Half a century ago, when the perceived enemy was communism, the United States spent millions of dollars to subvert private groups in order to advance U.S. positions. Today, the perceived enemy are the "Islamists," and the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has the potential for stifling dissent, and dividing religious communities. Consider the U.S. Central Information Agency's disinformation program begun late in the 1940s and early 1950s.
This program eventually involved most of the major private institutions in American life (John Harwood, "O What a Tangled Web the CIA Wove," Washington Post, February 26, 1967). "It was not enough for the United States to arm its allies, to strengthen government institutions, or to finance the industrial establishment through economic and military programs," wrote Mr. Harwood. "Intellectuals, students, educators, trade unionists, journalists and professional men had to be recruited directly through their private organizations."
The Washington Post article includes a chart, "This is How the Money Goes Round," upon which we base the accompanying chart and the following description:
Secret government funds, possibly hundreds of million, were given by the CIA to a number of foundations depicted by the first circle surrounding the CIA. Included in this group were a number of foundations such as: Beacon Fund; Benjamin Rosenthal Foundation; Independence Fund; Marshall Fund; Robb Charitable Trust; Rubicon Foundation. Some were largely occupied with other work; some such as the Vernon Fund, were mainly CIA conduits.
The foundations in the first circle gave money to other private organizations. They are depicted by the second circle. Included in this group were organizations such as: American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees; American Friends of the Middle East; American Newspaper Guild; International Development Foundation; National Education Association; National Student Association. One step away from the source of money, they could rarely be identified as part of the CIA pipeline.
The groups and organizations in the second circle passed the secret funds along to specified CIA approved groups, organizations, and study projects such as: Congress for Cultural Freedom; Foreign News Service, Inc.; Harvard University; International Committee of Jurists; International Federation of Free Journalists; Radio Free Europe; University of Southern California; World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession. These are depicted by the last set of circles. Their job was to parcel out money to individuals.
"Allen Dulles, who ran the CIA in the 1950s, was a product of the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, which has always epitomized the Establishment," wrote Mr. Harwood. "While he was in charge at the Agency, his business and legal confreres were used extensively to enable the CIA to achieve its secret purposes."
"The list of Establishmentarians...includes such other figures as Robert J. Manning, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, McGeorge Bundy...foreign policy adviser to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson...[and later] president of the Ford Foundation."
"In most cases the foundations which served as CIA conduits...were fully aware of what they were doing. In the case of the ultimate recipients of the money, the facts are more ambiguous. Some of them such as the National Education Association and leaders of the National Student Association, had no illusions about the source of their funds."
The CIA did not act on its own initiative but "in accordance with national policies established by the National Security Council in 1952 through 1954."
Following more revelations about the CIA in the 1970s, the Watergate scandal, and investigations by the Church Committee of the Senate, the Pike Committee of the House, and the Rockefeller Commission, the CIA was becoming an embarassment, and Congress decided something had to be done.
Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), ostensibly set up to "support democratic institutions throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts".
"The idea was," writes former U.S. Department of State official William Blum, and author of Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, "the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities."
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, is reported to have said: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."
The major recipients of NED funds include the International Republican Institute; the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; American Center for International Labor Solidarity (an AFL-CIO affiliate); Center for International Private Enterprise (a Chamber of Commerce affiliate).
These institutions disburse funds to other organizations which intervene in the "internal affairs of foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers, automobiles, and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc.," writes Mr. Blum.
"In the decade since the end of the Cold War," writes Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post, "democracy assistance has become an American growth industry." The U.S. Agency for International Development spent $649 million on democracy programs in 2000, a substantial increase from $165 million in 1991. It is reasonable to assume that advisers funded by the NED, also participate in these democracy assistance programs.
This January 2001, following his innauguration as president, Mr. George Bush announced the creation of a new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Aside from the constitutional issues relating to the separation of church and state, an issue is how organizations being favored with federal contributions will be selected. Perhaps a more important issue is will federal funds be used to stifle dissent, and divide faith-based communities? What are the safeguards needed to assure that they are not so used?
As was the case in 1967, what is known to the press and public is far less than what is not known.
Enver Masud is director of The Wisdom Fund http://www.twf.org. Copyright 2001 The Wisdom Fund