It has taken me awhile to respond to Lisa Pease’s comment about Praeger’s associations with the CIA. In keeping with the traditions of this site, which stresses documented, reasoned historical arguments, I wanted to hear from Praeger as well as conduct some research on my own. This reply is lengthy, but the charge is serious and deserves a reply with proper documentation. The story itself perhaps deserves a book of its own because it involves a convicted Watergate burglar, a CIA conspiracy writer, and a little known Austrian immigrant who may have lead a double life that even today remains an enigma.
Since most of her comment relies on the cited source--a web page, I thought it best to just deal with the source directly. The article at the site actually was written by William Blum in 2005 and appears on the page
“The Anti-Empire Report: No. 17,”.
Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, published by Common Courage Press in Monroe, Maine which has a stellar lineup of progressive authors including Noam Chomsky (The New Military Humanism), Howard Zinn (The Future of History), and Jean Bertrand Aristide (Eyes of the Heart). Blum has also written Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower>. According to a biography at Powell’s book site, Blum left the State Department in 1967 because of his opposition to Vietnam. Killing Hope has been termed “far and away the best book on the topic” by Noam Chomsky.
I provide this background so readers understand the author of the cited article. Here is the text:
Of the numerous skeletons in the CIA's closet, few are more closely guarded than information about the many books the Agency covertly helped to publish during the first three decades of the cold war. The Church Committee of the Senate, among its many other revelations, disclosed in 1976 that "well over a thousand books" had been produced, subsidized or sponsored by the CIA by 1967, with about 250 more from then to 1976. Many of the books were sold in the United States as well as abroad. Like many other researchers, I have filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the names of these books, but to no avail. At one point the Agency sent me 84 pages of material, which did not contain the name of a single book. I appealed this and just last month, after more than two years, I received a reply, which stated in part:
"The Agency is unable to conduct a search for the records requested because we are unable to identify an Agency record system where records responsive to your request could reasonably be expected to be located."
If I understand the English, they're saying that they couldn't find the records I asked for because they didn't know where to look. Hmmm. Well, they might begin with the name of one of their frequently used publishers, Praeger (formerly F. A. Praeger), which put out half of the books in the following list of CIA-backed titles which have been revealed in one place or another over the years:
"The Dynamics of Soviet Society" by Walt Rostow; "The New Class" by Milovan Djilas; "Concise History of the Communist Party" by Robert A. Burton; "The Foreign Aid Programs of the Soviet Bloc and Communist China" by Kurt Muller; "In Pursuit of World Order" by Richard N. Gardner; "Peking and People's Wars" by Major General Sam Griffith; "The Yenan Way" by Eudocio Ravines; "Life and Death in Soviet Russia" by Valentin Gonzalez; "The Anthill" by Suzanne Labin; "The Politics of Struggle: The Communist Front and Political Warfare" by James D. Atkinson;; "From Colonialism to Communism" by Hoang Van Chi; "Why Viet Nam?" by Frank Trager; and "Terror in Vietnam" by Jay Mallin.
These paragraphs are a great lesson in the old salt that one can take a simple fact and out of it build some elaborate charges. The Church Committee findings about the CIA planting books with publishers is fact. Notice the number of books dropped to 250 over the period of 1967 to 1976, or about 27 a year. No evidence is presented by Blum that this practice continued after 1976.
Blum states the Church Committee refused to name authors or books, which is also true. So he filed a Freedom of Information request to identify these authors and books. As he states, his request was turned down. Then the fun begins.
Lacking the information from the CIA, Blum decides to name a few books himself, starting with his assertion that Praeger was "one of their frequently used publishers." He cites no evidence for this other than Praeger published half of a random list of titles he asserts "have been revealed in one place or another over the years." This is curious because in his books when he makes such an assertion it is backed up with a citation.
Hmm. First, note the size of the "sample." There are thirteen titles cited. I checked them all. Rostow’s book was published in 1967 by Norton, Djilas in 1957 by Praeger. To show how well this list was researched, Blum has the wrong author for A Concise History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It is John Stephen Reshatar, who wrote the book in for Praeger in 1960.
On with the list. Muller is 1967 by Walker, Gardner by Praeger in 1966, Griffith by Praeger in the same year, Ravines by Scribner in 1951, Gonzalez by Putnam in 1952, Labin’s book first appeared in France and was published by Praeger in 1961, Atkinson by Regnery in 1966, Chi by Praeger in 1967, Trager by Praeger (nice alliteration) in 1966, Mallin by Van Nostrand in 1967.
That makes seven books supposedly planted by the CIA with Praeger. The last date listed on any of them is 1967–41 years ago! If you noted the quoted Church Committee facts, it pointed out that after 1967, the CIA cut way back on their "book planting" scheme, so even if it is true the seven books cited were due to the CIA, Blum can cite no instance of Praeger being involved since that time.
Note also the other publishers named, most of whom represent venerable American publishing houses. In other words, during the main period this "book planting" took place it involved major publishers other than Praeger. Considering the "over a thousand" titles named by the Church Committee, the CIA’s effort would have had to have involved many publishers. Even more telling is that out of the 1,250 plus books in the Church Committee findings, Blum could name only seven by Praeger This hardly amounts to being a "preferred publisher."
