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Benjamin Bradlee was born in Boston on 26th August, 1921. One of his closest friends as a child was Richard Helms. While at Harvard University Bradlee married Jean Saltonstall, the daughter of Senator Leverett Saltonstall. After graduating in 1943 Bradlee joined naval intelligence and worked as a communications officer. His duties included handling classified and coded cables.
At the end of the war Bradlee went to work as a clerk for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great) points out that as the ACLU is an "organization that promotes various progressive causes, including conscientious objection to war. This job, so out of character for the young patriot, may or may not have been an intelligence assignment."
In 1946 Bradlee purchased the New Hampshire Times. He worked for the newspaper until it was sold to William Loeb. As a result of a family friend who knew Eugene Meyer, Bradlee found work on the Washington Post as a crime reporter. Bradlee also got to know Philip Graham, Eugene Meyer's son-in-law, and associate publisher of the newspaper. In 1951 Graham helped Bradlee to become assistant press attaché in the American embassy in Paris.
In 1952 Bradlee joined the staff of the Office of U.S. Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), the embassy's propaganda unit. USIE produced films, magazines, research, speeches, and news items for use by the the Central Intelligence Agency throughout Europe. USIE (later known as USIA) also controlled the Voice of America, a means of disseminating pro-American "cultural information" worldwide. While at the USIE Bradlee worked with E. Howard Hunt and Alfred Friendly.
According to a Justice Department memo from a assistant U.S. attorney in the Rosenberg Trial Bradlee was helping the CIA to manage European propaganda regarding the spying conviction and the execution of Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg on on 19th June, 1953.
Bradlee was officially employed by USIE until 1953, when he began working for Newsweek. While based in France, Bradlee divorced his first wife and married Antoinette Pinchot. At the time of the marriage, Antoinette's sister, Mary Pinchot Meyer, was married to Cord Meyer, a key figure in Operation MB, a CIA program to influence the American media.
Antoinette Bradlee was also a close friend of Cicely d'Autremont, who was married to James Angleton. Bradlee worked closely with Angleton in Paris. At the time Angleton was liaison for all Allied intelligence in Europe. His deputy was Richard Ober, a fellow student of Bradlee's at Harvard University.
In 1957 Bradlee created a great deal of controversy when he interviewed members of the FLN. They were Algerian guerrillas who were in rebellion against the French government at the time. According to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great) this had all the "earmarks of an intelligence operation". As a result of these interviews, Bradlee was expelled from France.
Bradlee now began working at Newsweek in Washington. While working for the journal Bradlee became a close friend of John F. Kennedy. This included publishing stories beneficial to the career of the ambitious politician. Bradlee later wrote two books about Kennedy: That Special Grace (1964) and Conversations with Kennedy (1975).
JFK with Mary Meyer (far right). Antoinette Bradlee is second on the left.
In 1961 Richard Helms tipped off Bradlee that his grandfather, Gates White McGarrah, was willing to sell Newsweek. Bradlee went to Philip Graham with the story. Graham was interested in buying the journal and gave Bradlee a handwritten check for $1 million to convey to McGarrah as a down payment.
Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was Antoinette Bradlee's sister, divorced Cord Meyer. The Bradlees set up Mary's apartment and art studio in their converted garage. In January, 1962, Mary began a sexual relationship with President John F. Kennedy. She told her friends, Ann and James Truitt, that she was keeping a diary about the affair.
In 1962 Mary began visiting Timothy Leary, the director of research projects at Harvard University. Leary supplied LSD to Mary who used it with Kennedy. According to his biography, Flashbacks, Leary claims that Mary phoned him the day after Kennedy was assassinated: "They couldn't control him any more. He was changing too fast. He was learning too much... They'll cover everything up. I gotta come see you. I'm scared. I'm afraid."
On 12th October, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead as she walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. Henry Wiggins, a car mechanic, was working on a vehicle on Canal Road, when he heard a woman shout out: "Someone help me, someone help me". He then heard two gunshots. Wiggins ran to the edge of the wall overlooking the towpath. He later told police he saw "a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, and a dark cap standing over the body of a white woman."
Soon afterwards Raymond Crump, a black man, was found not far from the murder scene. He was arrested and charged with Mary's murder. The towpath and the river were searched but no murder weapon was ever found.
The media did not report at the time that Meyer had been having an affair with John F. Kennedy. Nor did it reveal that her former husband, Cord Meyer, was a senior figure in CIA's covert operations. As a result, there was little public interest in the case.
During the trial Wiggins was unable to identify Raymond Crump as the man standing over Meyer's body. The prosecution was also handicapped by the fact that the police had been unable to find the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. On 29th July, 1965, Crump was acquitted of murdering Mary Pinchot Meyer. The case remains unsolved.
In 1965 Katharine Graham appointed Bradlee as assistant managing editor of the Washington Post under Alfred Friendly, his former colleague at USIE. Graham then requested Walter Lippmann to suggest to Friendly that he should retire in order that Bradlee could take over his job as managing editor. After a meeting with Graham he agreed to resign.
