Reddit Now Funds Tor


Alexis Ohanian, the face of Reddit.


Reddit, the “front page of the internet”, now partially funds the Tor Project. The Tor Project is an internet “anonymity network” which was set up by the US Navy. Tor claims to help internet users hide from repressive governments, in reality it’s a US espionage tool designed to get ‘interesting’ targets to self-select.

Tor users are not sophisticated actors. Organizations which are serious about security do not use Tor, because rumblings about Tor’s ‘vulnerabilities’ have been reaching the mainstream media since 2007 (at least). Why would agencies like the NSA want to watch poorly organized and poorly informed ‘onion routing’ users? Well, there’s the blackmail angle: child pornography is all over the Tor network. There’s also the ‘useful idiot’ angle: simple-minded fanatics who believe they’re more dangerous than they really are and who can be easily manipulated into doing things that help the ‘intelligence community’. Think Lulzsec.

I’ve written about Reddit before: it’s a website where users post links to articles, which are then ‘rated’ by other users… all under the eyes of specially chosen ‘moderators’ who remove material they don’t like. The site was founded by Alexis Ohanian, a one-time ‘wunderkind’ internet entrepreneur and the son of an Armenian immigrant who grew up in the ‘Metroplex’ around Washington D.C.. Samuel Altman of Y Combinator and Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz invested in the Reddit operation, which was bought by Condé Nast, a division of the Newhouse family’s Advance Publications. As of 2014, Ohanian continues as Reddit’s executive chairman. The position must not keep him very busy, because Ohanian also runs an investment firm called Das Kapital Capital when he’s not making tech proclamations on mainstream news networks. This is how Ohanian describes himself:

In 2006, Alexis Ohanian sold, a startup he co-founded with Steve Huffman, to Condé Nast Digital.

This made him a 23-year-old accredited investor, one of the most dangerous things in the world. Suddenly becoming more dangerous than a raptor, Jules & Vincent from Pulp Fiction, and Predator (combined) he set off to invest some of this capital in startups led by founders just like him (long on ideas, short on experience, but full of energy). Besides, he wanted to live vicariously through these of startup founders — only sleep better.

"I'm dangerous!"

“I’m dangerous!”

Back in 2013 Ohanian tried to sell information about Reddit users to Stratfor via email. (So he may be dangerously stupid!) Stratfor is a sort of CIA-for-hire and Ohanian’s inbox was hacked by Wikileaks. When Russia Today reported on Ohanian’s nefarious business proposal, RT was “partially banned” from Reddit. I’m told by multiple Reddit users that linking to will get you ghost-banned, or if you’re too high-profile for that, you’ll be harassed by foul-mouthed Reddit moderators.

Alongside his Tor work, Ohanian is now getting involved in international affairs. A few weeks ago he decided to insert himself into the Armenian Genocide narrative by visiting his father’s native country on his birthday, which also happens to be the day designated for the genocide’s memorial. All this at a time when NATO is courting Turkey in strange ways.

The thrust of the Reddit founder’s platform is to get the Armenian Genocide officially recognized as a genocide by the US government– the US, Britain and until recently France have been reluctant to call the 1915 genocide what it was– this reluctance predates current relations with Turkey, so the stalling *probably* also has something to do with prominent international railway investors’ role in the massacre of this Christian minority by the Ottomans. Putin has no problem recognizing the genocide, by the way– so what is Ohanian doing? Perhaps voicing the concerns of US potentates who don’t like seeing Islamic Turkey gain too much power.

Why would a crony-capitalist wunderkind roll the dice by propping up the Tor network– especially when he’s stretching himself thin over a century-old ethnic grievance?

I’m confident that Reddit has its genesis in the ‘intelligence community’ just like Tor, which makes it particularly stupid for Tor to have accepted Reddit funding. It’s bad tradecraft to link different operations to each other, because when one is exposed, they all are. Tor is notorious for sloppy practices on its back-end, I’ve written about that here. In a nutshell, Tor tried to make itself look ‘internationally diverse’ by setting up a myriad of different shell organizations over the globe, but they didn’t go the extra mile to make sure these shell organizations appeared to be active and take funding from different sources.

Jacob Appelbaum, the face of the Tor Project. Check out all the weirdness around him here.

Jacob Appelbaum, the face of the Tor Project. Check out all the weirdness around him here.

I don’t think Tor’s, and now Reddit’s, sloppiness problems are unique to their operation– I think the whole US ‘intelligence community’ is run like a third-generation company. Their pathetic Twitter-like project ‘Zunzuneo‘ is another good example of bad work.

There are some intelligence organizations that do a lot with very little, Cuba is one example and Jordan may be another one. The United States, however, is the opposite of these two. The US ‘intelligence community’ has phenomenal resources, but appears to have a real problem recruiting competent talent. Perhaps this is because ‘IC’ leaders are preoccupied with reliability instead of ability; perhaps the American ‘IC’ is what happens when you employ too many sons and lovers.

Tor has been criticized over the last two years for its reliance on US government funding, in 2013 the Washington Post (even!) reported that 60% of Tor’s funding still comes from “the Feds”. The WP was white-washing: it turns out that 75% of 2013 Tor funding came from the USG.

According to The Daily Dot, a very pro-Tor blog/internet news source:

In response to increasing public and internal dialogue, the organization [Tor] will be making a sustained push to increase funds from all other sources in order to decrease their dependence on the U.S. government.

Developers recently discussed the push to diversify funding at Tor’s biannual meeting in Spain, including setting a goal of 50 percent non-U.S. government funding by 2016.

Tor developers at the meeting also brought up the possibility of lobbying foreign governments within, for instance, the European Union.

However, increasing non-governmental funding is a major priority.

In response to this obvious PR problem, Tor has attempted to “eclipse” US government sponsorship by looking for “non-governmental” sponsors… like Reddit. Herein lies the great irony.

snoo reddit gear

This official Reddit plush toy will only set you back US$142 and is available from the Reddit Store.

I eagerly await learning who Tor enlists over the next few months… which EU governments, “non-governmental” actors and business concerns will reach out and grab the tar-baby. In the meantime, here’s the list of 2015 Tor sponsors who have already self-identified:

Read all about those “concerned citizens” here.


… which is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a US propaganda organ that funded Tor through 2006-2013.

‘National’ as in ‘United States of America’.

I guess the Swedes worked out their differences with the Jacob Appelbaum and Ed Snowden. According to the Digital Defenders Partnership:

The Digital Defenders Partnership has its origins in the Freedom Online Coalition, and is managed by Hivos, an international NGO based in the Netherlands. As an initial investment, the governments of the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia, Czech Republic and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) have dedicated financial support.

SIDA funded Tor from 2010-2013. Forget ‘Iron Curtain’, think ‘Digital Curtain’.

SRI International, or as it used to be called ‘The Stanford Research Institute’, is a huge, US-government derived, private research consultancy which was founded in 1946 with Herbert Hoover’s help and continues to do a phenomenal amount of work for the US military. Child movie star and US ambassador Shirley Temple was married to one of SRI’s stars, Charles Alden Black, a Navy intelligence officer. From her Washington Post obituary:

Luminaries who paid visits to Miss Temple in Hollywood included Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, J. Edgar Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt. She received an honorary child-sized Oscar in 1935.

“As long as our country has Shirley Temple,” Franklin Roosevelt said, “we will be all right.”

Presumably the same goes for SRI International.


Concluding remarks:

1) It’s interesting that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and SIDA are now trying to hide their Tor sponsorship behind daughter/partner organizations.

2) Tor still isn’t your friend.

3) Armenia, beware of Americans bearing gifts.





Kim Philby and Saddam Hussein

The official story of Kim Philby’s career begins and ends with Zionism. We’re told that Kim was recruited to the KGB through the beguiling Zionist and Communist Litzi Friedmann (born Alice Kohlmann). Litzi’s contacts in England were Philby’s first KGB handlers.

Litzi Friedmann/Alice Kohlmann

Litzi Friedmann/Alice Kohlmann

After Litzi come the Rothschilds. Introductions from Victor Rothschild, who worked with his uncle Lord Rothschild as a sort of tag-team on Zionist issues, put Philby’s recruits inside the ‘charmed circle’ of British intelligence.

victor rothschild

Victor’s on the left.

Finally in 1962, complains from Flora Solomon to Victor (the 3rd Lord Rothschild by this time) about Philby’s KGB work in the 1930s sealed his fate. Flora’s complaints were motivated by Philby’s “anti-Israel” writing for the Observer.

Flora Solomon

Flora Solomon

So, we’re told that Kim’s career sweetened and soured along with his relation to Zionism; the most dramatic moments being punctuated by the Rothschild family. All sides of the ‘Fifth Man’ debate concur on these details.

I believe that this official story flatters Zionist power and uses the ‘Rothschild’ name to distract from other important power-politics. Philby didn’t end up in Beirut by accident; neither was the timing of his defection to the USSR dictated by the whim of a jealous ex-lover. To illustrate my point, I offer a time line placing Kim’s Beirut work and defection into context with the power-politics which were playing out in Middle East.

Events leading up to Kim Philby’s ‘Defection’

1940 From this date onward Khairallah Talfah, Saddam Hussein’s uncle, begins his intermittent care of the three-year old Hussein, due to the following: 1) Saddam’s father’s desertion of the family; 2) Saddam’s mother’s mental illness; and 3) an abusive step-father. (Why is this important? Please see my post The Cult of Intelligence and Sullivanians, or Fourth Wall Cult.)

1941 Khairallah Talfah cooperates with the Nazis in an attempt to free Iraq from British Imperial domination. This puts Talfah at odds with the post-WWII Iraqi regime, which was beholden to the British.

May 25th 1951 Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess defect to the USSR, though this was not confirmed in the press until 1956. Kim Philby’s association with the pair forces him to defend his actions publicly, which he does with great skill. It’s unclear what else Philby does between 1951 an 1956.

1953 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s American-smelling radio program ‘Voice of the Arabs’ begins broadcasting. The program promotes Nasser’s ‘Pan-Arabist’ and anti-European-Imperialist ideology. The American-smelling print media nexus in Beirut, Lebanon also promotes Nasser’s politics.

1956 At 18 years old Saddam Hussein is part of an assassination attempt on King Faisal II (an Imperial British puppet-king) and Prime Minister/General Nuri al-Said, who handed Iraq’s oil rights to the British. Both attempts fail.

August 1956 After being forced out of MI5 but avoiding prosecution for this suspected spy-work, Kim Philby is posted to Beirut to serve as a correspondent to The Economist and The Observer. Kim teams up with his father St. John Philby (a regional political insider and confidant of the Saudi royal family) who is also living in the city. Kim’s journalistic work is a cover: Kim Philby gives information to the KGB (Modin, My 5 Cambridge Friends) and MI6, which hired him as a type of consultant.

October 29th-31st 1956 Israel, Great Britain and France invade Egypt in order to take control of the Suez Canal and to remove Nasser from power. The three aggressors are defeated in their primary goals, leaving the USA and USSR free to try and fill the power vacuum left by previous colonial powers.

1957  On turning 20, Saddam Hussein joins the Ba’ath Party in Iraq after careful grooming from his uncle Talfah. Note Saddam’s career in wet-work started well before his Ba’athist political career.

February 1st 1958 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser forms an alliance with the Syrian branch of the Ba’ath party to form the United Arab Republic. The other notable branch of the Ba’ath party is in Iraq.

October 7th, 1959 According to “Saddam and other members of the Ba-ath Party attempted to assassinate Iraq’s then-president, Abd al-Karim Qasim, whose resistance to joining the nascent United Arab Republic and alliance with Iraq’s communist party had put him at odds with the Ba’athists.” neglects to tell readers that this assassination attempt was supported by the CIA.

