by Ralph Brauer | 12/11/2007 03:40:00 PM
CIA Director Michael Hayden press conference
Image: CNN

With apologies to Ted Kennedy, the lost torture tapes are not Watergate, analogizing them misinterprets American history and misunderstands the meaning of both events.

Watergate still stands as one of America's most profound constitutional crises. It was, as someone said at the time, nothing less than an attempted coup d'état, an attempt to capture an election and destroy the opposition party by extra-legal means. If we accept Ann Coulter's definition of treason as taking an "anti-American" position, then Watergate was treason. If we define it in the strictly legal sense of trying to overthrow the government, then Watergate comes close, for Richard Nixon's creation of the so-called "plumbers" represents the first and only incident in American history where a sitting President created a private security force beholden only to him and dedicated to keeping him in office by illegal activity.

The plumbers were nothing less than Richard Nixon's secret police force. In this sense Watergate and the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office along with the so-called "enemies list" all form a pattern and the fingerprints of that pattern lie directly on the Constitution. As Watergate has faded from memory, many try to blow it off as a failed "third rate burglary." To do so, profanes our country and its most critical legal and moral foundations.

Yes, Presidents secretly taped conversations and one can find several examples of electoral shenanigans beginning as far back as the maybe-it-happened, maybe-it-didn't secret bargain between john Quincy Adams and Henry Clay through the Hayes-Tilden election to whether Richard Daley voted enough tombstones to elect John Kennedy. But none of these rivals Watergate.

Had those burglars not been so third-rate, I shudder to think what a second Nixon term might have hatched. His secret police would have continued to operate, perhaps growing in size and scope. If Nixon had the boldness to order a break-in of Democratic Party headquarters, what was next?

Curiously it is a George W. Bush transgression little remembered today that most rivals Watergate. This deliberate violent attempt to seize the Presidency was euphemistically termed the “Brooks Brothers Riot,” As detailed in The Strange Death of Liberal America; the Brooks Brothers Riot provokes wide disagreements about its significance. This much is clear: during the 2000 election fiasco, as Miami-Dade election officials worked their way through the laborious task of recounting ballots, a group of Republican activists, some of them flown in for the occasion, became angry that the recount was not proceeding as they wanted, so they forced their way into the room and confronted the vote counters, who in response finally ceased their task.

Writing about the event, commentator Mark Gigot, who witnessed it, claims the action was justified because of the blatantly political counting methods of the Miami-Dade ballot counters. As he puts it,
These folks were ready to blow.
The language in Gigot's article becomes a dead give-away. In one place he pointedly acknowledges a Republican threat to bring in “1,000 Cuban-Americans.” Coupled with “ready to blow,” he implies the rioters wanted to make a forceful statement that things had better go their way—or else. That adults in suits can behave like schoolyard bullies sends an unambiguous message about the values of the Counterrevolution. By rewarding the rioters with parties and promotions, the GOP underlined this message.

All this does not diminish the significance of the vanished CIA torture tapes. They also represent a Constitutional and moral crisis. Where Watergate and the "Brooks Brothers Riot" represent extra-legal and violent attempts to undermine the Constitution by violently subverting the electoral process and creating a secret police force, the missing CIA tapes, if they contained what is alleged, represent a low point in this nation's moral history because they document the first time the highest officials in this country have employed torture.

If Nixon's plumbers and Bush's Brooks Brothers rioters represented threats to voting rights and the very heart of our Constitutional democracy, the use of torture by the government represents a threat to our individual rights. In an article, "Torture and the Constitution," the Washington Post noted:
In ratifying the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment in 1994, the Senate defined "cruel, inhuman and degrading" as any practice that would violate the Fifth, Eighth or 14th amendments.
Leaving aside the validity of this argument, which has spawned a lengthy legal debate, the mere fact that we are debating torture at all represents a bizarre state of affairs about one of the worst moral transgressions a government can commit. Forget also the arguments about whether torture "works" and all those what-ifs people trot out to justify the deliberate destruction of another human being. As the United Nations and the Nuremberg trials recognized, torture is a crime against humanity. The Convention Against Torture signed by the United States opens with the following:
Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person...
All I can say is that I am glad my grandfather, who was sentenced to death by the Nazis and my uncle, whose mother died at Dachau, are not alive to see this debasement of the United States. In a moral sense there are no degrees of torture nor is there some imaginary continuum where at some point torture is justified. Once the decision is made to inflict deliberate pain on another human being, then a line has been crossed. It is absurd from a moral point of view to argue that waterboarding is not as "bad" as some other form of torture. A human being is suffering, period.