Graham was pleased with the way Bradlee edited the Washington Postand in 1968 she appointed him vice president of the company. Bradlee became a strong supporter of the Vietnam War. This was reflected in the journalists he selected to report on the conflict.
Ben Bradlee, Edward Bennett Williams and Art Buchwald
Daniel Ellsberg was member of the McNamara Study Group that in 1968 had produced the classified History of Decision Making in Vietnam, 1945-1968. Ellsberg, disillusioned with the progress of the war, believed this document should be made available to the public. He gave a copy of what later became known as the Pentagon Papers to William Fulbright. However, he refused to do anything with the document, so Ellsberg gave a copy to Phil Geyelin of the Washington Post. Katharine Graham and Bradlee decided against publishing the contents on the document.
Ellsberg now went to the New York Times and they began publishing extracts from the document on 13th June, 1971. This included information that Dwight Eisenhower had made a secret commitment to help the French defeat the rebellion in Vietnam. The document also showed that John F. Kennedy had turned this commitment into a war by using a secret "provocation strategy" that led to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents and that Lyndon B. Johnson had planned from the beginning of his presidency to expand the war.
Bradlee was criticised by his journalists for failing to break this story. He now made attempts to catch up and on June 18, 1971, the Washington Post began publishing extracts from the History of Decision Making in Vietnam, 1945-1968. However, Bradlee concentrated on the period when Dwight Eisenhower was in power. The first story reported on how the Eisenhower administration had delayed democratic elections in Vietnam.
Richard Nixon now made attempts to prevent anymore extracts from the Pentagon Papers being published. The Supreme Court ruled against Nixon and Hugo Black commented that the two newspapers "should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly".
While editor of theWashington Post Bradlee promoted the career of Bob Woodward. Like Bradlee, Woodward had been a communications officer for naval intelligence. In July, 1972, Bradlee arranged for Woodward to work with Carl Bernstein on a story about a growing political scandal concerning the Nixon administration.
On 3rd July, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker and James W. McCord were arrested while removing electronic devices from the Democratic Party campaign offices in an apartment block called Watergate. It appeared that the men had been to wiretap the conversations of Larry O'Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The phone number of E.Howard Hunt was found in address books of the burglars. Reporters were now able to link the break-in to the White House. Woodward began receiving information from a secret source using the codename "Deep Throat". He told Woodward that senior aides of President Richard Nixon, had paid the burglars to obtain information about its political opponents. There has been much speculation about the identity of "Deep Throat" but one possibility is Bradlee's CIA friend, Richard Ober.
Nixon continued to insist that he knew nothing about the case or the payment of "hush-money" to the burglars. However, in April 1973, Nixon forced two of his principal advisers H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, to resign. A third adviser, John Dean, refused to go and was sacked.
On 20th April, Dean issued a statement making it clear that he was unwilling to be a "scapegoat in the Watergate case". When Dean testified on 25th June, 1973 before the Senate Committee investigating Watergate, he claimed that Richard Nixon participated in the cover-up. He also confirmed that Nixon had tape-recordings of meetings where these issues were discussed.
The Special Prosecutor now demanded access to these tape-recordings. At first Nixon refused but when the Supreme Court ruled against him and members of the Senate began calling for him to be impeached, he changed his mind. However, some tapes were missing while others contained important gaps.
Under extreme pressure, Nixon supplied tapescripts of the missing tapes. It was now clear that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up and members of the Senate began to call for his impeachment. On 9th August, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office. Nixon was granted a pardon but other members of his staff involved in helping in his deception were imprisoned.
In March, 1976, James Truitt, a former senior member of staff at the Washington Post, gave an interview to The National Enquirer. Truitt told the newspaper that Mary Pinchot Meyer was having an affair with John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated. He also claimed that Meyer had told his wife, Ann Truitt, that she was keeping an account of this relationship in her diary. Meyer asked Truitt to take possession of a private diary "if anything ever happened to me".
Ann Truitt was living in Tokyo at the time that Meyer was murdered on 12th October, 1964. She phoned Bradlee at his home and asked him if he had found the diary. Bradlee, who claimed he was unaware of his sister-in-law's affair with Kennedy, knew nothing about the diary. He later recalled what he did after Truitt's phone-call: "We didn't start looking until the next morning, when Tony and I walked around the corner a few blocks to Mary's house. It was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found Jim Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary."
James Angleton, CIA counterintelligence chief, admitted that he knew of Mary's relationship with John F. Kennedy and was searching her home looking for her diary and any letters that would reveal details of the affair. According to Bradlee, it was Mary's sister, Antoinette Bradlee, who found the diary and letters a few days later. It was claimed that the diary was in a metal box in Mary's studio. The contents of the box were given to Angleton who claimed he burnt the diary.