When the assassination fails, Hussein leaves for Egypt where Nasser is still in power. Somebody pays for Saddam Hussein to get a law degree while in Egypt.

December 1961 Anatoly Golitsyn, a senior KGB officer, defects to the West.

March 1962 Anatoly Golitsyn starts talking to American counterintelligence about a ‘Cambridge Five’ spy ring.

August 1962 Lord Rothschild brings Flora Solomon in to MI5 to accuse Philby of trying to recruit her to the KGB in the 1930s. ‘Cambridge Five’ case reopened. Peter Wright takes Solomon’s statement for MI5.

January 10th 1963 Nicholas Elliot, a good friend of Philby and previous MI6 station head in Beirut returns to Beirut to extract a ‘confession’ from Philby and is authorized to offer Philby immunity from prosecution. Elliot succeeds in getting a confession from Philby, who was suffering from a head wound, but Philby doesn’t try to return to Britain with the immunity offer.

16th January 1963 According to Tom Carver: “Peter Lunn, who had replaced Nicholas Elliott as Beirut station chief, ordered Philby to report to the British Embassy, where it would have been possible to arrest him. Philby pleaded continued problems with his head injury and didn’t go. He later told [his lover] Eleanor that ‘the minute that call came through, I knew the balloon was up.’”

23rd January 1963 Kim Philby defects to the Soviet Union.

8th February 1963 Ramadan Revolution happens in Iraq: Ba’athist revolutionaries assassinate Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim with CIA support. Saddam Hussein returns to Iraq from Egypt after the initial stages of the revolution, and things start going right for him. By 1968 Saddam is one of the most powerful men in Iraq and a driving force behind the Ba’ath party.

saddam in powerI think this series of events provokes questions about the ‘Cambridge Five’ narrative; even if only to make one wonder why Philby’s defection isn’t discussed in terms of the turmoil in Iraq, a country which Allen Dulles called “the most dangerous spot in the world” under Communist-affiliated Qasim’s rule, 1958-63. Allen Dulles was the head of the CIA from 1953-1961.

These questions become more pointed with more background information. I’ll start by pointing out that the rudderless Saddam Hussein, an exploited twenty-five year old, was being groomed by somebody in Egypt during 1959-63. Readers will remember that Anita Pallenberg, an 18 year old with a murky past, was being groomed by the CIA through Playboy magazine in Rome at roughly the same time. Where Anita found ‘belonging’ through the twisted world of CIA-sponsored counter-culture, Saddam found belonging in the Ba’ath party and their CIA-supported intrigues. Somehow the CIA identified Saddam as a useful asset– probably through his spooky Uncle Talfah– and the Agency shipped Saddam off to their friends in Egypt when things got too hot for him in Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein young

A youthful portrait of Saddam Hussein

CIA involvement with Egyptian president Nasser’s regime is well known, according to ex-Voice of America employee and historian John Buescher:

The Dulles brothers provided military advisors and equipment to the Egyptian army. Through clandestine contacts, both the State Department and the CIA gave Egyptian leaders, especially Nasser, important intelligence training and assistance in moderating potential internal political rivals and in conducting propaganda campaigns.

Nasser was personally close to CIA leadership, the ‘new kids on the block’, according to CIA historian Ricky-Dale Calhoun:

Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles took a particularly favorable view of Nasser, even after it became known that Nasser had agreed to purchase arms from the Soviet Bloc on very attractive barter terms. The CIA station chief in Cairo, Miles Copeland, was on even more cordial terms with Nasser—and he shared Nasser’s distrust of the British.

Egypt became a focal point for American intelligence after the Suez Crisis, which opened the possibility for America to take over ‘patronage’ of the country in place of the British or French. Nasser’s ‘pan-Arabist’ ideology echoes long-standing American anti-imperialist propaganda: a cynical, hypocritical position favored by creeps like Claire Boothe Luce for flattering native governments and cherry-picking assets from crumbling European empires. Boothe Luce’s penchant for anti-imperialism is why the British sent spook-gigolo Roald Dahl to influence her during WWII; her husband’s media empire would later become a cover for the CIA.

Could the “assistance in moderating potential internal political rivals” of which John Buescher writes have included setting up Nasser’s dedicated radio station ‘Voice of the Arabs’? US intelligence had a well-established working relationship with both British and American radio media for propaganda purposes– FDR had been giving ‘fireside chats’ since the early Thirties. I find the name ‘Voice of the Arabs’ strikingly similar to that of US Government propaganda vehicle ‘Voice of America’, an Office of War Information monstrosity that was founded in 1942 and cooperated with the BBC to pummel the rest of the world with Washington D.C.’s point of view. The ‘Voice of America’ is now brought to you by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the same people who manage Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and who fund the Tor Project.

Laura James, from the Economist Intelligence Unit– The Economist like Kim Philby– has this to say about ‘Voice of the Arabs’ and it’s Egyptian intelligence connection:

“The Voice of the Arabs” had been very carefully designed to become a regional phenomenon. Following the establishment of the new Egyptian intelligence service in March 1953, the Interior Minister, Zakaria Mohieddin, and intelligence officer Fathi al-Dib had formulated an Arab nationalist action plan, which included the development of a radio show as well as funding for Arab nationalist writers and students to study in Egypt.

Students like Saddam Hussein, I wonder…

The other prong to Nasser’s propaganda offensive came from Beirut, Kim Philby’s new base. Beirut had been the Middle East’s information hub since American missionaries set up printing presses there in the 1830s. According to historian Lucy Ladikoff:

Eli Smith’s activities in Syria had far reaching results especially after the removal of his American mission’s printing press from Malta to Beirut. This was of great use to the Arabic language. “Though it was not the missionaries themselves who worked to save the language from its decay, still it was their means, such as schools and new educational systems, printing press equipped to issue books in the Arabic language, and their money that were at the service of the great, enlightened and intellectual Arabs of the period.

Besides having control of Beirut’s influential press, the Americans had a stranglehold on the education system. The American University in Beirut, one of the CIA’s favored recruiting hubs, was founded in 1866 by a protestant missionary using British and American money. It goes without saying that missionaries have always been a useful source of information for Western intelligence agencies– especially in hostile regimes like that of the Imperial Chinese. Regular readers will remember that the talkative Bill-Colby-henchman David Obst was *probably* collecting information from missionaries in Taiwan prior to his Stateside espionage.

I think I’ve established that the CIA had a close working relationship with Saddam Hussein’s Egyptian protector between 1959-63 and that Beirut was a spook-hub, a bit like Vienna is today. In light of these facts Kim Philby’s ‘exile’ from London is more understandable: it wasn’t an exile at all, but simply facilitated his next mission. Why was someone with Kim Philby’s baggage sent to operate around the “most dangerous spot in the world”?

Between Kim and his father St. John, there were few people in the world with better intelligence contacts for the Middle Eastern sphere; Beirut offered the best market for the Philbys’ services.

st john philby

St. John Philby

St. John’s contacts were hard won. He was the last in a line of intrepid British agents who manipulated the fanatical tribes of the Arab Peninsula; in St. John’s case, he’s noted for playing the Sauds against another British ally, Sharif Hussein bin Ali. The Brits’ history of double-dealing and broken promises, particularly in regard to Anglo-French Declaration and the Balfour Declaration, made St. John’s job very difficult.

While St. John is considered a traitor for favoring Standard Oil interests over British ones when the Saudis were negotiating oil concessions in the 1930s, it’s often overlooked that the British made themselves so reviled with their dishonest policies that awarding the rights to their buddies the Americans was probably the best outcome that London could hope for. (Standard Oil executives had close ties to the OSS and CIA, so St. John’s choice paid Churchill great dividends later.)

St. John is also considered an enemy of Israel, even though his plan for the settlement of Israel, which respected native Arabs’ political rights, was the Jewish State’s only reasonable shot at long-term viability, as even actors like Henry Kissinger now recognize.

In short, between Kim Philby’s MI6/KGB/CIA contacts and St. John Philby’s Arab ties there was little the pair didn’t know about American hopes in the Middle East and how these hopes could be manipulated or even dashed. Bear this in mind when considering Saddam Hussein’s myriad of failed assassination attempts against different targets prior to Kim Philby’s expulsion from the Middle East.

I chose the word ‘expulsion’ very carefully, because I believe it’s a better description of what happened in January 1963 than ‘defection’. MI6 did not consider Philby a dangerous KGB agent otherwise they wouldn’t have continued to use him and he certainly wouldn’t have been posted to Beirut just as the Suez was heating up. The British position is supported by the fact that the KGB harbored doubts about Philby’s loyalty (See My 5 Cambridge Friends)– doubts that didn’t go away after his defection.

What’s far more likely to have happened in 1963 was that Kim Philby became too much of a liability as British Intelligence became more dependent on the Frankenstein they created over in Langley. British double-dealing with the KGB at the expense of American interests in the Middle East became costly. The best and safest way to contain Kim was behind the Iron Curtain; part of the price Churchill’s intelligence services paid for their ‘desperate deception’ was 50 years of control (and counting!) in the Arab Peninsula.

I do not mean to imply that Rothschild or Zionist interests play no role in the ‘Cambridge Five’ nor that they are unconnected with KGB spying. I’m saying that they don’t deserve the preeminent position in the Philby narrative. I suspect that Litzi was useful for establishing Philby’s communist credentials, and that Flora was just a useful idiot. Victor Rothschild was one agent in a shameful tradition of privileged intrigue, which I discuss in Is the Devil a German? and to which ends the lives of Kim Philby, Saddam Hussein and millions of regular people are just collateral damage.

iraqi bomb damage

Readers may also be interested in my posts on Abaddon, A Death in Finland and Jihad Al What?


 **Correction: In the timeline under 1957 I had quoted William Neikirk of the Chicago Tribune on another failed assassination attempt by Saddam against a communist supporter of Qasim, but the date appears to be wrong and I was unable to confirm this plot elsewhere, so I’ve removed it from the timeline.**


Why Five?

Anatoliy Golitsyn and his wife Svetlana dine out at the Coconut Grove in LA, circa 1961.

Anatoliy Golitsyn and his wife Svetlana dine out at the Coconut Grove in L.A. circa 1961.

This is awkward. It seems that the ‘Cambridge Five’ are numbered five because of information from Anatoliy Golitsyn, a KGB major who defected to the USA in 1961. These are Golitsyn’s words circa March 1962, according to Peter Wright in his book Spycatcher:

Golitsin said he knew of a famous “Ring of Five” spies, recruited in Britain in the 1930s. They all knew each other, he said, and all knew the others were spies. But Golitsin could identify none of them, other than the fact that one of them had the code name Stanley, and was connected with recent KGB operations in the Middle East. The lead fitted Kim Philby perfectly, who was currently working in Beirut for the Observer newspaper. He said that two of the other five were obviously Burgess and Maclean. We thought that a fourth might be Anthony Blunt, the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, and a former wartime MI5 officer who fell under suspicion after the Burgess and Maclean defections in 1951. But the identity of the fifth was a complete mystery. As a result of Golitsin’s three serials concerning the Ring of Five, the Philby and Blunt cases were exhumed, and a reassessment ordered.

Golitsyn is not a popular figure. On their website, the CIA cautiously implies Golitsyn fed counterintelligence director James Angleton disinformation about Soviet penetration of Western intelligence services— the famous ‘Monster Plot’. David Robarge, the CIA chief historian, takes the denunciation one step further:

Given the Soviets’ record of success at penetration and deception operations going back to the 1920s, and with no current evidence to the contrary, Angleton was justified in presuming CIA also was victimized. However, there was no other source, human or technical, that he could use to guide him on the molehunt — only his favored source, KGB defector Anatoli Golitsyn, and their symbiotic relationship soon became professionally unbalanced as the manipulative and self-promoting defector’s allegations of international treachery grew more fantastical…

According to Robarge, the consequences of this “unbalanced” relationship were:

For roughly the next 10 years, distracted by unsubstantiated theories of Soviet “strategic deception,” Angleton and his staff embarked on counterproductive and sometimes harmful efforts to find moles and prove Moscow’s malevolent designs.

