The CIA organized a wide-ranging domestic propaganda and disinformation campaign aimed at winning public support for administration policies in Central America, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday.
The campaign was conceived by William Casey, the late director of the CIA and implemented by veteran CIA propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr., the Globe said, citing information gathered by congressional investigators, the General Accounting Office and the State Department.The campaign included several projects associated with Boston University's College of Communications, the newspaper said.
The newspaper, quoting a recent report by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the campaign was conducted through an intricate network of organizations, including the National Security Council and an obscure State Department bureau called the Office of Latin American Public Diplomacy. The apparatus also included the participation of U.S. Army psychological operations specialists, the Globe said.
In a letter accompanying their report, House investigators recommended further probes into the extent to which the CIA and intelligence components of the Army "conspired . . . to use the State Department as a cover for a domestic operation . . . far beyond the legal and ethical scope of their authority," the newspaper said.
According to the Globe, the NSC allegedly succeeded in placing government-funded columns in major newspapers; arranged media interviews with Nicaraguan Contra leaders by government surrogates who were not identified as such; booked speaking engagements for administration advocates; and placed large amounts of government-sponsored material in college libraries.
In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Peter Kornbluh and Robert Parry wrote:
"By running the operation out of the NSC, the (Reagan) administration apparently sought to sidestep restrictions on the CIA" that prohibit the agency from influencing political processes, public opinion or the media.
Both Raymond and Otto Reich, who headed the State Department's Office of Latin American Public Diplomacy, denied the existence of a covert, CIA-inspired propaganda effort in the United States.
Raymond, who is now deputy director of the United States Information Agency, termed the House report and magazine article a "conspiracy theory lacking any truth."
The Globe said he also denied in a telephone interview that Casey sent him to the NSC, and that, in his special capacity as special assistant to the president for national security, he reported to Casey.
"I completely severed all ties to the agency in 1983" after being transferred to the NSC, Raymond said.
Raymond said that in 1986, he, Casey and CIA counsel Peter Dailey, discussed the establishment of an independent, private group to advocate administration policies, but the idea was subsequently dropped because "there may not have been sufficient support for administration policies."
Reich, who is now U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, was reached by telephone in Caracas last Friday, the Globe said. He called the House report and magazine article "fantasy and libelous," and said his office used Army psychological operations specialists only to identify and collate Central American data for use in government presentations and publications.
However, the Globe said a number of documents cited in the House report appear to contradict Raymond's assertions about CIA involvement in the project.
The Globe said GAO and State Department investigators found that the propaganda campaign was partially financed by a number of sole-source, non-competitive contracts granted by the public diplomacy office to private foundations and companies active in the private Contra-support network.