Leo Damore claimed in an article that appeared in the New York Post that the reason Angleton and Bradlee were looking for the diary was that: "She (Meyer) had access to the highest levels. She was involved in illegal drug activity. What do you think it would do to the beatification of Kennedy if this woman said, 'It wasn't Camelot, it was Caligula's court'?"
(1) Deborah Davis, Katharine the Great (1979)
Nineteen fifty-six. Ben Bradlee, recently remarried, is a European correspondent for Newsweek. He left the embassy for Newsweek in 1953, a year before CIA director Allen Duller authorized one of his most skilled and fanatical agents, former OSS operative James Angleton, to set up a counterintelligence staff. As chief of counterintelligence, Angleton has become the liaison for all Allied intelligence and has been given authority over the sensitive Israeli desk, through which the CIA is receiving 80 percent of its information on the KGB. Bradlee is in a position to help Angleton with the Israelis in Paris, and they are connected in other ways as well: Bradlee's wife, Tony Pinchot, Vassar '44, and her sister Mary Pinchot Meyer, Vassar '42, are close friends with Cicely d'Autremont, Vassar '44, who married James Angleton when she was a junior, the year he graduated from Harvard Law School and was recruited into the OSS by one of his former professors at Yale.
Also at Harvard in 1943, as undergraduates, were Bradlee and a man named Richard Ober, who will become Angleton's chief counterintelligence deputy and will work with him in Europe and Washington throughout the fifties, sixties, and early seventies. Both Bradlee and Ober were members of the class of '44 but finished early to serve in the war; both received degrees with the class of '43. Ober went into the OSS and became a liaison with the anti-Fascist underground in Nazi-occupied countries; Bradlee joined naval intelligence, was made a combat communications officer, and handled classified and coded cables on a destroyer in the South Pacific. He then worked for six months as a clerk in the New York office of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that promotes various progressive causes, including conscientious objection to war. This job, so out of character for the young patriot, may or may not have been an intelligence assignment.
In 1956 Ben and Tony Bradlee are part of a community of Americans who have remained in Paris after having been trained in intelligence during the war or in propaganda at the Economic Cooperation Administration. Many have now addressed themselves to fighting communism, a less visible but more invidious enemy than nazism had been. Some of them, like Bradlee, are journalists who write from the Cold War point of view; some are intelligence operatives who travel between Washington and Paris, London, and Rome. In Washington, at Philip Graham's salon, they plan and philosophize; in foreign cities, they do the work of keeping European communism in check.
Bradlee's childhood friend Richard Helms is part of this group. He has written portions of the National Security Act of 1947, a set of laws creating the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, the latter to support the CIA with research into codes and electronic communications. Helms is the agency's chief expert on espionage; his agents penetrate the government of the Soviet Union and leftist political parties throughout Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.
Angleton and Ober are counterintelligence, and run agents from Washington and Paris who do exactly the opposite: they prevent spies from penetrating American embassies, the State Department, the CIA itself. Head of the third activity, covert operations, is Phil Graham's compatriot Frank Wisner, the father of MOCKINGBIRD, whose principal operative is a man named Cord Meyer, Jr.
(2) Ben Bradlee, The Good Life (1995)
On a Saturday morning I went to my immediate boss, the embassy's public affairs officer, Bill Tyler, for help. Since we couldn't get any help from Washington, why didn't we send our own man - me, obviously - to New York to read the transcript of the entire Rosenberg Trial (and appeals), return to Paris as quickly as possible, and write a detailed, factual account of the evidence as it was presented, witness by witness, and as it was rebutted, cross-examination by cross-examination? Tyler thought that was a great idea. When could I - should I leave? Right away. Fine, but it was Saturday. The banks were closed and no one had cash for the air fare. "That's all right," said Tyler. "We'll ask Bobby for some francs."
Bobby was Robert Thayer, son of the founder of St. Mark's School, a longtime friend of my mother and father, and the CIA station chief in Paris. He reached nonchalantly into the bottom drawer of his desk and fished out enough francs to fly me to the moon, much less to the Federal Courthouse in the Southern District of New York, and I left that afternoon. This incident caused me some embarrassment years later, when a woman named Deborah Davis argued in a book about Katharine Graham that I had worked for the CIA as an agent. Her "evidence," obtained through a Freedom of Information request, was an internal CIA document noting that Bobby Thayer had advanced the cash for my air fare.
(3) Nina Burleigh, A Very Private Woman (1998)
By the 1970s, the CIA was seen as an unsavory ally and Bradlee and other journalists were extremely upset about assertions that they had ever been associated with it even unofficially. (Deborah) Davis published a justice Department memo from an assistant U.S. attorney involved in the Rosenberg case which specifically indicated that Ben Bradlee was helping the CIA manage European propaganda regarding the Rosenbergs' spying conviction and death sentences. Bradlee denied working for the CIA. Pressure from Bradlee and Katharine Graham, who wrote that an assertion that Phil Graham helped the CIA was Davis's "CIA fantasy," apparently played some role in persuading Davis's first publisher to shred printed copies of the book. But according to Carl Bernstein, a former deputy director of the CIA said, "It was widely known Phil Graham was somebody you could get help from. Frank Wisner dealt with him." Davis included the Bradlee memo in a second edition, published almost ten years after the shredding of the first copies.