Christopher Andrew, Cambridge University’s weather vane for what is politically acceptable to say about espionage, summarizes Golitsyn more neatly as an “unreliable conspiracy theorist”.

Golitsyn is so reviled in upwardly-mobile intelligence circles that he’s become the ‘Dezinformatsiya’ case study for trainee spooks– a bit like how Angleton is the case study for “how not to conduct counterintelligence”. The CIA drills into its newbie counterintelligence recruits that Angleton was wrong and that Golitsyn was probably sent by the KGB to hobble Western counterintelligence efforts.

So it’s awkward that establishment intelligence historians, including Prof. Andrew, should continue to throw about phrases like ‘The Cambridge Five’ or ‘The Magnificent Five‘ when talking about Philby’s spy ring. According to their canon, the source of this information was “unreliable”.

A book by Chris Andrew and Chris Andrew.

A book by Chris Andrew and Chris Andrew.

As far as I can tell, pinning the number five onto the Cambridge ring is unjustified. Prior to 1961, British VENONA-type decrypts (Moscow to London KGB channel) mention a “valuable argentura [spy ring] of Stanley, Hicks and Johnson”, which makes a ‘Cambridge Three’. If the Americans/British suspected there were more than three spies in the Cambridge ring at that time, the VENONA decrypts contained handles for an estimated 800 other recruited Soviet agents to chose from, according to Peter Wright in Spycatcher.

VENONA aside, there were plenty of Cambridge ‘friends’ to come under suspicion: Victor Rothschild (provided the spies with valuable intelligence connections); James Klugman (Cambridge undergrad who recruited John Cairncross); Harry Pollitt (British Communist Party General Secretary who controlled Klugman); and goodness only knows how many Michael Straight-like characters were rolling around University halls. To say that there were ‘five’ in Philby’s network seems a bit hopeful, frankly.

So if the source of the ‘five’ meme is unreliable, and given the historical record points to the possibility of more than Burgess/Blunt/Maclean/Philby/Plus One in the Cambridge ring, why do we still keep hearing about the ‘Cambridge Five’ from people who know better? Probably because it suits the intelligence establishment to continue to minimize the number of agents publicly tainted by this scandal. If such minimization is important now, imagine how important it was for the British in 1963.

Readers will remember that none of the ‘Cambridge Five’ actually faced justice for their actions. Maclean made it to the USSR, Burgess ran before he really had to. There was little political will to prosecute Kim Philby for over a decade, and absolutely zero to prosecute the Queen Mother’s cousin Anthony Blunt. According to The Daily Mail, Blunt’s treachery was well known in royal circles since 1948:

A royal source tells the story of how, in 1948, a young ex-officer, Philip Hay, came to Buckingham Palace to be interviewed for the post of Private Secretary to the widowed Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, mother of the present Duke.

As he walked down a red-carpeted corridor with Sir Alan Lascelles, the King’s private secretary, they passed Blunt in silence. When they were out of earshot, Sir Alan whispered to Hay: ‘That’s our Russian spy.’

Catching a spy like Blunt, who was so well understood by his ‘victims’, was hardly a counterintelligence coup. Perhaps the reason that ‘experts’ latched onto Golitsyn’s “Ring of Five” was because 5 – 4 = 1, and 1 is the absolute minimum number of spies needed to explain the ‘tip-off’ which helped Philby evade justice in 1963, when imperial politics turned against Kim.

The search for this one remaining spy has generated a huge amount of media coverage; coverage which for the most part discounts the possibility of a ‘Cambridge Six’, or ‘Cambridge Eight’ etc., despite the fact that a larger spy network was very likely. I think that this unnatural focus on five has served a very specific propaganda goal: to obscure the wide-spread collaboration between elements in Britain’s intelligence community and the KGB. It would damage this ‘fifth column’ if the general public became aware of the extent of their influence. Further exposure of British double-dealing would also have damaged relations with their American counterparts: the Americans were used to lying about their own KGB collaborations, but were not used to being lied to themselves.

Debate around ‘Who was the fifth man?’ has been carefully crafted in order to shepherd public interest away from the possibility of further treachery by trusted ‘intelligence community’ leaders. I have not read every book on the ‘Cambridge Five’ but from what I’ve read so far, the sparky media squabble surrounding this lone ‘fifth man’ was channeled into two camps: 1) Chapman Pincher along with MI5 colleagues Peter Wright and Arthur Martin, who pushed Roger Hollis as the fifth agent and 2) those more ‘urbane’ analysts who objected to Wright’s ‘divisive’ methods. On the whole, group two favors Yuri Modin’s allegations that odd-man-out John Cairncross was the ‘fifth’. (Wikipedia favors Cairncross, btw.)

Fighting between these two camps took place in print, sometimes with weird bitterness– take ‘Yuri Modin’ (in reality, his ghostwriters) on Peter Wright’s questioning of Guy Burgess’ lower-class acquaintances, such as repairmen, etc.:

The vindictive attempts of former officers of British Intelligence (specifically Peter Wright and Arthur Martin) to unearth these so-called agents recruited by arch-fiend Burgess make me laugh. I hate to think that the organizations against which I strove my working life were run by people whose thought processes never went beyond the most simplistic notions of true or false, good or bad, necessary or desirable; but Wright and Martin are certainly people of that ilk.

Later, Modin opines:

Peter Wright in his book Spycatcher states that the reason why the KGB allowed Blunt to do this [transfer to Surveyor of Kings’ Pictures] was that we had another mole inside MI5. Wright concluded, rather hastily, that the other agent was Roger Hollis. In 1987, when Wright’s book was published, British intelligence carried out a detailed inquiry which turned up nothing new. Peter Wright had no proof of what he said. It’s too easy to cast grave suspicion on a colleague, as Wright did on Hollis, without anything like sufficient evidence.

‘Yuri Modin’ has very strong feelings on the subject of the ‘Cambridge Five’ and has little tolerance for anyone who doesn’t share his view that John Cairncross was ‘the fifth man’. I’ll point out two obvious things: 1) even the real Yuri Modin didn’t have access to every KGB illegal’s file; 2) Hollis is a much bigger fish than Cairncross. Hollis ran MI5, while John Cairncross was a much lower-level intelligence functionary, so Cairncross being the ‘fifth man’ is far less alarming.

yuri modin

Yuri Modin

Why might ‘Yuri Modin’ have such strong feelings? Well, the introduction to My 5 Cambridge Friends was written by David Leitch from the Sunday Times. Leitch was part of a spy-outing team which included his newspaper colleague Barrie Penrose, as well as Phillip Knightley, Bruce Page and John Le Carré, the troika with whom Leitch wrote a book on Kim Philby– ‘The Spy Who Betrayed a Generation’. Who are these men?

In the late 60s, David Leitch worked closely with Bruce Page to ‘expose’ Kim Philby as a KGB agent for the Sunday Times’ Insight team– an ‘exposure’ that would never have happened without intelligence approval. Leitch is also the first man to have claimed in print that John Cairncross was the ‘fifth’ spy, hence his introduction to Modin’s book. Leitch is now dead, but Bruce Page is going strong: in 2013 he wrote a politically-sensitive biography of power-broker Rupert Murdoch in the wake of the hacking scandal.

Leitch’s other journalistic partner, Phillip Knightley, is an established media ‘expert’ on intelligence matters, which means he works closely with the intelligence community. Tellingly, in 2010 Phillip Knightley acted as a bail sureties provider for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The slippery Phillip Knightley.

The leaks pro Phillip Knightley.

John Le Carré is the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell, an MI5 and MI6 agent who began writing spy thrillers while still working in intelligence. When ‘Le Carré’ found out he had a readership, he became an ‘ex intelligence officer’. Le Carré has enjoyed a celebrated, orthodox career in mainstream publishing by interpreting current events for the public in politically acceptable ways– all with a sprinkling of ‘James Bond’ dust.

John Le Carre, looking every inch an intellectual.

John Le Carré puckering under the discomfort of an awkward pose.

While the ‘fifth man’ debate is mostly centered around Cambridge spies, you’ll find Wright-haters popping up in the oddest places. Take this quote from biographer Francis Wheen in Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions:

At about the same time as [Anthony] Blunt was briefing [Nigel] West, Wright was busily unburdening himself of a lifetime’s secrets– and paranoid anti-Communist obsessions– to Chapman Pincher.

Wheen starts his book by claiming that allegations of Tom Driberg’s spying stem from a plot between Lord Rothschild, Peter Wright and others in the “queer fraternity of spy-writers”. Who is Francis Wheen?

Francis Wheen doesn't take himself too seriously.

Francis Wheen and his machinery for cranking out Driberg biographies.

Francis Wheen is a BBC radio broadcaster from a privileged army background, who found his calling working for the New Statesman (as in Frances Stonor Saunders and George Bernard Shaw). Wheen is an expert on Karl Marx who supported NATO’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia. His other interest is the spooky Tom Driberg, about whom Wheen has written two biographies. You can read about Tom Driberg’s connection to the Rolling Stones here, and Driberg’s connection to Soviet illegal agent Ernst Henri here.

The ‘other side’ to this spectacle is no less suspect. Chapman Pincher was a well-known journalist who worked closely with British intelligence figures, sometimes even lying for them, as happened with the Christmas Island hydrogen bomb test demonstrations. Peter Wright is a second-generation intelligence agent with strong ties to the Marconi Company. According to Spycatcher, Wright was involved in MI6 attempts to murder the Cypriot General Georgios Grivas, and claimed to be James Angleton’s go-to man for help on CIA plans to assassinate Castro. Peter Wright was also involved in LSD testing as in the MK ULTRA program. Arthur Martin was Wright’s MI5 sidekick. None of these men are ‘good guys’.

Chapman Pincher, eager for any intel honcho to "use" him.

Chapman Pincher, eager for any intel honcho to “use” him.

My point with these biographies is to show that neither side to the squabbling over the ‘fifth man’ is free of intelligence connections. Neither side takes the logical position: there were more spies than simply Golitsyn’s five and it really doesn’t matter who the ‘fifth’ one was. Because of this willful foolishness, I conclude that neither side was/is motivated by a sincere desire to uncover the truth about Philby’s spy ring– most likely both sides are working for the same masters.

If you’re willing to view the ‘debate’ over the ‘fifth man’ in the same way as I do, then you’ll be hit by the sobering reality that academia, the media, politicians like Margaret Thatcher and the ‘watchdogs’ of the intelligence community organized themselves to mislead the public over the extent of British intelligence’s cooperation with the KGB. Why might they do that?

Drew Pearson and the Cambridge Five

Drew pearson Time magazine 1948 Dec 13

Journalist Drew Pearson graces the cover of TIME on Dec 13th, 1948.

According to the authors of KGB controller Yuri Modin’s biography My 5 Cambridge Friends (1994), the American FBI was first alerted to the existence of the ‘Cambridge Five’ spies by prominent American journalist Drew Pearson. Pearson wrote a sloppy piece of pro-Stalin propaganda which contained correspondence between Winston Churchill and Harry Truman; correspondence which could only have been pilfered by a highly-placed Soviet mole.

After Pearson’s article was published Yuri Modin et alia say that J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI began to search the White House, US State Department, and the British Embassy in Washington D.C. for the source of the leaks. Pearson’s foolish article, coupled with information from the slowly-churning VENONA project, eventually lead the Americans to identify Donald Maclean of Philby’s network.