Now come the questions. Why these titles? What of the total percentage of the so-called "thousand" titles revealed as CIA-backed were published by Praeger? What is the definition of CIA-backed–did the CIA have an agreement with Praeger? More important, where are the citations for each of the titles listed?
Now, what DID the Church Committee uncover? Two books of The Final Report of the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect To Intelligence Activities, are available online. Unfortunately, the major references to publishers lie in Book One, which I finally found at the University of Minnesota library due to the dogged efforts of two very good librarians. They were unable to find a copy of the Pike Committee Report. This in part explains the delay in my reply.
Blum’s incomplete quote is probably the most widely-known citation from the Church Committee report. In actually reading the report I found the quote is usually incomplete and taken out of context. First, here is the complete quote:
Well over a thousand books were produced, subsidized or sponsored by the CIA before the end of 1967. (p. 193)
The report cites the following memo concerning the CIA’s uses of publishers:
(a) Get books published abroad without revealing the U.S. influence by covertly subsidizing foreign publishers or booksellers.
(b) Get books published which should not be "contaminated" by any overt tie to the U.S. government, especially if the position of the author is “delicate.”
(c) Get books published for operational reasons, regardless of their commercial viability.
(d) Initiate and subsidize intelligence national or international organizations for book publishing or distribution purposes.
(e) Stimulate the writing of politically significant books by unknown foreign authors–whether by directly subsidizing the author, if covert contact is possible, or indirectly through literary agents or publishers. (p. 193)
The report cites no date for the memo, nor any of the circumstances surrounding its release other than to note it was written by the Chief of Covert Action Staff. One would like to know more about it, especially when it was implemented, which agents actually worked on this "project." how much money was spent, etc.
What the Church Committee does tell us is the following:
(1) "Approximately 25% of the books were published in English." (p. 193)In other words, this effort focused mainly on foreign authors and audiences.
(2)"Many of those were published by cultural organizations which the CIA backed, and more often than not the author was unaware of the CIA subsidization". (p. 193)
(3) The report goes on the cite three examples, two without titles or authors, one with, the infamous Penkovsky Papers.
(4) The report notes "More than a dozen United States news organizations and commercial publishing houses formerly provided cover for CIA agents abroad. A few of those organizations were unaware that they provided this cover." (p. 195) The above is accompanied by a footnote: "The material italicized in this report has been substantially abridged at the request of the executive agencies. The classifies version of this material is available to members of the Senate under the provisions of Senate Resolution 22 and the Standing Committee of the Senate." (p. 179)
(5) Most important considering Pease’s phrase "I don’t know if this still continues," the Church Committeee Report states, "As early as 1967, the CIA, in the wake of the National Student Association disclosure, moved to prohibit the publication of books, magazines and newspapers in the United States."(p. 192) This explains the precipitous drop-off Blum notes, but Blum conveniently leaves out why the drop-off occurred. This is no easy mistake. The 1967 date is also cited in the famous "thousand books" quote and also on pages 194 and 494. In other words, anyone reading the Church Report can’t miss it.
So what of the 250 books Blum cites as published after 1967? The Committee notes, "Since 1867, the CIA’s publishing activities have been almost entirely confined to books and other publications published abroad. During the past few years, some 250 books and other materials have been published abroad, most of them in foreign languages."(p. 194.)
Now we come to Praeger. Praeger is the only publisher named in the Church Committee report by none other than E. Howard Hunt of Watergate fame. Without a doubt, Howard Hunt ranks as one of the last century’s most curious characters, either a conspirator who had a major role in many of the major covert operations conducted by the CIA or a notorious story-teller who sought to exaggerate his own role and importance.
"Charles Colson and Howard Hunt were in the business of manufacturing smears and disseminating false information to the press, among other enterprises. "
In 1978 Victor Marchetti
wrote about Hunt after his Church Committee testimony:
"Hunt is vulnerable - an easy target as they say in the spy business. His reputation and integrity have been destroyed."
In an obituary on Hunt, The International Herald Tribune observed:
"But Hunt was never much of a spy. He did not conduct espionage to gather information. His field was political warfare: dirty tricks, sabotage and propaganda."
Here is the Hunt testimony published by the Church Committee:
Question: Did you take some sort of steps to make sure that what was published in English was kept away from the American reading public?
HUNT: It was impossible because Praeger was a commercial U.S. publisher. His books had to be seen, had to be reviewed, had to be bought here, had to be read.
HUNT: And I think the way this was realized by the project review board...was that the ultimate target was foreign, which was true, but how much of the Praeger output actually got abroad for any impact I think is highly arguable.
Let us parse this testimony by a man known for his tendency to twist meaning.
First, nothing in these quotes indicates Praeger was a "preferred publisher" as Blum and Pease infer. Second nothing in the testimony identifies any of the specific books cited by Blum as being sponsored by the CIA. The most telling and curious part of this concerns the use of the phrase "his books." Does this refer to a specific author, editor or someone else?