(4) Deborah Davis, interviewed by Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press (1992)
Kenn Thomas: Let's get back to Ben Bradlee. I know part of what's in the book and part of what upset those forces that caused the withdrawal of its first publication is what you've said about Ben Bradlee and his connection to the Ethyl and Julius Rosenberg trial. Would you talk about that a bit?
Deborah Davis: In the first edition, the one that was recalled and shredded, I looked in State Department lists for '52 and '53 when Bradlee was serving as a press attache supposedly in the American embassy in Paris. This was during the Marshall Plan when the United States over in Europe had hundreds of thousands of people making an intensive effort to keep Western Europe from going Communist. Bradlee wanted to be part of that effort. So he was over in the American embassy in Paris and the embassy list had these letters after his name that said USIE. And I asked the State Department what that meant and it said United States Information Exchange. It was the forerunner of the USIA, the United States Information Agency. It was the propaganda arm of the embassy. They produced propaganda that was then disseminated by the CIA all over Europe. They planted newspaper stories. They had a lot of reporters on their payrolls. They routinely would produce stories out of the embassy and give them to these reporters and they would appear in the papers in Europe. It's very important to understand how influential newspaper stories are to people because this is what people think of as their essential source of facts about what is going on. They don't question it, and even if they do question it they have nowhere else to go to find out anything else. So Bradlee was involved in producing this propaganda. But at that point in the story I didn't know exactly what he was doing.
I published the first book just saying that he worked for USIE and that this agency produced propaganda for the CIA. He went totally crazy after the book came out. One person who knew him told me then that he was going all up and down the East Coast having lunch with every editor he could think of saying that it was not true, he did not produce any propaganda. And he attacked me viciously and he said that I had falsely accused him of being a CIA agent. And the reaction was totally out of proportion to what I had said.
Kenn Thomas: You make a good point in the book that other people who have had similar kinds of--I don't even know if you want to call them accusations--but reports that they in some way cooperated with the CIA in the '5Os, that the times were different and people were expected to do that kind of thing out of a sense of patriotism and they blow it off.
Deborah Davis : That's right. People say, yeah, this is what I did back then, you know. But Bradlee doesn't want to be defined that way because, I don't know, somehow he thinks it's just too revealing of him, of who he is. He doesn't want to admit a true fact about his past because somehow he doesn't want it known that this is where he came from. Because this is the beginning of his journalistic career. This is how he made it big.
Subsequent to my book being shredded in 1979, early 1980, I got some documents through the Freedom of Information Act and they revealed that Bradlee had been the person who was running an entire propaganda operation against Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg that covered forty countries on four continents. He always claimed that he had been a low level press flack in the embassy in Paris, just a press flack, nothing more. Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg had already been convicted of being atomic spies and they were on death row waiting to be executed. And the purpose of Bradlee's propaganda operation was to convince the Europeans that they really were spies, they really had given the secret of the atomic bomb to the Russians and therefore they did deserve to be put to death.
The Europeans, having just very few years before defeated Hitler, were very concerned that the United States was going fascist the way their countries had. And this was a very real fear to the Europeans. They saw the same thing happening in the United States that had happened in their own countries. And so Bradlee used the Rosenberg case to say, "No this isn't what you think it is. These people really did this bad thing and they really do deserve to die. It doesn't mean that the United States is becoming fascist." So he had a very key role in creating European public opinion and it was very, very important. This was the key issue that was going to determine how the Europeans felt about the United States.
Some of the documents that I had showed him writing letters to the prosecutors of the Rosenbergs saying "I'm working for the head of the CIA in Paris and he wants me to come and look at your files." And this kind of thing. So in the second edition, which came out in 1987, I reprinted those documents, the actual documents, the readers can see them and it's got his signature and it's very, very interesting. He subsequently has said nothing about it at all. He won't talk about it all. He won't answer any questions about it. So I guess the point about Bradlee is that he went from this job to being European bureau chief for Newsweek magazine and to the executive editorship of the Post. So this is how he got where he is. It's very clear line of succession. Philip Graham was Katharine Graham's husband, who ran the Post in the '50s and he committed suicide in 1963. That's when Katharine Graham took over. Bradlee was close friends with Allen Dulles and Phil Graham. The paper wasn't doing very well for a while and he was looking for a way to pay foreign correspondents and Allen Dulles was looking for a cover. Allen Dulles was head of the CIA back then and he was looking for a cover for some of his operatives so that they could get in and out of places without arousing suspicion. So the two of them hit on a plan: Allen Dulles would pay for the reporters and they would give the CIA the information that they found as well as give it to the Post. So he helped to develop this operation and it subsequently spread to other newspapers and magazines. And it was called Operation Mockingbird. This operation, I believe, was revealed for the first time in my book.