This is how Modin describes Pearson’s piece, from My 5 Cambridge Friends:

On June 15th 1945, Drew Pearson, a well-known American journalist, published a seven-page magazine article revealing the full substance of the Stalin-Hopkins talks at the Kremlin, as well as that of Churchill’s telegrams to Truman. His piece contained so much exact detail that the FBI’s suspicions were thoroughly aroused. There was another reason: Pearson seemed to have gone out of his way to paint Stalin as tolerant, genial, open-minded and respectful of democracy, whereas in fact there was no question whatever that Uncle Joe planned to offer the West the smallest possible concession over Poland.

I was not able to find the name of the magazine in which Pearson’s pro-Stalin article appeared, which means I can’t verify what Modin et alia say about the piece. Modin claims that the article contained the substance of the Stalin-Hopkins Kremlin talks; Churchill-Truman correspondence from June 5th 1945 (telegrams 72 and 73); and five Hopkins-Churchill telephone transcripts which Pearson wrote about even though Hopkins had failed to report them to the communications control room at the White House.

According to Modin, Pearson’s information was doubly dangerous to the ‘Cambridge Five’ because of Soviet sloppiness: when Pearson published on June 15th 1945, Maclean had just leaked telegrams 72 and 73 from New York City. Soviet technicians in NYC did not encode their dispatches to Moscow well, so the Americans could have identified that the leak of telegrams 72 and 73 had originated from the British Embassy in D.C. by going over their recordings of Soviet transmissions. Four years later in 1950, VENONA leader Meredith Gardner had cottoned on to this sloppy Soviet mistake.

Picture from the NSA's hagiography. Gardner's work on Soviet transmissions of the same telegrams 72 and 73 led to discovering the Cambridge Five, unfortunately he also tipped off Philby.

Picture from the NSA’s hagiography. Gardner’s 1951 work on Soviet transmissions of the same telegrams 72 and 73 from Maclean ultimately uncovered the Cambridge Five, unfortunately Gardner also tipped off Philby.

Modin asserts that only the British Embassy in D.C. would have had access to all Pearson’s information, but the FBI didn’t dig deeply enough to see that. What Modin claims doesn’t make sense– if the Brits had access to the full Hopkins-Stalin transcripts they could have had access to all of Pearson’s leaked information. However, Harry Hopkins, FDR’s emissary between Churchill and Stalin, certainly had access to this data. Hopkins is also known to have done work for the KGB.

Harry Hopkins' July 18, 1938 cover, the last of three TIME covers enjoyed by the KGB asset.

Harry Hopkins’ July 18, 1938 cover, the last of three TIME covers enjoyed by the KGB asset.

Yuri Modin goes out of his way to absolve the White House from any responsibility for the leaks because Modin wanted to protect Harry Hopkins, who was not outed as a Soviet spy until the publication of The Sword and the Shield by Prof. Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin five years after Modin’s book. (Andrew, Cambridge University’s espionage guru, outs Hopkins in the most sympathetic way possible. Glad to know that problem’s fixed.) This is what Modin claims happened with the Pearson article:

What really happened? The American journalist [Pearson] was an unwitting tool of Moscow. His article was orchestrated by the Soviet secret services without his knowing it. Naturally, his information was lifted straight from the document [telegrams 72 and 73] that had been purloined by Maclean and transmitted by Henry to the Centre [Soviet intelligence HQ].

If Pearson really was part of a Soviet propaganda offensive as Yuri Modin and his co-authors claim, it was unforgivably stupid to use information that alerted unfriendly elements in the FBI to the existence of the ‘Cambridge Five’. Modin asks us to believe that the Soviets told Pearson to endanger one of the most profitable spy-rings in history in exchange for a few clumsy political points for Stalin. Unlikely. Who was Pearson really working for?

FDR microphones

Regular readers will remember Drew Pearson from my post on the  assassination of Gen. George Patton: in 1943 Pearson was used by FDR-henchman Ernest Cuneo– who was also Pearson’s media lawyer– to place a false story about Patton slapping a shell-shocked soldier in Pearson’s NBC radio show Drew Pearson Comments. The purpose of this attack against Patton was to lobby for Patton’s removal from the European War Theater because Patton had suggested continuing the war against FDR’s good buddy Stalin once Germany fell. When Patton couldn’t be removed through dirty tricks, he had an ‘accident’.

Pearson sailed through the Patton debacle relatively unscathed because of Cuneo’s political power. Readers will remember that both Pearson and Cuneo had close working relations with William Stephenson’s British Security Coordination– a Frankenstein-like creation formed when Stephenson grabbed control of no less than eight different intelligence offices after Churchill’s ascent to power. Cuneo was an official liaison between the OSS, British Security Coordination (BSC), the FBI, the United States Department of State and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

Cuneo’s mission with the OSS was to flood American media with British propaganda, to which end he purchased 1) a huge number of American newspaper concerns and 2) the loyalty of many journalists, including Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson, Walter Lippmann, Robert Ingersoll, Whitelaw Reid, Dorothy Thompson, Edmond Taylor; and very likely including Edward Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith and William Shirer.

Perhaps the most telling thing about Cuneo and his loyalties is this quote in which he defends his British intelligence friend Dick Ellis against allegations of working for the Soviets, from Thomas Mahl’s Desperate Deception:

The influence of British Security Coordination in America to involve the United States in WWII and to prepare the United States to participate in war is impressive, even startling. In the Ernest Cuneo papers in the Franklin Roosevelt Library is an article written by Cuneo that, while its main purpose was to defend Cuneo’s friend from charges of being a Soviet mole, captures a telling fact known to few people: British Intelligence created Donovan’s CIO/OSS. “If the charge against Ellis [Dick Ellis] is true,” wrote Cuneo,”… it would mean that the OSS, and to some extent its successor, the CIA, in effect was a branch of the Soviet KGB.”

Charles Howard 'Dick' Ellis, courtesy of

Charles Howard ‘Dick’ Ellis, courtesy of

The MI5 investigation into Dick Ellis’ work for the Soviets was carried out by Peter Wright, who also did a similar investigation into Kim Philby, which earned Wright a lot of animosity from MI6. This is how Wright describes the Ellis investigation in Spycatcher:

The real difficulty with the Ellis case was trying to determine whether he was working for the Germans or the Russians, or both…

The first thing which convinced me Ellis was always a Russian spy was the discovery of the distribution of the Abwehr officer’s report in which he claimed Von Petrov’s British source was a Captain Ellis. The report was sent routinely to Kim Philby in the Counterintelligence Department. He had scrawled in the margin: “Who is this man Ellis? NFA,” meaning “No further action” before burying the report in the files. At the time Ellis’ office was just a few doors down the corridor, but it seemed to me to be a most suspicious oversight by the normally eagle-eyed Philby.

Ellis wasn’t just Ernest Cuneo’s pal, he was also a BSC buddy of William Stephenson who retired shortly after Philby fell under suspicion. Later, Ellis had odd dealings with Philby over the defection of Soviet agent Vladimir Petrov. Ellis eventually confessed to spying for the Germans, but never the Soviets. British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher refused to confirm or deny Dick Ellis’s work for Soviet intelligence— so I leave it to readers to surmise what Cuneo’s assertion about his friend Dick Ellis and the KGB means for the CIA.

So much for Pearson’s lawyer … what about Pearson himself? In short, Drew Pearson was one of William Stephenson’s pet American journalists who could be relied on to promote British interests in his writing. Could Drew Pearson have been the “unwitting tool of Moscow” while at the same time being the witting tool of the FDR administration?

I think that Pearson’s handler-cum-lawyer, Ernest Cuneo, and Pearson’s ultimate sponsor, William Stephenson, would have noticed if their boy was being used as an “unwitting tool of Moscow” and Cuneo/Stephenson would have moved to reclaim Drew. I dare say Moscow would have been smart enough not to use Pearson in the way Modin claims.

I believe it’s far more likely that a proactive friend of Stalin in the White House, someone like Harry Hopkins, could have leaked telegraphs 72 and 73 to Pearson while being unaware of the damage he inadvertently did to the British ‘Cambridge Five’ because of freakish ciphering sloppiness by the Soviets in NYC.

So was Drew Pearson really a Soviet agent? Yes and no– he was a Soviet agent in the same way as Bill Colby was a Soviet agent. Drew Pearson was part of that incestuous espionage fifth column in which it’s difficult to distinguish between KGB, BSC and CIA.

Readers interested in how the spook world works will want to know that Drew Pearson’s heir and protégé Jack Anderson was also part of this fifth column.

Jack Anderson was a Mormon journalist and a WWII news correspondent for the Americans before Pearson and his patrons took Anderson under their collective wing. According to William Colby’s self-serving 1974 ‘Family Jewels’ leaks, the CIA spied on Anderson after he published mobster Johnny Rosselli’s information about the planned Castro assassination– i.e. Colby made Anderson look good in the ‘Family Jewels’. Colby’s sheltering of Anderson probably means that Anderson was one of Colby’s pet journalists to whom the CIA director leaked information that 1) damaged his enemies within the Agency and 2) benefited the KGB. Colby had suspicious dealings with a known KGB agent in Saigon, dealings which he hid from the CIA. (See Tom Mangold’s Cold Warrior.)

As you can see, high-level double-dealing between US, U.K. and Soviet potentates is a long-term problem that I believe had its roots in the 1890s, well before Pearson’s stupid article.

Ironically, it was the ‘help’ of Stephenson’s sneaky American allies which kicked-off the undoing of the ‘Cambridge Five’. In their eagerness to help their Soviet allies and lie to the American people, clumsy White House conspirators compromised their British buddies’ operation. It’s almost enough to make one pity Kim Philby.


Kim Philby on Homosexuality

A few weeks ago I bought a book titled My 5 Cambridge Friends: Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt and Cairncross, by “Their KGB Controller”. Here’s the cover of the book.

five cambridge friends

My 5 Cambridge Friends is not what it purports to be: the “account” of Yuri Modin ripped from KGB archives and bleeding on a plate in front of Western readers. Modin’s “account” has been thoroughly cooked and presented in digestible bites by co-authors Jean-Charles Deniau and Aguieska Ziarek, and probably the translator Anthony Roberts too. I know this because the writing is tailored for English-speaking people and crafted like a B&N-ready historical narrative from page one. ‘Yuri Modin’ makes numerous and astute references to Western popular culture– he mentions spy novelist John le Carré a suspicious amount– yet Russian popular culture references are vanishingly rare.

Why would Modin have become involved in a writing project like this? In 1994, when My 5 Cambridge Friends came out, Yuri Modin was a retired spook in Moscow which probably means he had stopped receiving his pension. Western governments were eager to control any embarrassing information that may have leaked out during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, so an outpouring of ‘KGB Archives’ writing was published at this time– Lesley Milne’s pathetic biography of Mikhail Bulgakov was also part of this propaganda offensive. Therefore, even though it’s unlikely that Modin actually wrote the majority of this book, I’ll refer to him as the author in this post.

The reason I bought My 5 Cambridge Friends is because of one quote on a ‘Cambridge Five’ Wikipedia page that was attributed to it:

Philby never meddled in his friend’s private life; nor did he ever allude to Burgess’s homosexual affairs. He once told me that he viewed Guy’s homosexual tastes as a sickness– and none of his business.

(This quote is actually in My 5 Cambridge Friends.)

