Charles Douglas Jackson was born in New York City on 16th March 1902. After graduation from Princeton University in 1924, he joined the media industry. In 1931 he went to work with Henry Luce at Time Magazine.
In 1940 Luce allowed Jackson, to organize an anti-isolationist propaganda group called the Council for Democracy. Luce was also one of the main funders with the British Security Coordination for the Fight of Freedom group. Other members included Allen W. Dulles, Joseph Alsop, Dean G. Acheson, Lewis William Douglas, and several journalists including Herbert Agar (Louisville Courier-Journal), Geoffrey Parsons (New York Herald Tribune) and Elmer Davis (CBS).
Ian Fleming, working for BSC's naval intelligence section, proposed that Henry Luce should work for William Donovan as his Coordinator of Information. His recommendation was not accepted and the post went to Robert E. Sherwood. However, as Thomas E. Mahl, the author of Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44 (1998) has pointed out: "The British soon found themselves in conflict with Henry Luce. His global internationalist vision of the American Century and his ability to publicize that vision were very useful when the British were trying to involve the United States in international events. But they became a threat to the British vision of the postwar world after Pearl Harbor. By early 1943, Henry Luce was on the list of enemies who endangered the British Empire."
During the Second World War Jackson served as special assistant to the Ambassador to Turkey before joining the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943. The following year he was appointed Deputy Chief at the Psychological Warfare Division at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
After the war, Jackson became Managing Director of Time-Life International. In 1948 Frank Wisner, who worked with Jackson in the OSS, was appointed as director of the Office of Special Projects. Soon afterwards it was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Wisner also established Operation Mockingbird, a program to influence the domestic American media. Wisner asked Philip Graham of the Washington Post to run the project within the newspaper industry. Jackson was also recruited and according to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post: "By the early 1950s, Wisner 'owned' respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles."
Jackson became the publisher of Fortune Magazine and from 1951-52 he served as President of the Free Europe Committee. He also wrote speeches for Dwight D. Eisenhower during his presidential campaign. Jackson was rewarded in February 1953 by being appointed as Special Assistant to the President. This included the role of Eisenhower's liaison between the CIA and the Pentagon. According to the Eisenhower Presidential Library files in Abilene, Kansas, Jackson's "area responsibility was loosely defined as international affairs, cold war planning, and psychological warfare. His main function was the coordination of activities aimed at interpreting world situations to the best advantage of the United States and her allies and exploiting incidents which reflected negatively on the Soviet Union, Communist China and other enemies in the Cold War."
Jackson also took an active role in Operation Mockingbird. Documents released after his death show that Jackson was in contact with a CIA agent in Hollywood's Paramount Studios. This agent was involved in trying to influence the content of the films the company was making. The agent is not named by Jackson but Frances Stonor Saunders claims in Who Paid the Piper? (2000) that it was Carleton Alsop, a CIA agent employed by Frank Wisner. There is no doubt that Alsop was one of the CIA agents working at Paramount. However, Hugh Wilford argues in The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008) that it was a senior executive at Paramount, Lugi G. Laraschi, the most important CIA figure at the studio. Laraschi was the head of foreign and domestic censorship at the studio, whose job was to "iron out any political, moral or religious problems". Other studios, including MGM and RKO, had similar officers, and were probably CIA placements. In a private letter to Sherman Adams, Jackson claims the role of these CIA placements was "to insert in their scripts and in their action the right ideas with the proper subtlety".
In 1953 C. D. Jackson served on the Presidents' Committee on International Information Activities. The following year he was appointed as Special Assistant to President for International Affairs. Jackson urged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to speak-out against Senator Joe McCarthy. He was probably influenced by McCarthy's attacks on CIA officials such as Frank Wisner and Cord Meyer. In Jackson's opinion McCarthy was damaging the anti-Communist cause with self serving and unstable behavior. According to Carl Bernstein, Jackson was "Henry Luce's personal emissary to the CIA". He also claimed that in the 1950s Jackson had arranged for CIA employees to travel with Time-Life credentials as cover.
Kai Bird has argued that Jackson worked very closely with John McCloy: " In the summer of 1959, just before McCloy took his family for an extended trip to Europe, C.D. Jackson wrote to remind McCloy that later that summer a World Youth Festival was scheduled to take place in Vienna. Jackson asked McCloy to contribute an article, perhaps on the "benign and constructive aspects" of the U.S. occupation of Germany. The piece would appear in a daily newspaper to be published in Vienna in conjunction with the festival. McCloy agreed, and the article was published (in five languages) in a newspaper distributed by a twenty-five-year-old Smith graduate named Gloria Steinem... Washington expected some twenty thousand students and young scholars from all over the world to converge on Vienna that summer for the three-week festival. Consequently, the CIA wanted an organized student presence in Vienna in order to counter Soviet propaganda."
After the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 Jackson left the White House and became publisher of Life Magazine. When Kennedy was assassinated, Jackson purchased the Zapruder Film on behalf of Life. David Lifton points out in The Great Zapruder Film Hoax (2004) that: "Abraham Zapruder in fact sold the film to Time-Life for the sum of $150,000 - about $900,000 dollars in today's money... Moreover, although Life had a copy of the film, it did little to maximize the return on its extraordinary investment. Specifically, it did not sell this unique property - as a film - to any broadcast media or permit it to be seen in motion, the logical way to maximize the financial return on its investment... A closer look revealed something else. The film wasn't just sold to Life - the person whose name was on the agreement was C. D. Jackson." Jackson published individual frames of Zapruder's film but did not allow the film to be screened in its entirety.
Soon after the assassination Jackson also successfully negotiated with Marina Oswald the exclusive rights to her story. Peter Dale Scott argues in his book Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1996) that Jackson, on the urging of Allen Dulles, employed Isaac Don Levine, a veteran CIA publicist, to ghost-write Marina's story. This story never appeared in print.
Charles Douglas Jackson died on 18th September, 1964. On December 15, 1971, Jackson's widow gave his papers to the Eisenhower Presidential Library. These documents revealed that he had been working as a CIA agent since 1948.