(5) Katharine Graham, A Personal History (1997)
On my way to Europe right after Phil's death, I wrote to two men whom I regarded as unfriendly - Ben Bradlee and Arnaud de Borchgrave. I thought of them as Phil's people, Phil's friends, and both of them had stood clearly and decisively with Phil for their own good and separate reasons. Ben felt he owed Phil loyalty for his purchase of Newsweek, but I think he, and actually most of the people at Newsweek, simply didn't know The Washington Post Company or feel any loyalty to anyone but Phil himself. When they saw things coming apart, they tried to cut a straight professional line and separated Phil from me, naturally taking his side.
Arnaud was a friend of Robin's from Newsweek's Paris bureau, which made me all the more wary of him. But he played a large and useful, if ambiguous, role abroad for Newsweek. He was a dashing figure, a charmer of sorts who knew many of the monarchs, rulers, and leaders, and a fine reporter. And he was good for the magazine. (He also lived very well off it.)
What I said to both of them was that the past was past and that I hoped we could all go forward together. Ben doesn't remember receiving such a letter, but I am very clear about having written to both men. I knew enough even then to understand that personal feelings shouldn't enter into professional situations. My later relationship with Ben, of course, became one of the most cherished professional and personal relationships of my life, and one of the most productive. Arnaud remained more or less distant from me and seemed to feel that I was "out to get him." If I was, it took me an inordinately long time, since he was at the magazine for seventeen more years, until he was fired by the editors in 1980 over an editorial disagreement. Even then, when Lester Bernstein, Newsweek's editor at the time, told me that the editors had unanimously decided to part company with Arnaud, I asked if they were certain, stating that Arnaud did have a lot of talent. Lester's response was, "I came to tell you, not to consult you."
(6) Joseph Trento, Secret History of the CIA (2001)
On the evening of October 12, 1964, Angleton and his wife, Cicely, were invited to a poetry reading at the house of an old friend, the artist Mary Meyer. Meyer's dreams had died in Dallas, too.
Twenty years earlier, just out of Vassar, Mary Pinchot as she was then, had married a promising young man, Cord Meyer, who later became one of Allen Dulles's top clandestine executives at the CIA. Mary Meyer came to hate her husband's job, and in 1956, she divorced him and moved to Georgetown to start a new life. That new life included a love affair with John Kennedy, which ended only with his murder. While Kennedy had many affairs while in the White House, Angleton insisted that the president and Mary Meyer "were in love. They had something very important."
The day of the poetry reading, Cicely Angleton called her husband at work to ask him to check on a radio report she had heard that a woman had been shot to death along the old Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. Walking along that towpath, which ran near her home, was Mary Meyer's favorite exercise, and Cicely, knowing her routine, was worried. James Angleton dismissed his wife's worry, pointing out that there was no reason to suppose the dead woman was Mary-many people walked along the towpath.
When the Angletons arrived at Mary Meyer's house that evening, she was not home. A phone call to her answering service proved that Cicely's anxiety had not been misplaced: Their friend had been murdered that afternoon. The Angletons went to the nearby home of Mary's sister, Antoinette, then married to Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, Benjamin C. Bradlee. They comforted the family and helped them make funeral arrangements.
As police later reconstructed that day's events, Mary had painted in the morning and at about noon had set off on her daily walk. It was cool outside. When the police were called to the murder scene, they found her dressed in slacks and an angora sweater. A detective commented that she was beautiful, even after the gunman had put two bullets into her. She was two days shy of her forty-fourth birthday. The D.C. police, always willing to cooperate with the government on potentially embarrassing matters, quickly arrested a local black man for killing Meyer.
A police officer had found the man, Raymond Crump, Jr., soaking wet, not far from the murder scene. Crump claimed that he had drunk some beer and fallen asleep and that he woke up only when he slid down the bank of the canal into the water. A jacket fished out of the canal after the shooting fit him. An eyewitness said the killer was black and was wearing that very windbreaker.
The next weekend, the Angletons, along with others of Mary's friends, began searching through her townhouse. They were frantically looking for a diary she had kept - really a sketchbook - which included details of her love affair with John Kennedy. Despite an exhaustive effort, they failed to find it.
A few days later, Antoinette Bradlee found the diary and many personal letters in a metal box in her sister's studio. It was hard to see how the earlier searchers could have missed it. Had it been removed and then replaced? James Angleton, who was close to Meyer's sons, was given the diary and letters for safekeeping. He allowed some people to reclaim letters they had written to Meyer, but he told everyone that he had burned the diary. He had not. In July 1978, he said, "I kept it for her children.... You must understand that it was a personal, not a professional, responsibility."