If this information is true then Philby’s opinion is a very interesting one, because it was Philby who coalesced the core of the ‘Cambridge Five’. Philby chose three “sick” men to be the core of this particular espionage network: mutual lovers Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. ‘Yuri Modin’ describes Philby’s strategy:

Kim Philby now set about his first mission, which was to recruit one or two other agents to form an embryonic network. He traveled up to Cambridge during the month of May. There he met Guy Burgess, told him what he had done and seen that winter in Vienna and thus convinced him to join his fledgling group… Philby asked Burgess to forage among his friends, and Burgess came up with Anthony Blunt.

What was the dynamic like between these men? According to Modin:

In May 1934, Kim Philby traveled up to Cambridge to see Burgess. For once it was not Philby who was bewitched by Burgess, but the other way around.

In turn, Burgess was the ‘alpha’ amongst his group of homosexual friends:

A few weeks before his trip to Rome, Burgess in his role of talent scout had supposedly roped in yet another choice recruit. He had seduced intellectually– and, it has been said, physically too– a promising young Cambridge undergraduate by the name of Donald Maclean, who henceforth became a trusted member of his cell of activists.


Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess were very close at Cambridge. Blunt was madly in love, lost in admiration for Guy’s brilliant intellect and dancing wit.

Based on Modin’s account, it appears that idealization was a big part of Philby’s network: Maclean and Blunt idealized Burgess, Burgess idealized Philby. Read cult-survivor Daniel Shaw’s opinions on how idealization is used by narcissistic cult leaders here.

Homosexuals are a minority of the general population and it strikes me as odd that Philby would just happen to target three of them for the core of his spy group; it seems especially odd considering that Philby had a low opinion of their behavior. Was the homosexual population a special target for security services in general?

Kim Philby used Guy Burgess to pull in other homosexuals from his milieu.

Kim Philby used Guy Burgess (pictured) to recruit other homosexuals from his milieu.

U.K. Intelligence’s favored recruiting grounds at Oxford and Cambridge Universities certainly had large homosexual populations in the 1920s and 30s. According to Francis Wheen’s biography of Tom Driberg, Oxford University hosted an undergraduate class where homosexuality was the norm rather than the exception. (In fact, one graduate says boys who liked girls in the 1920s were likely to be “sent down”, i.e. not complete their degree.) Clearly, Cambridge university also hosted a large gay student body in the 1930s. If homosexuality has an intelligence utility, it’s unlikely that the Brits were unaware of that utility, since they were recruiting LGBT agents like Aleister Crowley from these establishments from at least the 1890s.

Some members of the British secret services believed that gay networks formed around men in power. According to Modin, David Footman, the assistant director of MI6’s Political Intelligence Department, asked Burgess to use his network of homosexual contacts to open an unofficial dialogue channel between Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister) and French Premier Édouard Daladier– neither of whom were gay to my knowledge. Footman’s schemes are not necessarily proof of an agency-wide recruiting policy, but they do show that a leading British spook saw something exploitable in the gay milieu.

Soviet intelligence definitely considered homosexuality a desirable trait amongst spies. According to one report, The Theory and Practice of Soviet Intelligence, published by the CIA and written by Soviet defector Alexander Orlov:

Considerable [recruiting] success was achieved among foreign diplomats tinted with homosexual perversions; it is no secret that the biggest concentration of homosexuals can be found in the diplomatic services of Western countries. Those of these who agreed to work for the Russian network were instructed to approach other homosexual members of the diplomatic corps, a strategy which was remarkably successful. Even when those approached declined the offer to collaborate, they would not denounce the recruiter to the authorities. Soviet intelligence officers were amazed at the mutual consideration and true loyalty which prevailed among homosexuals.

Of course, Orlov’s use of the word ‘loyalty’ is misleading, these people were traitors to their own country, but the Soviets had found a way of activating reliability amongst their homosexual assets in a way that their employers at the Western “diplomatic services” had not figured out (or found ethically unacceptable).

A young Donald Maclean, whose open  career was at the British Foreign Service.

A young Donald Maclean, whose open career was in the British Foreign Service.

Given British and Soviet intel’s interest in homosexuals’ utility for espionage, and given that Kim Philby took such pains to recruit them, it’s weird that Philby would downplay Burgess/Blunt/possibly Maclean’s orientation to his Soviet contact Modin by saying their gayness was “none of his business”. It’s almost as if Philby was trying to hide a tradecraft tactic from Yuri Modin… do genuine double agents hide such things?

Whatever Philby believed about the state of Soviet tradecraft, it should be noted that similar patterns of behavior arose between Western and Soviet homosexual milieus. In Gay and Lesbian Communities the World Over, authors Rita James Simon and Alison Brooks say the following:

Yet, during the Stalinist age, Soviet persecution of gay men was neither continuous nor total. In the case of well-known personalities such as Eisenstein, the popular opera tenor Sergei Lemeshev, the pianist Sviatoslav Richter, and numerous male ballet dancers, the authorities were willing to look the other way, provided the man was married and kept his homosexuality out of public view. A considerable number of Soviet gay men were in the Red Army, or were in the diplomatic corps or were entertainers.

Currently gay men are over-represented in the US military; the Soviets noticed that Western diplomatic corps appealed to gays; and I leave it to readers to assess if the LGBT community is highly represented in the Western entertainment industry. The Soviets probably first developed their intelligence strategy with respect to homosexuals on their own turf: through their own propaganda and censorship efforts or through what they learned from their British partners after the Bolshevik Revolution.

What might this Soviet strategy of activating reliability have looked like in practice? I’ll remind readers that Kim Philby came from a powerful intelligence family; he had a masterful, magnetic personality and is often described as handsome. Might this have explained Burgess’s infatuation with him and, consequently, the reliability of Burgess’s conquests?

The young Kim Philby: a desirable heterosexual?

The young Kim Philby: a desirable heterosexual?

In As Political Chips, an essay on homosexuality’s political use written by Marni Esque, the author asserts that heterosexual men can be highly desirable to gay ones: “Happiness is thus almost impossible to attain, especially since the attraction for working boys goes with a desire to have “normal,” heterosexual boys.” Esque associates this type of homosexual longing with a desire for “virility, physical superiority, the opposition between the “strong” and the “weak,””. Esque goes on to suggest that at the root of some homosexuality is the childlike desire to be affirmed and protected:

The working boy seems to live a mythical world where the values are reversed,where all that was prohibited is finally allowed, where happiness is accessible: “Come to me, and you will be as happy as I am, and as strong.”

Could it be that a connected, urbane womanizer like Philby held a charm for men like Burgess, Blunt and possibly Maclean? Could it be that what men like Footman and the Soviet intel apparatus understood was that some homosexuals’ unquenchable desire for affirmation and belonging could be used to make them do irrational, dangerous things? Were the Soviets exploiting power-worship, much like Nigella Lawson, the battered goddess of food-porn, exploited power-worship through her ‘kept woman’ sales pitch?

I think this sort of exploitation was very likely and I’ve written about it elsewhere in Great Users of People, The Cult of Intelligence and A Call for Papers. Yuri Modin’s account of his work with the Cambridge Five provides some other insights as to how people who want affirmation from the powerful are used by intelligence services. I was shocked to read this statement in chapter one:

…the agent who thinks he’s James Bond has no place at all in a real intelligence service. There are those who try to ape Ian Fleming’s fictional spy, bristling with gadgets, sexually voracious, intrepid and constantly involved with battles of one kind or another. I’ve known a few like that, and none of them ever went very far.

This quote shocked me because much of Philby, Burgess and Blunt’s behavior is ‘James Bond-like’, even as it is described by Modin. Modin goes on to say that it’s better if intelligence agents are 1) not too bright (he calls them “soldiers” at heart); 2) somewhat childlike; yet 3) politically astute so that they can anticipate their masters’ whims and 4) without mental or physical ailments. In contrast to these observations, Modin goes on to say that many intel agents are either alcoholics or that they drink to forget; that they may have “weird relationships with woman”; gamble impulsively; they may be fragile and highly-strung; and are often wracked by guilt.

A number of the spy characteristics described by Modin– both the typical ones and the desirable ones– are consistent with behavior associated with narcissism, which is an anxiety-ridden, childlike preoccupation with one’s undeveloped self.  I’ve speculated elsewhere that narcissism is useful to exploitative organizations because narcissistic people are incredibly easy to manipulate. Many of Modin’s ‘typical’ spook characteristics are also somewhat James-Bondish: drinking, gambling, unhealthy relationships with women.

On first reading Modin’s observations about intelligence agents, I thought he was contradicting himself. ‘Drinking to forget’ is not indicative of a healthy mind, neither are weird relationships with women, nor being “wracked by guilt”. The agents who Modin brags about running could have been prototypes for James Bond. Was Modin saying that his underlings, and many other ‘pros’ in the trade, were destined to go nowhere in the intelligence hierarchy?

If Modin and his co-writers weren’t contradicting themselves, then they’ve given us insight into how the spook-world is organized. The ‘James Bonds'; the narcissists; and the emotionally crippled people described by Philippe de Vosjoli are the ‘worker bees’ of the intelligence community. They’re not designed to make it to ‘Floor Seven’. They are flattered into doing what more mature, balanced men with options and good judgment would never choose to do themselves. Perhaps that’s why the guys who ‘took the fall’ as the ‘Cambridge Five’ were disproportionately gay, even though they were from connected families… as Orlov wrote “they would not denounce the recruiter to the authorities”.

When I say ‘taking the fall’ I am implying that there were more ‘Soviet’ agents in British Intel employ than the four/five which were uncovered as part of the ‘Cambridge’ ring. At this time, I don’t doubt John Cairncross was giving Soviets information that some parts of the British government were unhappy with, but I do doubt that he was the outer limit of Philby’s network– I will write more on this in the future.

If Modin’s description of intel worker-bees is accurate, then it shows that Playboy’s (the CIA’s) promotion of the James Bond fairytale was designed to appeal to lower-caste intel operatives… the hoi polloi of the espionage sphere.

But where does all this leave Kim Philby– was he just a foot soldier too?

Yes and no. St. John Philby, Kim’s father, actually had power outside of the British establishment through his influence at the Saudi royal court and their mineral rights. This means that, for a while, Kim had power outside of MI6 and could have been truly dangerous to Stephenson and the London financial barons.

However, there are things about Kim Philby that weakened him. Kim was a womanizer– which means that he had impersonal sexual encounters. Regular readers will remember that CIA personality profiler John Gittinger was very interested in people who like self-centered sex as part of his Personality Assessment System, which the CIA used in a bid to manipulate people on an industrial scale.

While Philby (according to Modin) felt homosexuality was “sick”, there are many people who would say the same about womanizing. I’ve only known two womanizers: their behavior was motivated by 1) anger towards women and 2) the power-trip that came from stringing women along. Neither motivation is vastly different from those of a typical rapist or pedophile, it’s just that womanizers tend to use lies where criminals use force.

Kim Philby was a narcissistic man if one ever existed: a consummate user who caused the deaths of many people in order to further his career. As I’ve stated before, exploitative organizations manipulate narcissists. Kim was also second-generation intel, which is important because people born into cults like the ‘intelligence community’ are less likely to identify exploitative behavior as being exploitative.

At this time I believe Kim Philby was a ‘worker-bee’ too, though for a while he had the dangerous potential to become something more. I think that Philby was also more stable than the other agents he recruited and consequently he was given more responsibility by both the British and the Soviets than were the notoriously flighty, irresponsible Burgess and Blunt, or the impossibly idealistic Maclean.

I will write more about the strange case of Kim Philby and the ‘Cambridge Five’ in the coming weeks, but I think readers will already have deduced my opinion on this group from my writing about Ernst Henri: not all is as it seems with these ‘Soviet’ quints.



OSCAR: The Most Unintentionally Honest Hollywood Propaganda Film.

OSCAR: The Most Unintentionally Honest Hollywood Propaganda Film.

