Dated "20 December, 1991" this internal memo from the "Task Force on Greater CIA Openness" was leaked out by accident to a few people soon after its completion. The report was in response to a request by then CIA Director Robert Gates. Copies have been floating around on the fringes of the research community for about four or five years. Robert Dean refers to it repeatedly in press conferences (he did it in Roswell.)

One of the humorous (?) aspects of this document is that a memo on "greater openness" was classified and clamped down upon by CIA censors when it was realized what had happened. Perhaps an employee at the Public Affairs Office was canned for it, or handed a transfer to Tierra del Fuego.

The text reveals both a self-congratulatory smugness and a paradoxical desire to evolve the image of the CIA as a "visible and understandable" organization. There is obviously a sense that the American public has just about had it with an agency that seems to serve no important purpose in a post-cold war world. This is coupled with the fact that many informed citizens believe that the CIA routinely covers up its mistakes and dirtier dealings with documented falsehoods and bait-and-switch techniques. Amongst those who have come of age in the last ten years, this attitude of distrust is pervasive enough to have become accepted in the mainstream.

Reacting to this in an early attempt at spin control, rather than outright stonewalling or lying, the task force recommended some changes in the methods that the Public Affairs Office (PAO) utilizes to deal with their information conduits (news media, academia, and private sector business.)

Throughout the document, the Task Force members reveal that they seem to want it both ways, as evidenced by this statement: "there was substantial agreement that we generally need to make the institution and the process more visible and understandable rather than strive for openness on specific substantive issues." Viewed in this light, the study seems to recommend no real change in attitude, only in the way that the agency presents itself to a hostile or at least an indifferent public.

Particularly revealing is the passage that describes the "contacts with every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly, and television network in the nation." The writers go on to boast that the PAO has been able to change or even scrap stories that were not to the Agency's liking. This appears to indicate that the CIA really does control a portion of the news media through a "carrot-and-stick" sort of relationship with reporters who boast of their "secret sources" and secretly fear the loss of same if they happen to piss off "Mr. Deep Throat."

The best way to affect opinion is to make the public and policymakers believe that their conclusions were reached by a fair and balanced judgment of facts. If the "facts" are controlled, the hamhanded coercion practiced in other areas of the world that is feared in a free society never rears its head. Based on the ideas and recommendations in this memo, a certain percentage of the news media becomes a CIA mouthpiece simply through the illusion that any Agency source is a valuable source. When a reporter treats information from the Agency as unimpeachable, the public discourse suffers. While this basic intelligence principle was set forth over 2000 years ago by Chinese General Sun Tzu in The Art Of War, it seems that many journalists may need a refresher course.

(Another interesting note: The document mentions Oliver Stone's JFK by name and reveals that the CIA knew "for some time" that this film was in the works.)

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