William Frank Buckley was born on 24th November, 1925. The son of William Buckley Sr., a Texas oil millionaire, he began studying at the University of Mexico in 1943. The following year he joined the United States Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
In 1951 he joined the Central Intelligence Agency and worked with E. Howard Hunt in Mexico City. While with the CIA he published God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of Academic Freedom. He also worked with Eudocio Ravines on The Road to Yenan, a book about the communist conspiracy to obtain world domination.
Buckley left the CIA and became editor of The American Mercury. He continued to be active in right-wing politics and in 1953 Buckley established the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI). This was modeled on the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS) that had been founded by Jack London in 1905. The ISI distributed free copies of right-wing books such as Road to Serfdom (Friedrich A. Hayek) and The Income Tax: Root of all Evil (Frank Chodorov).
Buckley's next book was a defence of Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism entitled McCarthy and Its Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning (1954). During this period Buckley described himself as a "revolutionary against the present liberal order".
Buckley also joined forces with Willi Schlamm to start up a new right-wing journal entitled the National Review. Schlamm, who had previously been literary editor of The Freeman, a conservative magazine published by Henry Luce. The magazine was funded by right-wing figures including Adolphe Menjou, Spruille Braden, Roger Milliken, Clarence Manion and Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society.
In September, 1960, Buckley, Douglas Caddy and Marvin Liebman established the far right group, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The first meeting was held at Buckley's home in Sharon, Connecticut. Caddy became YAF's first president. Its first national council included eleven members of the John Birch Society. The main mission of the YAF was to “prepare young people for the struggle ahead with Liberalism, Socialism and Communism”. Tom Hayden and other leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society compared the YAF to the Hitler Youth.
The main objective of Buckley and the YAF was to support the efforts of Barry Goldwater to become the Republican Party candidate to take on John F. Kennedy in the forthcoming presidential election. Buckley and Goldwater both believed that the link to Robert Welch and the John Birch Society posed a threat to this objective. As a result Buckley used the National Review to attack the neo-fascist views of Welch.
In 1965 Buckley helped establish the Conservative Party and ran for mayor of New York City. He finished third with 13 per cent of the vote.
As well as editing the National Review, Buckley became a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. At his peak, Buckley's work appeared in more than 300 newspapers. In 1973 he served as a delegate to the United Nations.
On 18th September, 1976, Orlando Letelier, who served as foreign minister under Salvador Allende, was traveling to work at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington when a bomb was ignited under his car. Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, a 25 year old woman who was campaigning for democracy in Chile, both died of their injuries.
The director of the CIA, George H. W. Bush, was quickly told that DINA and several of his contract agents were involved in the assassination. However, he leaked a story to members of Operation Mockingbird that attempted to cover-up the role that the CIA and DINA had played in the killings. Jeremiah O'Leary in the Washington Star (8th October, 1976) wrote: "The right-wing Chilean junta had nothing to gain and everything to lose by the assassination of a peaceful and popular socialist leader." Newsweek added: "The CIA has concluded that the Chilean secret police was not involved." (11th October).
Buckley also took part in this disinformation campaign and on 25th October wrote: "U.S. investigators think it unlikely that Chile would risk with an action of this kind the respect it has won with great difficulty during the past year in many Western countries, which before were hostile to its policies." According to Donald Freed Buckley had been providing disinformation for the General Augusto Pinochet government since October 1974. He also unearthed information that William Buckley's brother, James Buckley, met with Michael Townley and Guillermo Novo in New York City just a week before Orlando Letelier was assassinated. Townley later confessed to carrying out the killing of Letelier.
Buckley has published a large number of books including United Nations Journal: a Delegate's Odyssey (1974), Unmaking of a Mayor (1977), Up From Liberalism (1984), Racing Through Paradise (1987), On The Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures (1989), Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our County (1990), Happy Days Were Here Again (1993), Nearer My God: An Autobiography of Faith (1997), The Redhunter (1999), Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton (2001). His autobiography, Miles Gone By, was published in 2004.
William Buckley died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut on 27th February, 2008, aged 82. At the time of his death, he had been suffering from emphysema and diabetes.