Last month I looked at A.C. Spectorsky, the brains behind CIA front Playboy magazine, and who he decided to promote on his magazine’s cover between 1959-76. By far the most promoted movie director was accused pedophile Woody Allen [9 separate covers], followed by convicted pedophile Roman Polanski [2] and Lolita director Stanley Kubrick [2]. However, the 1963 movie Cleopatra is the only film to be featured on two Playboy covers during this period. Why would this film have been given so much promotion by Spectorsky?

January 1963, Spectorsky's first Cleopatra plug.

January 1963, Spectorsky’s first Cleopatra plug.

February 1963, Spectorsky's second Cleopatra plug.

February 1963, Spectorsky’s second Cleopatra plug: “The Chicks of Cleopatra”.

I decided I’d better watch Cleopatra. It wasn’t long before I realized that this marathon film is a garish, 192 minute ad for the American ‘New World Order’– specifically, directors Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Rouben Mamoulian and Darryl F. Zanuck try to equate American dominance in the post-WWII era with Alexander the Great’s ‘global empire’.

Don’t take my word for it:

Liz Taylor: [talking to Rex Harrison about Alexander the Great] Your ambitions must always have been his. They still must be… Make his dream yours, Caesar, his grand design. Pick it up where he left off. Out of the patchwork of conquest, one world. And out of one world, one nation. One people on earth living in peace!

The whole ridiculous spectacle of this ‘classic’ Hollywood movie is to sell the idea of world government– as represented by the voluptuous Taylor and her masterful lover, played by Rex Harrison. Incredibly, Hollywood potentates chose two famous tyrants, an ancient Egyptian goddess-queen and her Imperial Roman sugar-daddy, to sell their vision of the ‘Pax Americana’. I can’t tell if they didn’t see themselves, or if they were just laughing at the general public.

IMDb credits the film to three countries: USA, U.K. and Switzerland. The production companies were Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (as Producers Pictures Corporation), and two Swiss firms, MCL Films S.A. and Walwa Films S.A., which appear to have been created specifically for Cleopatra (they have no other production credits on IMDb.) Presumably ‘U.K.’ was included because of Rex Harrison, Richard Burton and leading lady Taylor, who had dual US/U.K. citizenship, though I’m not sure when she achieved this.

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck

In reality, Cleopatra is a thoroughly globalist movie. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation was created by Darryl Zanuck in 1935 after he left United Artists. Zanuck’s company took off during WWII, challenging its more established competitors RKO and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Fox’s war-time success may have had something to do with Zanuck being made a Colonel in the Army Signal Corps, Fox historian Peter Lev attributes the firm’s growth to Zanuck’s military placement. The US military isn’t shy about their connection to Twentieth Century Fox either, according to

… years before people like Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep and George Clooney made their grand entrances down the red carpet to find out if they’d won the coveted award, another group of Hollywood legends produced award-winning films for the Army leaving a piece of Hollywood on display at the Signal Corps Museum.

Darryl Zanuck, who headed 20th Century Fox and received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Irving Thalberg Memorial Award, was a colonel in the Signal Corps during World War II. Also in the Signal Corps during World War II was Oscar winning director Frank Capra, and Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

The efforts of these and others who served in Astoria, N.Y. with the 834th Signal Service Photographic Detachment at the Signal Corps Photographic Center produced military training films as well as Academy Award winning documentaries after the war, according to Signal Corps Museum director Robert Anzuoni.

Zanuck’s partnership with the military and intelligence is elucidated in Nick Browne’s Refiguring American Film Genres: Theory and History:

A very different form of war-related nonfiction film making in Hollywood involved military training and educational films. The studios began to regularly produce these one- and two-reel films in late 1940, primarily through a Hollywood based reserve unit of the Army Signal Corps comprised of some two dozen officers and 300 GIs trained in film production. The unit was headed by Lt. Col. Nathan Levinson, who also acted as vice chair (under Darryl Zanuck) of the Motion Picture Academy Research Council, an organization that coordinated industry support for the Signal Corp’s production efforts. By 1941 these efforts were well underway, and Zanuck was increasingly involved. In fact, Zanuck himself made a trip to Washington in August to meet with Army brass about Hollywood’s military-related film making operations… The military leaders were favorably impressed, and Zanuck was forthright about the industry’s pro-military, anti-isolationist stance– a position he and other studio heads would publicly defend before the Senate only a few weeks later.

The occasion of Zanuck’s Senate testimony was the so-called propaganda hearings, held in Washington in September 1941. The hearings were convened by a cadre of isolationists who decided to take on the tide of interventionism. Gauging Hollywood as an ideal target, Senators Burton K. Wheeler and Gerald P. Nye demanded that the Interstate Commerce Committee investigate what Nye termed the “propaganda machine” in Hollywood which was run by the studios “almost as if they were being operated by a central agency”. The committee hearings focused on seventeen “war mongering” feature films, twelve of which were produced in Hollywood– including Foreign Correspondent and The Great Dictatoralong with four British imports and one studio released foreign picture.

I’ve highlighted ‘along with four British imports’ because, although we don’t know which films these are, we do know that William Stephenson, the British spymaster who worked with FDR to set up the OSS, had cornered the British film market with his ‘Sound City Films’ which ran the world-famous Shepperton Studios. (See The Quiet Canadian.) Stephenson’s intelligence mission was to pull the USA into WWII to fight for the British; Stephenson and his allies like FDR did this by using ‘dirty tricks’– harassment, threats, lies– to pressure isolationists and crush any dissent. Senators Nye and Wheeler were the nation’s last defense against traitors like FDR and foreign spooks like Stephenson, who collaborated with Hollywood moguls to push their war– and ultimately imperialist– agenda.

'Wild Bill' Donovan pins a medal on Bill Stephenson, who took over British espionage after Churchill ascended to power.

‘Wild Bill’ Donovan pins a medal on Bill Stephenson, who took over British Intelligence after Churchill ascended to power.

I’ll remind readers that FDR’s war effort, and his newly created intelligence networks, were heavily invested in film propaganda. Marjorie Cameron, the wife/handler of US jet propulsion expert Jack Parsons, was given a job with Hollywood filmmakers creating war propaganda films in cooperation with the “Hollywood Navy” after working as a ‘honey trap’ for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The JCS used Cameron against men with “pro-German” sympathies, according to her biographer Spencer Kansa.

Another intelligence creep and ‘father’ of modern communication studies, Carl Hovland, spent WWII analyzing how wartime audiences would respond to messages in propaganda movies such as Why We Fight. This is how one author on describes Hovland’s contribution to the war effort: “Like many other early communications theorists, he worked with the U.S. War Department during World War II to study the effectiveness of persuasive films and audience resistance to those films.” Hovland’s research provided the basis for his collaborator Muzafer Sherif’s work on race riots for the CIA’s MK ULTRA program.

Finally, when media personalities wouldn’t cooperate with FDR’s spook buddies of their own accord, they were forced through ‘dirty tricks': take the case of Walt Disney.

The US intelligence community has always been heavily invested in Hollywood, and Hollywood– especially liberal Hollywood— has always been eager to oblige.

Browne’s fascinating book goes on to discuss one of Cleopatra’s producers, Walter Wanger, and his hawkish political activism:

Actually, Hollywood had been struggling both internally and publicly with issues of politics and propaganda for several years. Among the more notable of these struggles involved Foreign Correspondent some two years earlier. In 1939, Walter Wanger was battling Hollywood’s self-censorship agency, the PCA [Production Code Administration], over various political aspects of the story. Wanger made little headway and was still livid over what he considered the PCA’s mutilation of Blockade, a 1938 film set against the Spanish Civil War, so he decided to go public with his concerns, lambasting the Hays Office and the PCA in a series of speeches and editorials…

By 1940-1941, however, as the war in Europe intensified and as the prospect of US intervention increased, neither Hays or the PCA could discourage film makers from taking on geopolitical and war-related subjects. Indeed Roosevelt himself had appealed to the movie industry in 1940 to support both the defense build up at home and the Allied effort overseas… FDR praised Hollywood’s war effort and Senator Ernest McFarland threatened to ask the Dies Committee on Un-Americanism to investigate the isolationists [like Senators Wheeler and Nye].

It appears that before ‘Un-American’ activities committees were used to ‘persecute’ communists in Hollywood, Roosevelt’s pink hawks used the same hammer to silence critics of their Hollywood collaborators! Were these pro-war Hollywood ‘reds’ paid in the coin they minted?

Walter Wanger

Walter Wanger

It’s particularly interesting to me that Cleopatra’s producer, Wanger, got his knickers in a knot about the censorship of Blockade, a movie that in its original form glorified the communist fighters in Spain.  This movie indirectly flattered American collaborators with the communists in Spain, like OSS/CIA/KGB agent Ernest Hemingway; and Bill Donovan’s good friend Milton Wolff, who belonged to the Communist Party in Spain and recruited heavily from his communist Spanish Civil War colleagues for both the OSS and British Secret Services:

Before the United States entered World War II, William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who founded the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the CIA, enlisted Wolff’s services. At Donovan’s urging, Wolff helped recruit for the British Special Services.

Abraham Lincoln Brigade veterans, with their language skills and entree to anti-fascist groups in Europe, were well suited for intelligence work. After the United States entered the war, Wolff also recruited Lincoln veterans for the OSS.

But when Wolff enlisted in the Army in 1942, his advancement at officer’s training school was blocked, he said, and he was labeled a “premature anti-fascist.” He was given noncombat roles but eventually served in Burma and with the OSS in Europe.

(Milton Wolff helped the BSC, British Security Coordination, recruit Communist party members too, according to Mark Seaman in Special Operations Executive: A New Instrument of War.)

OSS recruits from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were not limited to Wolff’s efforts, OSS operatives Donald Downes and Arthur Goldberg also used this strategy, according to author Jon Wiener in Professors, Politics and Pop. Of course, the OSS was riddled with Soviet spies and sympathizers; OSS recruits would go on to become the CIA’s leading lights. One of these lights, CIA director Bill Colby, quashed an internal investigation of his own dealings with a known KGB agent in Saigon. (See Cold Warrior, Tom Mangold.)

... and she said, "Alexander the Great"!

… and she said, “Alexander the Great”!

There’s one more sordid aspect to Cleopatra’s relationship with Playboy magazine: Ben Hecht, the Irgun member and Playboy mega-contributor, was part of the team who wrote Cleopatra’s script, though his involvement was not originally acknowledged. Why?

Hecht’s political baby, Irgun, was a Jewish terrorist organization in Palestine that bombed British government offices and ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages in preparation for Israel’s foundation. Hecht worked with Irgun’s American front organizations to drum up support for the terrorists, you can read a sympathetic account of Hecht’s activities from Judith Rice of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.

Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht

Irgun’s political strategy was cynical, for example, they partnered with the NAACP stateside to end segregation. Readers will remember that the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] was founded in 1909, but only had one Black amongst its executives and took twenty years to get its first Black president. Besides partnering with Jewish extremists, the NAACP played an interesting ‘supporting role’ in the Playboy empire by providing the pornographers with ‘Black friends‘. Needless to say, Irgun’s policies in Israel were different to the policies it supported via the NAACP in the United States. Why?

In summary, Spectorsky promoted Cleopatra in Playboy because 1) it was written by one of his Zionist spook friends; 2) it was directed by Hollywood’s ambassador to the US ‘intelligence community’ and 3) it was produced by FDR’s Hollywood propaganda commissar.


Another CIA front plugs Cleopatra.

Another CIA front plugs Cleopatra.

Who Was Ernst Henri?

