(eng)ANTIFA INFO-BULLETIN, CIA & "Perception Management"

The Anarchives (tao@lglobal.com)
Mon, 2 Dec 1996 16:33:40 +0000 (GMT)

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|| * -- SPECIAL - * -- November 28, 1996 -- * - EDITION -- * ||




C I A & "P E R C E P T I O N M A N A G E M E N T"

Editor's Note: I'd like to thank Robert Parry, editor and
publisher of the Consortium, for permission to post his
important piece on CIA domestic operations to aid the
contras. Due to widespread opposition to Reagan
administration Central American policies during the 1980s,
the CIA launched an illegal series of psychological
operations aimed at the American people in order to wage war
"by other means." If recent CIA history is an indication of
current trends, from Haiti to Colombia, from Turkey to
streets of South Central and beyond, disinformation and lies
are the staple of "consensus builders" and "perception
managers" intent on preserving the U.S. global empire.




For Independent Journalism

** Volume 2, No. 1 * December 9, 1996 **



By Robert Parry

WASHINGTON -- William J. Casey was a quick study, always
looking for an edge whether in business or in the ideological
struggles that consumed the last years of his life. So in early
August 1983, the balding CIA director hunched over a desk at the
old Executive Office Building and scribbled down notes from five
public relations experts who were brainstorming how to sell
Ronald Reagan's Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R.
men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments
would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically
flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some
thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the CIA
director in the afternoon.

"Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation" for better
public relations for Reagan's Central America policies, recalled
William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals
arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications
operation inside the White House and private money for an
outreach program to build support for U.S. intervention.

The ideas from that session and other meetings held during the
Reagan administration's first years still resonate today. Through
the mid-1980s, Casey's domestic propaganda campaign would descend
into scandal-generation and disinformation against opponents,
tactics that are now generic to American politics.

But few Americans know about Casey's "public diplomacy"
apparatus which refined this approach in the 1980s -- or that the
operation was overseen by CIA propagandists and military
psychological warfare experts steeped in an Orwellian concept
called "perception management."

Scores of documents about this operation poured out during the
Iran-contra scandal. The documents made clear that the driving
force behind these aggressive P.R. tactics was Casey, the World
War II spymaster who understood the power of information and the
value of deception. But the documents received little attention
in the mainstream press.

As the Washington media grew bored with the Iran-contra story,
articles focused on the celebrity of Lt. Col. Oliver North and
narrow questions, such as who authorized a diversion of Iran arms
sales profits to the Nicaraguan contra rebels. Yet, the "public
diplomacy" campaign was a dramatic tale, too. It was the story of
how the top level of the CIA had circumvented law and manipulated
U.S. public opinion in support of CIA covert operations in
Central America. Although the CIA is legally barred from
influencing domestic politics, no one was held accountable for
the apparent violations of law.

At the start of the Reagan administration, Casey's challenge
had seemed daunting. The administration saw Sandinista-ruled
Nicaragua as another Cuba and Daniel Ortega as another Castro.
But in late 1980, the American people saw El Salvador's right-
wing military engaged in a bloodbath against leftist political
opponents. To make matters worse, Salvadoran soldiers even raped
and murdered four American churchwomen. The public also retained
fears of "another Vietnam."

So, Reagan's initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran
army required defusing the negative publicity and somehow
rallying the American people to the anti-communist cause. As
deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly,
put it, "the most critical special operations mission we have ...
is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to
get us."


At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American
reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired images.
As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York
Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the massacre of
about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in
northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and
conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street
Journal's editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was
soon ousted from his job.

The administration also made sure to reward its friends.
According to one National Security Council memo dated May 20,
1983, U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick brought
private donors to the White House situation room for a fund-
raiser which collected $400,000 for AIM and a few other pro-
Reagan groups.

By then, "public diplomacy" was becoming Casey's new code word
for influencing the opinions of the American people as well
citizens of foreign countries. "The overall purpose" behind
Casey's initiative "would be to sell a 'new product' -- Central
America -- by generating interest across-the-spectrum," another
NSC document stated.

A "public diplomacy strategy paper," dated May 5, 1983, summed
up the problem. "As far as our Central American policy is
concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [U.S. government] is
placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as
being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. ...
The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged U.S.-backed 'covert'
war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition ... is
widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas."

The administration's difficulty with most of these press
perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper
recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to
"correct" the impressions anyway, what another planning document
would call "perceptional obstacles." "Themes will obviously have
to be tailored to the target audience," the strategy paper said.

So, with Casey personally consulting experts, a "public
diplomacy" apparatus took shape to carry out this "perception
management." The operation was based in the NSC and was directed
by Walter Raymond Jr., the CIA's top propaganda expert until
transferring to the NSC in 1982.


Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was a
slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character
from a John le Carre spy novel, an intelligence officer who
"easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance.
Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983 so, he said,
"there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of

But from the beginning, Raymond fretted about the legality of
Casey's involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was
important "to get [Casey] out of the loop," but Casey never
backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his
old boss well into 1986.

It was "the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic
interest in," Raymond shrugged during his Iran-contra deposition.
He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently
illegal interference in domestic politics "not so much in his CIA
hat, but in his adviser to the president hat."

Raymond also understood that the administration's hand in the
P.R. projects must stay hidden, because of other legal bans on
executive-branch propaganda. "The work down within the
administration has to, by definition, be at arms length," Raymond
noted in an Aug. 29, 1983, memo.

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief
goal of the operation: "in the specific case of Nica[ragua],
concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white
hats on UNO [the contras' United Nicaraguan Opposition]." There
was no space for the fact that both sides wore gray hats. So
Reagan's speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of
Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a "totalitarian dungeon" and the
contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers."

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after
CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more
important than the truth. "They were trying to manipulate [U.S.]
public opinion ... using the tools of Walt Raymond's trade craft
which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation
shop," the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to
The Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy. "If you look at it as a whole,
the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge
psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to
influence the population in denied or enemy territory," that
official explained.


The operation's most visible arm was a new office at the State
Department called the Office of Public Diplomacy. It was headed
by Cuban exile Otto Reich, whose job included selecting "hot
buttons" that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He
also browbeat correspondents who produced stories that conflicted
with the administration's "themes." Reich once bragged that his
office "did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the

Another part of the office's job was to plant "white
propaganda" in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by
the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public
diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan
about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street
Journal's friendly pages. "Officially, this office had no role in
its preparation," Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out "black propaganda,"
outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to
anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic
because much of Nicaragua's small Jewish community fled after the
revolution in 1979. However, the U.S. embassy in Managua
investigated the charges and "found no verifiable ground on which
to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism,"
according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept
the cable secret and pushed the "hot button" anyway.

The administration's public diplomacy also followed up on one
idea heard by the P.R. men who met with Casey in August 1983 --
to promote the theme that leftist governments would ship
narcotics to the United States. The obstacle to that argument,
however, was that the Drug Enforcement Administration knew of no
drugs which had transited Nicaragua since the Sandinistas took

The reason was simple: it made little sense for traffickers to
smuggle drugs through a country with almost no trade with the
United States while the CIA was monitoring all planes leaving
Nicaraguan air space. The Reagan administration solved that P.R.
problem by arranging a "sting" operation overseen by Oliver North
and the CIA.

In 1984, convicted narcotics trafficker Barry Seal, who was
cooperating with the DEA, arranged for a plane to fly a load of
cocaine into Nicaragua. But the plane was shot down by Sandinista
air defenses. Seal then flew in a second plane, a C-123
transport. He snapped some grainy photos of men, supposedly
Nicaraguans and Colombians, loading bales of cocaine onto the
plane. Seal then flew the load back to the United States where
the story was leaked to The Washington Times and quickly spread
onto front pages across America. The desired image was achieved.


In a TV address, President Reagan then accused top Sandinistas
of "exporting drugs to poison our youth." Even today, Seal's
photos are cited by conservative journalists to counter evidence
of cocaine smuggling by the contras, the guys in the glued-on
white hats.

Yet, in the Seal-Sandinista drug case, only one Nicaraguan, a
shadowy figure named Federico Vaughan, was ever indicted. Vaughan
supposedly worked for the Nicaraguan Interior Ministry. But
strangely, Vaughan had been calling his American drug contacts
from a phone located at either the U.S. or other Western
embassies. It was never clear for whom Vaughan was working. DEA
officials stated that they had no evidence that any other
Nicaraguan official, besides Vaughan, had participated in drug

The DEA also complained that the White House blew the
smuggling investigation prematurely to embarrass the Sandinistas
before a contra aid vote. The bigger fish sought by the DEA had
included the leaders of the Medellin drug cartel. But the
administration had sacrificed that probe to gain a propaganda

A year later, in 1985, the evidence would build that the
contras were engaged in real drug trafficking. In reaction, the
administration again would put P.R. ahead of law enforcement. The
public diplomacy team would activate, to attack the journalists
and investigators who revealed this evidence.

Even after the Iran-contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and
Casey died of brain cancer, the Republicans fought to keep secret
the remarkable story of this public diplomacy apparatus. As part
of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join
Democrats in signing the Iran-contra report, Democratic leaders
dropped a draft chapter on the CIA's domestic propaganda role.

The American people were thus spared the chapter's troubling
conclusion: that a covert propaganda apparatus had existed, run
by "one of the CIA's most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by
Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-
diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a
foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media,
the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan
administration's policies." It had succeeded.

Copyright (c) 1996



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