The original name for the Reagan-Bush administration's plan to mount its own propaganda campaign within the United States was "Project Truth." It later merged with a broader program that combined domestic and international propaganda under the umbrella of "Project Democracy." The central figure in the administration's media operations was Walter Raymond Jr., a 30-year veteran of the CIA's propaganda office who was assigned to the National Security Council staff in 1982.
President Reagan took the first formal step to create the propaganda bureaucracy on January 14, 1983, by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled "Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security." The secret directive deemed it "necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government." Reagan defined public diplomacy broadly as "those actions of the U.S. Government designed to generate support for our national security objectives."
To direct these "public diplomacy" campaigns, Reagan ordered the creation of a Special Planning Group - or SPG - within the National Security Council. "The SPG ... shall ensure that a wide-ranging program of effective initiatives is developed and implemented to support national security policy, objectives and decisions."
Reagan turned to Raymond to manage the public diplomacy operations at home and abroad. The veteran CIA propagandist was a slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carre spy novel, an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. Associates said Raymond's CIA career stayed close to headquarters because of special care required for a sick child. Still, he rose to senior levels of the CIA's Directorate of Operations - the DO which is responsible for spying, paramilitary actions and propaganda - where his last job title was considered so revealing about the CIA's disinformation capabilities that it remained a highly classified secret.
Critics would later question the assignment of a career CIA propagandist to carry out an information program that had both domestic and foreign components. After all, in CIA propaganda operations, the goal is not to inform a target population, but rather to manipulate it. The trick is to achieve a specific intelligence objective, not foster a full-and-open democratic debate. In such cases, CIA tactics include disinformation to spread confusion or psychological operations to exploit cultural weaknesses. A skillful CIA operation will first carefully analyze what "themes" can work with a specific culture and then select - and if necessary distort - information that advances those "themes." The CIA also looks for media outlets to disseminate the propaganda. Some are created; others are compromised with bribes to editors, reporters or owners.