Ivan Maisky (second from left), the Soviet ambassador to London between 1932 and 1943, with Winston Churchill at the Allied ambassadors’ lunch at the Soviet embassy, September 1941. General Władysław Sikorski, prime minister of the Polish government in exile, is second from right.  Thank you,

Ivan Maiskii (second from left), the Soviet ambassador to London between 1932 and 1943, with Winston Churchill at the Allied ambassadors’ lunch at the Soviet embassy, September 1941. Thank you,

Earlier in the year I posted an article from the World Marxist Review titled Who Finances Anti-Communism? The article was written in February 1962 by a man styled ‘Ernst Henri’, and it was the first ‘outing’ of the CIA’s anti-Kremlin cultural offensive called the Congress for Cultural Freedom– it’s the first outing that I’m aware of, at least.

Henri’s article exposed how the CIA used insincere ‘charitable’ organizations to fund “anti-communist” cultural expositions. From my experience working in the non-profit sector, Henri was right on the money with his criticism of the Rockefeller, Ford and so many other hypocritical ‘foundations’. However, there are a few things that bother me about Henri’s article, which is why I described it as “seeming” to side with the Russians.

My two nagging doubts are 1) the language Henri uses to describe the CIA’s “anti-communist” offensive and 2) Henri’s focus on the Moral Re-Armament movement, which was founded three decades before the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). In this post I’ll argue that Henri worked for British as well as Soviet intel, and that some of the fruits around Henri bear hallmarks of being British-run ‘double crossed’ agents.

I’m going to start by looking at Henri’s ‘language problem’. Henri overwhelmingly describes the Congress as “anti-communist”. The next most common adjective is “reactionary” which is a slippery description; I understand “reactionary” as ‘going against the writer’s particular flavor of communist agenda’. Henri calls CCF collaborators “conservatives”, “fascist”, “right-wing”, “anti-Soviet” and “counter-revolutionary”– there’s even a smattering of slurs like “Hitlerism” and “White Russian”.

The only inkling that the Left might be involved comes from this quote describing Congress assets:

In the foreground are prominent personalities in science, literature and the arts, representing a variety of political trends, from Conservatives to Right-wing Socialists.

Henri’s use of language obscures the fact that the CIA’s agenda was a leftist agenda; he never explicitly states that the “anti-communist” crusade used leftist politics to fight the Soviets. You could read Henri’s article and not understand the extent to which the left, and sometimes the far left, was in cahoots with the CIA.

It’s as if Henri wanted to hide the strategy behind the CIA’s operation from World Marxist Review readers (controlling the Left), and only expose some of the tactics behind the campaign (front organizations, etc.).

Someone who cared about communism or the Soviet cause would want to arm WMR readers with the knowledge of exactly what ideologies to look for in a CIA ‘anti-Communist’ agent, e.g. “They promote Black American musicians to discredit Soviet critics of American race politics” — Henri doesn’t point these recurring themes out. By not being explicit about CIA strategy, Henri left the door open for a re-branding of the Congress for Cultural Freedom through Spectorsky’s Playboy operation, amongst others.

The uncomfortable fact is that Henri was going soft on the CIA in his article: its far easier to sacrifice front organizations than it is to formulate an entirely new strategy. I don’t believe Henri’s accusations against the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, etc. were wrong, but they were incomplete. Henri’s vague references to ‘anti-communist’ plotting came without proper explanation, so were therefore alarmist and risked hobbling the communist community with suspicion.

Even more troubling is that the BBC was ‘on board’ with Henri’s agenda by the end of 1962. Several months after Henri’s CCF exposé appeared in World Marxist Review, BBC television aired a derogatory send-up of the CCF on That Was The Week That Was, hosted by Playboy stalwart Kenneth Tynan.

To pour fuel on that fire, Frances Stonor Saunders, who I believe is managed opposition to the CIA, reused Henri’s terminology in her book The Cultural Cold War (2000). Saunders’ book is the gold-standard exposé of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and even though she doesn’t acknowledge Henri’s article in her writing, she recycles Henri’s language. Henri’s ‘Anti-Communist’ becomes ‘non-Communist’ in Saunders’ work. This nomenclature is misleading, because the CIA’s efforts were never ‘non-Communist’ nor ‘anti-Communist’, they were anti-Kremlin.

Like Willi Munzenberg's fixer Gerald Hamilton, Frances Stonor Saunders worked for George Bernard Shaw's New Stateman, which is notorious for its blind support of Stalin under editor Kingsley Martin.

Frances Stonor Saunders, author of The Cultural Cold War and CIA asset. Saunders was arts editor at the New Statesman, which you’ll read about more than once in this post.

The CIA isn’t against communism, they promote it through agents like Allen Ginsberg; and some of the CIA’s leading lights fought with the communists in Spain. What the CIA is against is any form of communism which they can’t control. Frances Stonor Saunders wrote her book on the CCF to protect ongoing CIA operations which involve the Left; she used Henri’s misleading language to perpetuate misconceptions about the Agency’s politics. So if Saunders shared goals with Henri, then who was Ernst Henri?

Here’s the bell-ringer: Ernst Henri’s real name was Semen Rostovskii and he worked for the Soviet Ambassador in London, Ivan Maiskii. According to Richard B. Spence in Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult, Rostovskii was also the guy who recruited the ‘Cambridge Five’– the most notorious group of four Soviet double agents ever. Rostovskii ran in the same well-heeled ‘communist’ circles that agent provocateur Aleister Crowley haunted in the 1920s-30s; in fact, Rostovskii had a number of high-level British Intelligence acquaintances. Why might this be?

Ivan Maiskii

Ivan Maiskii

According to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Rostovskii’s boss, Ivan Maiskii, had “unparalleled access to the British establishment”, which would explain Rostovskii’s well-placed friends. Maiskii was a Bolshevik revolutionary and good friends with George Bernard Shaw; Shaw founded Frances Stonor Saunder’s one-time employer the New Statesman and Shaw’s network placed British spy Roald Dahl into the confidence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (see Storyteller, Donald Sturrock). Maiskii had the ear of other powerful British figures too, including Winston Churchill and the media baron Lord Beaverbrook. Back in the motherland, Maiskii was instrumental in getting Stalin to support Zionist immigration policies to Israel and Maiskii was a confidant to mass-murderer Lavrenti Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police. According to

In 1941, Stalin appointed Beria deputy prime minister, and Beria eventually joined the Politburo. At the Yalta Conference in 1945, Stalin proudly introduced Beria to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “our Himmler,” referring to Hitler’s head of the Gestapo.

Semen Rostovskii was in the employ of a very nasty Soviet power-broker who was on friendly terms with British businessmen. According to Richard Spence in Secret Agent 666, Rostovskii ran in British circles which were no less Soviet and no less privileged:

The Ring’s [the Cambridge Five’s] recruiter at Cambridge was the Soviet agent Semen Rostovskii (a.k.a Ernst Henri), a protege of Moscow’s then ambassador in London, Ivan Maiskii– whose name will later be linked to Crowley’s by none other than Philby.

Rostovskii’s operation got underway in 1933, around the time the Gibarti-Crowley note was written. One of Rostovskii’s accomplices was the young Cambridge communist Brian Howard. He, in turn, was a friend of Crowley’s erstwhile roommate, Gerald Hamilton. Howard also connects to another of the Mage’s left-leaning homosexual associates, Tom Driberg, about who more in the following chapter.

Judging by Spence’s quote above, it would be easy to assume that Brian Howard, Gerald Hamilton and Tom Driberg [1] were in the employ of Soviet intelligence– to a certain extent they all were. However, they all worked for British intelligence too! Rostovskii’s ‘pink’ British friends all have the whiff of ‘double cross’ about them. Brian Howard worked for MI5, was a BBC propagandist, and a New Statesman contributor according to this ‘Gay for Today‘ article; Hamilton was a fixer for ‘Red’ media baron Willi Münzenberg as well as an informer to British intel. These boys were all parlor communists who enjoyed the good life and the best opportunities that the British Empire could provide.

Tom Driberg is the member of Rostovskii’s circle who is most relevant to his Who Finances Anti-Communism? exposé because of Driberg’s personal connection to Moral Re-Armament. Tom Driberg’s name is indelibly linked to MRA, because Driberg made himself and MRA famous through his anti-MRA antics in the late 1920s.

Before I go into Driberg’s MRA connection, I’m going to introduce some of the controversy around Driberg’s espionage work because his spook involvement is contested. Biographer Francis Wheen is, on the whole, dismissive of the suggestion that Driberg worked for any intelligence agency. However, Wheen documents one ‘job’ after another which smells spooky: from Driberg’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War alongside Ernst Hemingway, to Driberg’s providing intelligence dossiers to Lord Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia. (Julia Child’s husband Paul Cushing Child worked for Mountbatten too, see her autobiography.)

Not everyone feels as confident about Driberg’s innocence, for instance, here’s Richard Spence’s introduction to Driberg:

Driberg had been a Communist Party member since 1920. He also was a homosexual, like so many others Agent Crowley’s path had crossed. Despite (or maybe because of ) his politics and sexuality, Driberg had become a gossip columnist at the Daily Express. Collecting gossip, after all, is just another way of gathering intelligence. Driberg may have been informing to His Majesty’s authorities for years, but about the time he renewed association with Crowley [1932], Maxwell Knight, now employed by MI5, recruited him as an informant. Max used Driberg to keep tabs on “cafe communists” and fellow-traveler liberals, precisely the crowd Crowley was so busy cultivating.

Wheen saves special scorn for researchers who accuse Driberg of Soviet intelligence connections. Wheen dismisses KGB connections as malicious gossip inspired by– grab your bonnets, ladies– Lord Rothschild. Wheen names two authors in connection with this ‘plot’, Chapman Pincher and Peter Wright. Whether a plot exists or not, here’s what Wright has to say about Driberg in Spy Catcher:

Tom Driberg was another MP named by the Czech defectors [Frolik and August]. I went to see Driberg myself , and he finally admitted that he was providing material to a Czech controller for money. For a while we ran Driberg on, but apart from picking up a mass of salacious detail about Labor Party peccadilloes, he had nothing of interest for us.

His only lasting story concerned the time he lent a Cabinet Minister his flat so that the Minister could try and conduct an affair in strict privacy. Driberg was determined to find the identity of the women who was the recipient of the Minster’s favors, and one evening after the Minister had vacated, he searched the flat and found a letter addressed to a prominent female member of the Labor Party. Driberg claimed to be horrified by his discovery and raised it with the Minister concerned, suggesting that he ought to be more careful in case word of his activities ever became public! Since Driberg was certainly providing the same stories to his Czech friends, his concern for Labor Party confidentiality seemed hollow, to say the least.

Tom Driberg, Lord Bardwell. Prior to being discovered by Lord Beaverbrook, Driberg would  University, Driberg  turn tricks or look for casual pick-ups  in dark doorways on London's Rupert Street. (See, Tom Driberg, His Life and Indiscretions, by Francis Wheen.)

Tom Driberg, Lord Bardwell. In the few months between flunking out of Oxford and being hired by the Daily Express, Driberg would turn tricks or look for casual pick-ups in dark doorways along London’s Rupert Street. (See, Tom Driberg, His Life and Indiscretions, by Francis Wheen.) Photo courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery.

