Woodward, walking through the secure area without an agency escort. On another occasion, Kiriakou, who rose at the CIA to become executive assistant to the deputy in charge of operations, the spy agency’s dark activities—saw CNN host Wolf Blitzer wandering unattended through the same area, despite the CIA’s ban on communicating with the media.

“We like to think there’s a Chinese wall between the CIA, especially senior CIA officials, and the American media,” Kiriakou recently told the London Real podcast. “In fact, they’re in bed together.”

Kiriakou later became a well-known whistleblower. He was the only CIA employee who went to prison for the agency’s torture program, sentenced in 2013 to 30 months behind bars—not because he himself tortured anyone, but because he told an ABC News reporter about the waterboarding to which the agency subjected a war on terror captive.

These days, Kiriakou is outraged for a different reason: the tight connection between the CIA and the media elite. All too often, he says, the national security journalists who are granted access by Langley can be trusted to see world affairs—and the U.S. empire’s dominant role in them—the way the CIA wants them to. Whether it’s the war in Ukraine, tensions with Russia and China, or U.S. military exploits in the Middle East and Africa, coverage in The New York TimesThe Washington Post and on television reflects the slanted view of the national security establishment.

When Kiriakou was a CIA official, he says, the agency leaked regularly to The Washington Post correspondents Woodward, David Ignatius and Joby Warrick—as well as “a half-dozen reporters” at The New York Times—because Langley spymasters knew they “will carry your water.”

Washington journalists who contradict the U.S. national security line—even legendary ones like Seymour Hersh, who enjoyed CIA access for many years—soon find themselves in the cold, according to Kiriakou. Hersh once worked for The New York Times and The New Yorker, but was forced to publish his exposé on the lethal U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, which tied the alleged 9/11 mastermind’s execution more to clandestine collaboration with Pakistani intelligence than to American heroics, in the low-circulation London Review of Books. Last year, Hersh was relegated to Substack to publish his investigative report on the explosion of Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline, which blamed the act of war on U.S. Navy divers in a secret CIA operation ordered by President Joe Biden. (The New York Times still finds the sabotage a “mystery.”)

Hersh forced to self-publish? “That’s how bad it’s gotten in the United States,” Kiriakou says.

“Back in the good old days, when things were more innocent and simple, the psychopathic Central Intelligence Agency had to covertly infiltrate the news media to manipulate the information Americans were consuming about their nation and the world,” observed Caitlin A. Johnstone in MR (Monthly Review) Online. Now the CIA is the media, she ruefully concluded.

In 1977, Johnstone reminded her readers, Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame exposed the fact that the CIA supervised 400 reporters as agency “assets.” (Bernstein conveniently overlooked The Washington Post, which has a long history of coziness with intelligence. The newspaper’s current owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is a major CIA contractor.) When Bernstein’s article ran in Rolling Stone, it caused a tempest. Nowadays, nobody blinks an eye when “liberal” TV channels like CNN and MSNBC openly employ veterans of the CIA, FBI, NSA and other security agencies, such as commentators John Brennan, Jeremy Bash, Michael Hayden, James Clapper and Malcolm Nance.

Even Rolling Stone, once the voice of 1960s counterculturewhich published radical and progressive writers like Tom Hayden, David Harris, Dick Goodwin and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—can no longer be trusted by free-thinking readers. RS is one of the publications vacuumed up by the upstart empire, Penske Media, which also purchased VarietyHollywood Reporter and most of the entertainment industry media as well as New York Magazine.

Under Penske Media—run by Jay Penske, the 44-year-old known for his floppy hair, model-like looks and not much else save the fact that his father is trucking mogul Roger Penske—Rolling Stone has taken a sharp turn to the right. When not attacking Kennedy as an “anti-vaxxer” and “conspiracy”-obsessed lunatic, RS touts the bloody stalemate in Ukraine and the presidency of “boring” Biden.

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