(7) Nellie Bly, The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal and Secrets (1996)
Some time before she died, Mary Meyer confided to her friends James and Anne Truitt that she was having an affair with the President and keeping a diary about it. Truitt was then vice president of the Washington Post; his wife Anne was a sculptor and confidante of Mary. Following the 1963 suicide of Phil Graham, Truitt was sent to the Tokyo bureau of Newsweek, a Post company Before they left for Japan, Mary discussed the disposition of her diary in the event of her death. She asked the Truitts to entrust it to James Jesus Angleton, chief of counterintelligence for the CIA.
The Truitts were still in Tokyo when they received word of the towpath murder, but the Saturday after Mary Meyer's murder, five other friends, including Angleton and his wife Cicely, gathered at her Georgetown home to search for her diary.
They knew that Mary usually left her diary in the bookcase in her bedroom, where she also kept clippings about the assassination of JFK, but the diary was not there.
Drawing on his training and all the specialized tools at his disposal, Angleton combed her deep, narrow town house. But it was her sister, Tony, who finally found the diary in Mary's studio, locked in a steel box filled with hundreds of letters. She turned it over to Angleton and asked him to burn it. According to a November 12, 1995 letter to the New York Times Book Review jointly signed by Cicely Angleton and Anne Truitt, Angleton followed this instruction in part by burning the loose papers. He also followed Mary Meyer's instruction and safeguarded the diary. Years later, he honored a request from Tony Bradlee that he deliver it to her. Subsequently, Tony Bradlee burned the diary in the presence of Anne Truitt...
Fourteen years after the murder, the National Enquierer a story headlined JFK 2 YEAR WHITE HOUSE ROMANCE... SOCIALITE THEN MURDERED AND DIARY BURNED BY CIA. The main source for the story was James Truitt. The former publishing executive had been motivated, he said, by Ben Bradlee's lack of candor in his own book, Conversations with Kennedy. "Here is this great crusading Watergate editor who claimed to tell everything in his Kennedy book," said Truitt, "but really told nothing,"
The Poses reaction to the story was to smear Truitt in a February 23 story that cited a doctor's certifications contained in court records that Truitt had suffered from a mental illness "such as to impair his judgment and cause him to be irresponsible." It quoted an anonymous Washington attorney to the effect that Truitt had threatened Bradlee and others in recent years with exposure of the "alleged scandals."
Journalists Ron Rosenbaum and Philip Nobile wrote about the mystery in New Times and concluded that: "the Post, while giving admirable play to an extremely touchy subject, created the hard impression that Truitt was an unreliable source-even though Bradlee knew that Truitt was essentially truthful about Mary Meyer and JFK."
(8) Ben Bradlee, The Good Life (1995)
Two telephone calls that night from overseas added new dimensions to Mary's death. The first came from President Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, in Paris. He expressed his particular sorrow and condolences, and it was only after that conversation was over that we realized that we hadn't known that Pierre had been a friend of Mary's. The second, from Anne Truitt, an artist/sculptor living in Tokyo, was completely understandable. She had been perhaps Mary's closest friend, and after she and Tony had grieved together, she told us that Mary had asked her to take possession of a private diary 'if anything ever happened to me.' Anne asked if we had found any such diary, and we told her we hadn't looked for anything, much less a diary. We didn't start looking until the next morning, when Tony and I walked around the corner a few blocks to Mary's house. It was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found Jim Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary.
As noted earlier, Jim Truitt gave this curious tale its first public airing in 1976, on the heels of the Church Committee. From there, the Washington Post (under Bradlee) picked it up. There had been an apparent falling out between Truitt and Bradlee, and Truitt said that he wanted to show that Bradlee was not the crusader for truth that Watergate or his book on Kennedy had made him out to be. In the National Enquirer, Truitt stated that Mary had revealed her affair with Kennedy while she was alive to he and his wife. He then went further. In one of their romps in the White House, Mary had offered Kennedy a couple of marijuana joints, but coke-sniffer Kennedy said, "This isn't like cocaine. I'll get you some of that."
(10) Ben Bradlee, The Good Life (1995)
The boys (Bob Woodward and Carl Beinstein) had one unbeatable asset: they worked spectacularly hard. They would ask fifty people the same question, or they would ask one person the same question fifty times, if they had reason to believe some information was being withheld. Especially after they got us in trouble by misinterpreting Sloan's answer about whether Haldeman controlled a White House slush fund.
And, of course, Woodward had "Deep Throat," whose identity has been hands-down the best-kept secret in the history of Washington journalism.
Throughout the years, some of the city's smartest journalists and politicians have put their minds to identifying Deep Throat, without success. General Al Haig was a popular choice for a long time, and especially when he was running for president in the 1988 race, he would beg me to state publicly that he was not Deep Throat. He would steam and sputter when I told him that would be hard for me to do for him, and not for anyone else. Woodward finally said publicly that Haig was not Deep Throat.
Some otherwise smart people decided Deep Throat was a composite, if he (or she) existed at all. I have always thought it should be possible to identify Deep Throat simply by entering all the information about him in All the President's Men into a computer, and then entering as much as possible about all the various suspects. For instance, who was not in Washington on the days that Woodward reported putting the red-flagged flower pot on his window sill, signaling Deep Throat for a meeting.