Most probably, it refers to Frederick Praeger, who founded the company in 1946. Praeger sold the company in 1966 to William Benton of Encyclopedia Britannica fame. Frederick Praeger severed all ties with the company two years later. In 1975 he started Westview Press.
A New York Times obituary of Praeger helps fill in some of the blanks.
"Mr. Praeger, who had been an intelligence officer and military government official in Europe during and after World War II, sought out anti-Communist dissidents from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and during the height of the Cold War brought their manuscripts detailing the realities of Communism to the Western reading public."
Further in the obituary, the Times notes Praeger’s family was in the publishing business in Austria, but he was forced to emigrate to this country in 1938 due to the forced unification with Nazi Germany.
Reading Frederick Praeger’s obituary, it is hard not to see that he and the CIA had a similar agenda–publishing anti-communist works. Whether the "intelligence officer" portion of the quote implies Praeger naturally slipped into a collaboration with CIA, I was unable to determine. Again, more questions: If Praeger was already publishing anti-Communist books why would the CIA even need to recruit him? If Frederick Praeger did have a relationship with the CIA was anyone else in the firm aware of it?
Like much else involving Howard Hunt, his testimony raises more questions than it answers. Was Hunt’s testimony corroborated by other witnesses? How many books emerged from the alleged Frederick Praeger/CIA relationship? When were they published?
Perhaps the most interesting question of all is why does only Praeger’s name appear in the published records of the Church Committee? If the thousand books is accurate, other publishers had to have been involved, as Blum’s list implies. Yet, as noted above, the CIA would not release those names nor the names of books and authors. So, the only conclusion is that the CIA had to have approved the release of Praeger’s name. That it did so suggests that there is no way that Praeger could have been involved with the CIA at the time of Hunt’s testimony, nor did the CIA have plans to involve Praeger in the future. The only reason to name Praeger is that the relationship, if there was one, was dead. If Frederick Praeger was the collaborator, this makes sense since he had sold the company.
To try to fill in some of these blanks I did further online research. Vitslay Petrusenko's A Dangerous Game CIA and the Mass Media cites the following:
The CIA employs several methods in its book publishing program. There is the preparation of books by employees concealing their intelligence ties (Cooper, Hillsman) and their publication by unsuspecting publishers. [And then there is] The preparation of books by intelligence offices and the publisher's full realization of whom he was dealing with, Frederick A. Praeger thus published sixteen or seventeen CIA books.
That was the major online reference to Praeger and the CIA that I uncovered. Clearly, I recognize that an online search has its inadequacies, but that is the best I can do on short notice. Let us assume Petrusenko is right--seventeen books out of 1,000 is one percent of the total. Again, hardly suggesting "preferred" status.
All this suggests that for someone who wants to research it, there is probably a fascinating book to be written about Frederick Praeger. Also, until Blum or someone else us able to finally acquire more data about ALL the books and publishers involved, we have a picture with too many holes.
What we do know about the alleged Praeger-CIA relationship is:
It is based on the testimony of one questionable witness.
(1)There is no corroborating testimony.
(2) At the heart of this testimony is the curious phrase "his books," which probably refers to founder Frederick Praeger, who sold the company in 1966.
(3) The nature of the relationship is ambiguous, as is the number of books.
(4) We do not know what other publishers were involved and their total titles or relationships.
(5) We do not know why Praeger was the only publisher the CIA allowed to be named.
What we do know is that CIA support for publishing ceased in 1967–41 years ago. That, the departure of the man named by Howard Hunt, and the sale of Praeger all provide strong proof Praeger could not have been involved in any relationship with the CIA after 1967.
It took me some time to contact sources at Praeger to ask them about Blum’s charge. Both sources stated emphatically that Praeger is not currently or to their knowledge has ever been involved with the CIA. Both stated this charge has been around for years, and they consider it an urban legend not unlike the one about Procter and Gamble’s Satanic logo. One said that even if the stories dating back to the 1950s and 1960s were true, "The implication that it might continue is absurd, nothing more than a dirty smear."
As for present history, Praeger was purchased by Greenwood Publishing Group sometime in the 1980s, and Greenwood was purchased by Reed-Elsevier, an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate. Then Reed-Elsevier purchased Harcourt, and they put Greenwood, and hence Praeger, which is simply an imprint of Greenwood, underneath Harcourt. Then this year, Reed-Elsevier sold Harcourt to Houghton Mifflin. Hardly a history suggesting current CIA involvement.
Let me put in a commercial for Praeger/Greenwood and suggest you peruse their catalog. They not only published my book but quite a few like it. I doubt the CIA would have its fingers in such an operation.
Finally, I need to end on a personal note. As readers of my work know, I am a first generation American whose family fled Nazi Germany. given my past and my family's (my grandfather was a socialist–he also was involved in cutting ties by European leaders to a CIA front group), I doubt the CIA would have nothing to do with me.
I had thought this country had gotten beyond going back four decades and using the past to smear the present. What someone or some company did forty years ago should not be used to sew doubts about their present lives or businesses in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary. To do otherwise is to lose sight of more than merely what history should exemplify; it is to ignore basic human decency. As we learned during the 1950s, this is about people's lives and livelihoods.