Why Liberals Love the CIA

by Richard Poe
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

12:00 am Eastern Time

Why Liberals Love the CIA
A Four-Part Series

CIA Bloggers for Hillary, January 28, 2008

Why Liberals Love the CIA, February 5, 2008

How the CIA Lost Vietnam, February 13, 2008

Walter Cronkite and the CIA, February 26, 2008

Book Cover, The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders

In her book, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, Frances Stonor Saunders exposed the CIA’s little-known role as a secret “Ministry of Culture,” which funds certain artists, writers, filmmakers and opinion leaders, while denying funds to others — all for the dubious purpose of promoting an imaginary ideal called the “Non-Communist Left.”

IN LAST week’s column, I examined the strange case of celebrity blogger Markos “Kos” Moulitsas, founder of the Democrat mega-blog DailyKos. He claims that he spent six months interviewing with the CIA, then turned down the job so he could campaign for Howard Dean. Nonetheless, Kos speaks in glowing terms of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In a radio interview with Gregory Dalton of the Commonwealth Club of California, Kos said of his CIA interviewers:

“Every single one of them was liberal… people who want to make the world a better place… people who are internationalist… That was an eye-opening experience for me.”

Kos added, “I’ve never had a problem with the CIA, and… I’d have no problem working for them.”

Many leftists savaged Kos for these remarks, saying he had exposed himself as a closet conservative. Kos “is not a ‘liberal’ and he is not a ‘progressive’“, charges Francis L. Holland, a disaffected “Kossack” who runs the Truth-about-Kos Web site. Radical scribe Kurt Nimmo denounced Kos as an instrument of the “CIA-engineered controlled opposition”, tasked with reducing “the ‘progressive’ Democrat opposition” to the war in Iraq to “an empty and absurd rhetorical slogan”.

It could be argued that Kos exhibits a more sophisticated grasp of intelligence matters than his radical critics. Washington insider and high-level Democrat operative that he is, Kos knows things that scruffy street radicals of Kurt Nimmo’s ilk cannot. Kos knows, for instance, that the CIA favors leftwing Democrats, sharing their vision for global governance and democratic socialism.

Since its inception in 1947, the CIA has always leaned left.

British statesman Ernest Bevin declared in 1948, “We cannot hope successfully to repel Communism only by disparaging it… We must put forward a rival ideology to Communism.” What sort of ideology would it be?

Most western economists in the 1940s hailed “democratic socialism” as the wave of the future. Their enthusiasm for socialism prompted conservative economist Joseph A. Schumpeter to lament in 1942, “Can capitalism survive? No. I do not think it can.”

The CIA’s founders agreed. They concluded that America could best fight Soviet influence by offering a superior form of socialism — that is, by creating leftwing movements with a pro-American orientation. “We all felt that democratic socialism was the most effective bulwark against totalitarianism”, explains Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a former analyst in the wartime Office of Strategic Services who helped launch the CIA.

Thus the CIA set out to recruit members of the “Non-Communist Left” or “NCL” — that is, socialists who opposed Soviet communism and sided with America in the Cold War.

The Agency became a mecca for leftists. “You’ll find more liberal intellectuals per square inch at CIA than anywhere else in the Government,” exclaimed one State Department official in the mid-1960s. In his book Never Stop Running, Duke University historian William Chafe writes, “Especially in the 1940s and 1950s, the CIA provided a welcome refuge [from McCarthyism] for progressive, social democratic forces.”

Many NCL operatives in the CIA hated conservatives as much as communists. “The most dangerous thing we can do… is to leave the task of exposing Communist fronts to reactionaries,” warned socialist philosopher and CIA propagandist Sidney Hook in 1949. Fighting communism was too delicate a task to be entrusted to “paranoid” conservatives, NCLs argued.

Frank Wisner led the NCL faction. While heading the CIA’s covert operations division from 1948 to 1956, Wisner recruited hundreds of U.S. journalists at virtually every major newspaper and broadcast network in America. He boasted that he could play the media like a Wurlitzer pipe organ.

Irked by “Wisner’s gang of weirdos“, as he called them, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover slipped Senator Joseph McCarthy some damaging dossiers on Wisner’s people in 1953. Some “weirdos” were fired. But Wisner’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” struck back, unleashing a barrage of anti-McCarthy smears through friendly media.

“As far as most of us were concerned, McCarthy was the domestic enemy,” remarked Wisner protegé Richard Bissell.

National Review co-founder James Burnham — himself a disillusioned NCL recruit — pronounced the program a failure in 1967. “The NCL is not reliable,” he wrote. “A large part of the organizations and individuals nurtured by CIA under the NCL prescription end up undermining the nation’s will and hampering or sabotaging the nation’s security.”

Burnham’s warning came too late. NCL networks had dug in deep, forming a shadow CIA within the CIA, complete with independent funding. Dislodging them would no longer be easy or certain. Indeed, some say they infest the Agency to this day.

Why Liberals Love the CIA
A Four-Part Series

CIA Bloggers for Hillary, January 28, 2008

Why Liberals Love the CIA, February 5, 2008

How the CIA Lost Vietnam, February 13, 2008

Walter Cronkite and the CIA, February 26, 2008


2 Responses to “Why Liberals Love the CIA”
  1. Richard Poe says:

    See reader comments at
    Posted on 02/06/2008 3:48:28 PM PST

  2. Edwin Vogt says:

    I believe that all major offensive strategies employed by CIA planners should be submitted on file to the National Security Office. In this way, we as a nation would be aware of any tactics that are illegal or disgraceful to the image of our country. Stirring up rebellions and plotting to assassinate people ought to be reviewed by others than just CIA operatives. I have never trusted this agency since its inception. I see it now as a shadow government causing more problems and damage than we intended it to be involved in.

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