The quality of Deep Throat's information was such that I had accepted Woodward's desire to identify him to me only by job, experience, access, and expertise. That amazes me now, given the high stakes. I don't see how I settled for that, and I would not settle for that now. But the information and the guidance he was giving Woodward were never wrong, never. And it was only after Nixon's resignation, and after Woodward and Bernstein's second book, The Final Days, that I felt the need for Deep Throat's name. I got it one spring day during lunch break on a bench in MacPherson Square. I have never told a soul, not even Katharine Graham, or Don Graham, who succeeded his mother as publisher in 1979. They have never asked me. I have never commented, in any way, on any name suggested to me. The fact that his identity has remained secret all these years is mystifying, and truly extraordinary. Some Doubting Thomases have pointed out that I only knew who Woodward told me Deep Throat was. To be sure. But that was good enough for me then. And now.
(11) New York Times (15th March, 2001)
Mr. Meyer had married the former Mary Pinchot, a freelance writer and editor, in 1945. One of the couple's three sons, Michael, died at age 9 in a car accident. Soon after that, the couple divorced.
Mrs. Meyer was fatally shot in 1964 as she walked along the towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Georgetown. A day laborer found hiding in the bushes along the canal was acquitted of the crime, and it remains unsolved.
After her death, Mrs. Meyer's sister and brother-in-law said they saw the top C.I.A. counterintelligence officer, James J. Angleton, try to break into her home and take her diary.
Mrs. Meyer's brother-in-law, Benjamin C. Bradlee, later became executive editor of The Washington Post. The diary, which Mr. Bradlee and his wife found later that day, disclosed an affair between Mrs. Meyer and President John F. Kennedy.
(12) Daniel Brandt, All the Publisher's Men (1987)
Alfred Friendly was a Post reporter while also serving in Air Force intelligence during World War II and as director of overseas information for the Economic Cooperation Administration from 1948-49. Joseph B. Smith (Portrait of a Cold Warrior) reports that the ECA routinely provided cover for the CIA. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were set up by the CIA and John S. Hayes was their chairman by 1974. Years earlier when Hayes was vice-president for radio and television at the Post, he was appointed by Kennedy to a secret CIA propaganda task force. Friendly left the Post soon after Bradlee came on board, and Hayes left when Johnson appointed him ambassador to Switzerland in 1966.
But poor Bradlee claims he didn't know that Cord Meyer was a globetrotting CIA destabilizer in the fifties, just as he knew nothing about CIA links when he took time off from the Post to work as a propagandist for the U.S. embassy in Paris from 1951-53. Deborah Davis includes in her book a memo released under the FOIA that shows Bradlee responding to a request from the CIA station chief in Paris, Robert Thayer. His assignment was to place stories in the European press to discredit the Rosenbergs, who had been sentenced to death, and Bradlee followed orders.
Benjamin Bradlee: from Post reporter to embassy propagandist, then on to Newsweek and back to the Post as executive editor, without breaking stride. The point of Davis' book is that this pattern is repeated again and again in Post history; she calls it "mediapolitics" -- the use of information media for political purposes. Robert Thayer's status as CIA station chief in Paris is confirmed in Richard Harris Smith's book OSS. While in Paris, Bradlee already knew Thayer, having attended the preparatory school Thayer ran while Robert Jr. was his classmate. Bradlee categorically denies any CIA connection, but it's a toss-up as to which is more disturbing: Bradlee in bed with the CIA and lying about it, or Bradlee led around by the CIA and not knowing it.
Unlike Bradlee, Katharine does not seem as sophisticated or conniving; she was apparently completely sucked in by such charmers as Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, and even Henry Kissinger, who took her to the movies. She supported Nixon in 1968 and 1972, changed her mind about him later, but has yet to waver from the anti-Communism that kept the Post from criticizing U.S. policy in Vietnam. Her idea of an awkward situation is asking Nixon for National Guard protection during anti-Vietnam demonstrations in Washington; Lyndon never made her ask. The demonstrators had to be duped -- after all, she had taken the time to get her facts straight with a trip to Vietnam in 1965, where she shopped for blue and white china, and had access to all the assorted power brokers and opinion makers who showed up at the 1966 masked ball that Truman Capote gave for her. Between Bradlee and Katharine, with journalism such as this it's a wonder that the Vietnamese people survived.
The elitist conservatism and intelligence connections of the Post are as important today as they ever were; Katharine and Bradlee are still in control. Davis could have remarked on the current New Right editorial line in the Post, or added the fact that former editorial page editor (1968-79) Philip Geyelin joined the CIA for a year in 1950, while on leave from the Wall Street Journal, but found the work boring and went back to the Journal. And she also doesn't mention that Walter Pincus, a Post reporter who still covers intelligence issues, took two CIA-financed trips overseas to international student conferences in 1960, and waited to write about them until 1967 when reporters everywhere were exposing CIA conduits. Informed readers of Geyelin (who stills does a column) and Pincus can learn much from they way these writers filter history. This may qualify them as good journalists among their colleagues, but for the unwitting masses it simply amounts to more disinformation.