Apparently very few people seem bothered by the fact that it is not that the tapes were destroyed, but that they existed in the first place. Taping torture is perverse, no matter what the justification. The sheer act of taping implies someone would view those tapes and in my book watching tapes of torture is pornography of the worst sort. The Nazis also filmed their executions so officials could later watch them. In his opening statement at the so-called doctor's trial at Nuremberg, General Telford Taylor stated:
A nation which deliberately infects itself with poison will inevitably sicken and die.
As Taylor implies, torture involves something deeper and more disturbing than a mere Constitutional issue. When I researched the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, I found that she believed her torturers took a perverse pleasure in beating her, a pleasure that took on sexual overtones. Whether every act of systematically planning and carrying out torture involves sadomasochistic and sexual undertones, I will leave to the psychiatrists and psychologists, but Hamer, whose keen moral compass allowed her to hone on the ethical origins of a problem, was on to something.

What she is on to is that torture involves the systematic dehumanizing of a fellow human being. No sane person could conceive of torturing a family member or friend. The very thought is enough to churn your stomach. We only torture people we consider subhuman and no longer worthy of the moral respect we grant each other.

That is why the CIA admitted destroying those tapes, because, as CIA Director General Michael Hayden put it,
Beyond their lack of intelligence value -- as the interrogation sessions had already been exhaustively detailed in written channels -- and the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them, the tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al Qaeda and its sympathizers.
In other words, if people viewed these tapes they would see that we regarded those we tortured as subhuman.

As with Watergate now comes the damage control, the desperate attempts to sever the Administration from the crime. It won't play. It won't play simply because these crimes against humanity occurred under George W. Bush's watch. That this comes during an administration that has stressed values only exposes the hypocrisy of the entire affair. John Dean said about Watergate, that there was a "cancer" in the White House, but Dean had the wrong analogy. Fannie Lou Hamer was closer to the truth. This is nothing less than perversion.

Crosspost: The Strange Death of Liberal America,My Left Wing




Blogger Ahistoricality on 12/12/2007 12:48 PM:

In a sense I think you're right, but I also think that you're overlooking the value of the analogy. The missing material from the Nixon tapes effectively obliterated any chance he might have had to defend himself: by turning the tapes over, he left open the possibility that disclosure and explanation could be somehow redemptive, but by destroying evidence, he made the assumption of guilt the only viable starting place.

Similarly, though the CIA has said, repeatedly, that the interrogations were "harsh" but not torture, the destruction of the tapes (and non-disclosure of transcripts, etc.) leaves the assumption that they were torture unrefutable. Now, no matter how many interrogations the CIA makes public, how such oversight they permit, etc., the fact of the matter is that nobody will believe they didn't torture.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/13/2007 12:56 AM:

I would argue that nothing strikes at the roots of the Constitution more than torture. I think the founders, and all dictators and tyrants, have realized that the few can dominate the many only be means of fear. Even the largest gulags and concentration camps can only incarcerate so many. Fear of such places incarcerates the rest, and nothing heightens fear like torture.

And I think we MUST take note of the fact that, relentless administration claims to the contrary, they have mostly totured effectively random targets. Right now, they are essentially boasting about torturing Zubaydah, who apparently was demented.

That's not a message to Al Queda. That's a message to us.


Blogger Lisa Pease on 12/13/2007 9:47 AM:

I hope historians come to realize that the "official" version of Watergate, as depicted above, is only half the story. Watergate became a power struggle between Nixon and the CIA. It was indeed a constitutional crisis, but not the one most commonly presented.

Longtime journalist Jim Hougan wrote the best of all the books on Watergate, "Secret Agenda," which shows that, far from the bungled operation, the CIA successfully planted bugs that worked, and didn't work -- by design -- during the break-ins.

The Watergate comparison is actually VERY apt, because it pitted the CIA against the president. That's what we have now. The CIA comes out with an NIE saying there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran. The White House, presumably, retaliates by leaking info on the CIA torture tape. The CIA responds yes, there was waterboarding, but it was approved at the highest levels of the administration. We're in a very direct parallel to Watergate, where the president and the CIA are facing off yet again. Personally, I applaud that in the hopes that it has a similar outcome, albeit seven years too late.


Blogger Lisa Pease on 12/13/2007 9:56 AM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/15/2007 1:57 PM:

I don't think you have to dig too deep to find a meaningful parallel. Both are examples of an arrogant abuse of executive power. Both are born of that arrogance and thrive in the shadows of half-truths, untruths, secrets and lies. Both are amazingly cynical about democracy, the rule of law and the American citizenry. Both are illegal.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/15/2007 6:03 PM:

I have known this for long time but then what do I know.
Jesse hemingway


Was the launch of Bill Buckley’s National Review in the mid-1950s a CIA operation? I first heard Joseph Sobran imply this in 1993 at a Rothbard-Rockwell Report conference in San Mateo, California. I thought the idea was kinda paranoid and kooky at the time. But here’s Murray Rothbard himself suggesting the same thing in The Betrayal of the American Right, written 30 years ago:

“In the light of hindsight, we should now ask whether or not a major objective of National Review from its inception was to transform the right wing from an isolationist to global warmongering anti-Communist movement; and, particularly, whether or not the entire effort was in essence a CIA operation. We now know that Bill Buckley, for the two years prior to establishing National Review, was admittedly a CIA agent in Mexico City, and that the sinister E. Howard Hunt was his control. His sister Priscilla, who became managing editor of National Review, was also in the CIA, and other editors James Burnham and Willmoore Kendall had at least been recipients of CIA largesse in the anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. In addition, Burnham has been identified by two reliable sources as a consultant for the CIA in the years after World War II. Moreover, Gary Wills relates in his memoirs of the conservative movement that Frank Meyer, to whom he was close at the time, was convinced that the magazine was a CIA operation. With his Leninist-trained nose for intrigue, Meyer must be considered an important witness.

“Furthermore, it was a standard practice in the CIA, at least in those early years, that no one ever resigned from the CIA. A friend of mine who joined the Agency in the early 1950s told me that if, before the age of retirement, he was mentioned as having left the CIA for another job, that I was to disregard it, since it would only be a cover for continuing Agency work. On that testimony, the case for NR being a CIA operation becomes even stronger. Also suggestive is the fact that a character even more sinister than E. Howard Hunt, William J. Casey, appears at key moments of the establishment of the New over the Old Right. It was Casey who, as attorney, presided over the incorporation of National Review and had arranged the details of the ouster of Felix Morley from Human Events.”


Blogger Unknown on 12/17/2007 6:28 PM:

I've removed Lisa's comment above at Ralph's request (and saved its content). Ralph says he is preparing a response to the comment, and pending the resolution of this issue I'll leave the text hidden. I can restore it if necessary at a later time.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/17/2007 8:40 PM:

Excellent information on the individuals from the oil industry that have took control of the CIA then integration of the CIA into the media, the story picks up on page 19 the entire article has plenty of contemporary historical value.
Link below:


Blogger Ralph Brauer on 12/26/2007 5:55 PM:

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.

Carl Bernstein
"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
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.

Later on:

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.


Blogger Lisa Pease on 12/28/2007 1:57 PM:

Ralph - I was not accusing YOUR book of being a CIA project. Sheesh! I thought you'd see the humor in that. I never dreamed you'd take offense!

But it's a well-documented fact that Praeger published books for the CIA. I may have misspoke re the Church Committee reference, since this was known BEFORE the Church committee did their investigation. I simply cited a quickie reference, but if you want a book reference, here you go.

High-level CIA employee Victor Marchetti, along with State Department employee John Marks, wrote about this in their book "The CIA: the Cult of Intelligence" back in 1971:

Over the years, the agency has provided direct subsidies to a number of magazines and publishing houses, ranging from Eastern European émigré ogans to such reputable firms as Frederick A. Praeger, of New York--which admitted in 1967 that it had published “fifteen or sixteen books” at the CIA’s request.

Are you going to question Marchetti's representation of Praeger's own admission of complicity?

Btw - I have not only read the Church Committee report, which spans several volumes, but I've also read the entire Pike Committee report too, which is quite a bit smaller.

I have a copy of it in my files. Could you really not find a copy? Which one of us then is the better researcher?

I'm not someone who uses the Web as a primary source for anything, as you would know if you had read my published work. It was quite unscientific of you to go after a reference I quoted and try to make that "my" argument, not even knowing the documentation I had. And Marchetti is not the only source.

Are you suggesting Hunt is lying about something that was already public information? What motive would he have to do that? If you know anything about these guys, it's that they don't ALWAYS lie with every word out of their mouths. They tell the truth when they can, and save the lies for when they can't.

And come on, Ralph. That was bad form to delete my comment until you had time to reply, and then not reinstate my comment when you did.


Blogger Lisa Pease on 12/28/2007 2:05 PM:

And here's undoubtedly the source for the Marchetti/Marks quote, from the New York Times of 2/24/1967:

Frederick A. Praeger, the book publisher, said yesterday that his concern had published "15 or 16 books" at the suggestion of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Can you now accept that Praeger BY the publishers OWN ADMISSION, published books for the CIA?


Blogger Unknown on 12/28/2007 3:09 PM:

Don't blame Ralph for failing to reinstate the comment; that was my doing, and you're correct, it was bad form. Lisa, please accept my apology for that.

Having now heard both sides of the case, I do not believe any argument exists that Lisa's comment was libelous, certainly not to Ralph, and not to Praeger either. That said, here is the text of the original comment, first posted by Lisa Pease at #4 on 12/13/07:

BTW, Ralph - I wonder if you know your publisher was a preferred CIA publishing front for years. I don't know if the relationship continues, but that was exposed during the Church and Pike committee days.


Anonymous Anonymous on 12/29/2007 4:30 PM:

My apologies also. The comment should have been restored. The error was entirely mine.

Otherwise I think everything is on the table.