The CIA connections that Davis does mention are dynamite. The issue is relevant today because frequently the D.C. reader has to pick up the Washington Times to get information on the CIA the Post refuses to print. For example, while almost every major newspaper in the country, as well as CBS News and ABC News, use the real name of former CIA Costa Rican station chief "Tomas Castillo," the Post, as of late June, continues to gloat over their use of the pseudonym only. This is probably Bradlee's decision, not Katharine's, because Newsweek let former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry use Castillo's real name (Joseph F. Fernandez, age 50) when Parry joined the magazine earlier this year. According to Davis, Katharine doesn't make editorial decisions these days unless they threaten the health of the company.
The question, then, becomes one of myth-management, and attempting to discern why the Post enjoys such a liberal reputation in spite of its record. Once you redefine liberalism as something slightly closer to the center than the New Right, it means that "genuine" liberalism (if such a thing was ever important) is stranded and soon becomes extinct. Add to this the fact that U.S. liberalism since World War II, whether "genuine" or contemporary, has a record on foreign policy that would make Teddy Roosevelt proud. That leaves two media events to explain the Post puzzle: the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Forget the first event, because the Post was merely trying to keep up with the New York Times so as not to lose face. Besides, they didn't make a movie about it.
Watergate and the Post, the stuff of great drama. Much has been written already about the probability that Nixon was set up. McCord as a double agent has been covered neatly in Carl Oglesby's Yankee and Cowboy War, Bob Woodward's previous employment with a Pentagon intelligence unit was mentioned in Jim Hougan's Secret Agenda, and the motive -- that Nixon was losing perspective and becoming a threat to those who were still able to see their long-range interests clearly -- is evident after reading Seymour Hersh's The Politics of Power.
If you put it all together and summarize it in the context of Deep Throat and the Post, along with Bradlee's CIA sympathies, you must agree with Davis that Nixon wasn't the only one set up; Deep Throat led the Post by the nose. Whether they knew it or not, whether they cared or not assuming that they knew, and whether or not a noble end can justify shabby means -- all this pales next to Davis' main point. That point is this: the Post, whose history of journalism by manipulation helped create the conditions that led to Vietnam, the demonstrations, and the psychosis of Nixon, ended up using or responding to these same manipulative methods to avoid political obsolescence, and somehow it worked.
Davis identifies Deep Throat as Richard Ober, the chief of the CIA's domestic spying program called Operation CHAOS. The evidence is circumstantial and her sources remain anonymous. According to Davis, Kissinger moved Angleton into the White House and set him up with his own Israeli intelligence desk in 1969. This sounds like vintage Kissinger as he acts swiftly to capture the foreign policy apparatus, but it's the first I've heard that Angleton, who thought the Sino-Soviet split was a ruse designed to catch the West napping, was on any sort of terms with the China-hopping, detente-talking Kissinger.
Davis writes that Angleton's deputy Ober was also given a White House office, and after the Pentagon Papers were published Ober had privileged access to Nixon and was able to observe his deterioration. Again, this is news to me. If Davis is correct, it means Angleton and Ober were running Operation CHAOS out of the White House, Nixon knew about it while Kissinger didn't, but both Kissinger and Nixon were deeply suspicious of the CIA and felt it necessary to start up the Huston Plan to cover the CIA's shortcomings in domestic intelligence. At least the book includes a photograph of Ober -- the first one I've seen. Davis makes more sense than some of the Watergate theories that have kicked around in past years, but this is still the most speculative portion of her book.
Part of the Post success story has to do with sheer wealth. As one of the world's richest women, Graham has the empire backed up with many millions, which guarantees continued access to privilege and power. Another part is an ability to play dirty. Katharine Graham, who became one of Washington's most notorious union-busters in the name of a free press, used her "soft cop" with Bradlee's "hard cop" to insure that William Jovanovich, who published the first edition of this book in 1979, was bullied into recalling 20,000 copies because of minor inaccuracies alleged by Bradlee. Jovanovich made no effort to check Bradlee's allegations. Deborah Davis filed a breach-of- contract and damage-to-reputation suit against Jovanovich, who settled out of court with her in 1983.
The entire saga of Katharine the Great is a sobering antidote to the intoxication I felt when All the President's Men first played. A myth has been more than punctured; Davis bludgeons it mercilessly -- yet in a manner that shows far more journalistic integrity than one can expect from the Post or from Jovanovich. This bludgeoning was overdue for eight years, delayed by exactly the sort of Washington hardball that Davis exposes. Indeed, there can be no more eloquent testimony to the substantive nature of Davis' material than the sound that those 20,000 copies must have made as they, at the behest of Post power, went through a shredding machine.