So what was the slippery Driberg doing around Moral Re-Armament in 1928? Moral Re-Armament, which was known as the Oxford Group until 1938, would have remained relatively unknown were it not for the work of Tom Driberg through Lord Beaverbrook’s publication the Daily Express. In 1928 Driberg made a name for himself by ginning up a fantastic amount of negative publicity for MRA, which he attacked from the perspective of his own sexuality. Wheen describes Driberg’s multi-article campaign this way:

Barely a month after he joined the paper [Beaverbrook’s Daily Express] it brought him his first scoop. Having heard from friends at Oxford of an odd American evangelist, Dr. Frank Buchman, who had surfaced in the city and was recruiting students to his cause, Tom attended one of the Buchman groups’ Sunday evening meetings in a private room at the Randolph Hotel…

Tom’s articles were the first reports in a popular national paper of a movement which was soon better known as the Oxford Group and eventually, in the 1940s, won international fame– or notoriety, according to taste– as Moral Re-Armament. Tom became MRA’s most unrelenting scourge, accusing them of ‘zeal amounting to fanaticism, persistent crude invasions of physical and spiritual privacy… an obsessive and often impertinent harping on sin, especially sexual sin.’… One Buchmanite, J. P. Thornton-Duesbery (the master of St. Peter’s College, Oxford), was so stung by Tom’s tireless hostility that in 1964 he published a book whose sole purpose was to defend Moral Re-Armament against Tom.

Driberg was so intimately connected with Moral Re-Armament that two years after Rostovskii’s ‘exposé‘ of MRA in 1962, MRA stalwarts were still attacking Driberg.

Tom Driberg’s spooky doings went farther than just writing about Moral Re-Armament. According to Wheen, Driberg actually organized a gang raid on one of the MRA meetings, which ended in an anti-climax because Driberg got the location wrong.

I believe that Driberg was actually working to promote MRA; no sincere critic would organize a mob against such a cult, because a successful raid would have made a martyr out of Frank Buchman. Driberg was managed opposition to MRA. MRA was probably an Anglo-American intelligence operation designed to get impressionable yet useful people with more conservative leanings into political alignment: Buchmanites were a manageable political alternative at a time (1920s-30s) when some class-conscious movements presented a real challenge to elitist interests. The obnoxious gossip king Driberg was a perfect foil to the MRA operation.

Rostovskii’s 1962 tirade against Moral Re-Armament as a millionaire’s “anti-communist” cult is similar to Tom Driberg’s 1928 tirade against Moral Re-Armament as millionaire’s ‘anti-sex’ cult; you could say that Rostovskii recycled Driberg’s criticisms with ‘communism’ substituted for ‘sex’. I find it fascinating that a 1960s Soviet spook was so in tune with a British gossip column from 1928. Perhaps the reason for this synchronicity is that neither men were sincere in their professed beliefs.

Driberg’s sexuality informed his political life; his homosexuality and  promiscuity may have marked out his usefulness to intelligence handlers. Driberg’s sympathetic biographer Frances Wheen writes that Tom’s attraction to communism was largely based on his desire for working-class men:

Like George Orwell, Tom had a rather romanticized vision of the working class, and especially of working-class men. (In Tom’s case it was both political and homo-erotic: those sinewy thighs and rough hands, that heroic nobility in adversity, the sweat of labour…) Unlike Orwell, however, he was too fond of the comforts available to ‘pampered Londoners’ to become anything more than a tourist. Tom’s visits to depressed areas– like his sexual encounters with working-class men– were passionately arousing but also impersonal and brief.


Tom would then speak of his achievements in selling the CP’s [Communist Party’s] paper, Workers’ Weekly, at the gates of factories in Cowley– which, as Taylor pointed out, ‘enabled him to become acquainted with the better looking factory workers’. Perhaps Tom Stephensen’s accusations of frivolity were justified. Taylor later admitted: ‘I did not take my political activities very seriously.’ [A.J.P. Taylor was Driberg’s friend and the other Communist Party member at Oxford in the mid 1920s, though other communist sympathizers were present.– a.nolen]

Driberg’s political insincerity aside, Rostovskii must have had a reason for recycling Driberg’s Moral Re-Armament work and tying it onto the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Who Finances Anti-Communism?– there’s no easy way to weave the two together because Moral Re-Armament existed long before the CIA existed. Moral Re-Armament was in swing back when the Soviets were firm friends with British and American elites: the evangelical group that became MRA was founded in 1921 by Swiss-American Frank Buchman. In my opinion, MRA’s mission was to hijack Christianity in service of internationalist business interests. If Rostovskii sincerely wanted to expose ‘spookish’ behavior by Buchman, then he needed to do that in another article separate from the CIA affairs, because MRA had its genesis in different battles.

Frank Buchman TIME

Frank Buchman of Moral Re-Armament fame.

It seems to me that Rostovskii included Driberg’s old ‘target’ in Who Finances Anti-Communism? because doing so contributed to the “conservative” fog obscuring the CIA’s sponsorship of the Left. Rostovskii could have easily been aware of Driberg’s work on this increasingly obsolete cult through Brian Howard; Rostovskii’s scuppering of MRA may have even done the UKUSA spooks a favor. By 1962 the Imperial political landscape was very different to that of the pre-war years and I believe that ‘christiany’ Moral Re-Armament was baggage that Anglo-American spooks no longer needed (see my post A.C. Spectorsky and CCF 2.0). Helping cold warriors was strange work for a Soviet diplomat, wasn’t it?

Brian Howard, son of American expatriates in Britain who claimed Jewish ancestry. Howard inspired Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies.

Brian Howard, son of American expatriates in Britain whose ancestry is surprising. Howard inspired the bright young things of Evelyn Waugh’s writing.

Just how ‘Rooskie’ was Rostovskii himself? Rostovskii ran in the same circles as Aleister Crowley, who MI5 considered a bone fide Soviet agent by 1933. According to Richard Spence in Secret Agent 666, Crowley’s intelligence specialty was infiltrating political movements and destroying them, otherwise known as being an agent provocateur. Given Crowley’s pattern of provocation in Golden Dawn in the 1900s; and then again amongst German spy networks in NYC during WWI; it seems reasonable to surmise that by the mid thirties Crowley was disrupting communist and socialist networks in the UK. That means his intelligence buddies, like Tom Driberg, were probably in the same business.

But why would a Soviet diplomatic attaché want to associate with a used-up hack like Crowley and his intel buddies? Rostovskii and Crowley were likely collaborators during the lead up to the Russian Revolution in 1917, which resulted in the installation of the Bolshevik government. Rostovskii and The Beast had good reason to protect the communist and socialist movements in the U.K. from elements which Bolshevik apparatchiks and British investors couldn’t control.

How did this strange pairing of Bolsheviks and British millionaires come about?

Rich Brits, the Brits who controlled the intelligence sphere, were opposed to the Tsar. As Richard Spence writes in his biography of Crowley, “The Empire of the Tsar was Britain’s most dangerous international rival and potential enemy.” In 1896 Crowley was *probably* recruited by British Intelligence with the Russian theater in mind; his first missions were to Russia (1897, 1910, 1913) and Crowley always had his eye open for signs of revolution in the Russian Empire. (See Secret Agent 666). Of course, Crowley’s dalliances with the Russian theater during these missions caught Mikhail Bulkagov’s attention.

I strongly suspect that MI6 gained control of German-funded political agitator Leon Trotsky as fallout from the fighting between German and British spooks in the USA during WWI. Crowley was part of this fighting: he posed as a rabidly pro-Kaiser pundit in newspapers which targeted the German-American population while working to undermine German interests stateside, see Secret Agent 666.

According to the Guardian in 2001, documents released by Britain’s Public Records Office (which I haven’t seen) show that in February 1917 Trotsky was arrested by MI5 in Canada while making his way from New York City to Russia with “with $10,000 subscribed by Socialists and Germans”. Trotsky was quickly released on orders from Britain’s MI6, which allowed him to carry on to Russia… the rest is history.

Crowley was heavily involved in breaking up and taking over the US-based German spy networks which, judging by the British Public Records releases, are likely to have supported Trotsky. Trotsky’s success would have put men like Rostovskii in power. There’s no good reason to believe that Rostovskii and Crowley were working against each other with respect to Britain’s domestic political scene in 1933.

What’s more, Anglo-American-Soviet relations were close by 1933: President F.D. Roosevelt had been elected the previous November and officially recognized the USSR. Later, FDR – a good friend to both Stalin and the British– would ensure the USSR’s continued existence by secretly giving Stalin huge amounts of American technology and funding (see Lend Lease and Harry Dexter White). The American Ambassador to Moscow (1933-36), William Christian Bullitt, was very friendly to the Soviets and negotiated sweet business deals with them– he also inspired Bulgakov’s send-up of American intervention in Soviet Russia: the Spring Ball of the Full Moon in Master and Margarita. Was Rostovskii’s boss, the Soviet Ambassador to London Ivan Maiskii, any less business-friendly? His “unparalleled access to the British establishment” would suggest not.

Fresh from the USSR, William Bullitt lets FDR take questions during a 1937 cruise.

Fresh from the USSR, William Bullitt lets FDR take questions during a 1937 cruise.

Far from being enemies, Crowley, FDR, Churchill, Rostovskii and Maiskii– and lesser mortals like Tom Driberg– were all batting for the same team. From what I can tell, Semen Rostovskii, the recruiter of the “Cambridge Five”, was surrounded by a mess of British double agents and informers. When a network has a couple of agent provocateurs, it’s compromised. When a network is one seething mass of agent provocateurs, it’s managed opposition. Rostovskii was probably working with Crowley and his MI6 buds to control Britain’s domestic socialist and communist movements, and possibly to prevent them being used by other spy outfits. Rostovskii’s collaboration with British intelligence is probably also why the Cambridge Five’s fifth member has been so elusive.

Driberg will get his own post shortly, because he’s the prototype of our current obnoxious lefty gossip columnists like Gawker’s Nick Denton and Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner. I think, readers, that Crowley recruited Driberg out of Oxford for the British in much the same way Crowley was recruited out of Cambridge– the other ‘elite’ U.K. university. This is how Wheen describes that campus meeting, which lead Crowley to anoint Driberg as the one to “succeed him as the Great Beast”:

As well as favorable notices from the university magazines, Tom’s concert [a poetry reading at Oxford in the summer of 1927, ‘Homage to Beethoven’] was noticed in the next issue of the Sunday Times, under the heading ‘Musical Innovation’. For the second time in as many months the names of Driberg and Christ Church appeared in the national press in a context that cannot have pleased the college authorities. The Sunday Times item was also drawn to the attention of Aleister Crowley, the legendary black magician who rejoiced in the title of ‘the wickedest man in the world’ or, more concisely, ‘The Great Beast’. It is not certain why Crowley was so interested in the report of ‘Homage to Beethoven'; perhaps word had reached him that Tom’s weird lyrics included references to Beelzebub. Whatever the reason, Crowley invited Tom to lunch at the Tour Eiffel restaurant in Percy Street… The two men met again from time to time after this lunch…

Yet it was Tom who made money out of Crowley, not vice versa. By rather dubious means he acquired Crowley’s manuscript diary, which recorded his daily magical and sexual doings; many years later Tom sold this for a handsome sum to Jimmy Page, the guitarist with the rock group Led Zeppelin. [These could easily be the sex diaries that Ken Anger and Alfred Kinsey were looking for in the 1950s.– a.nolen.] In 1973 Tom raised more money by auctioning at Christie’s several volumes presented to him by Crowley. They included a copy of the Book of the Law, inscribed ‘To True Thomas of the Eildon Hills with all best wishes from Boleskine and Alterarff’. In the same lot was a letter from Crowley urging Tom to study the Koran: ‘I also hope that you will be pleased by the sincerity and simplicity of the Mohammedan faith , and learn up the words, so as not to make any more howlers like “Moslems”.

This is how Spence describes Driberg’s relation to The Beast:

Arguably, Crowley’s most important contact in the British Left was Tom Driberg. The Beast had known him since the mid-1920s, when Driberg was an Oxford student and aspiring occultist. They re-established contact when Crowley came back to London in summer 1932. In the years to come, the talkative Driberg made various wild claims about his relationship with the Beast, including being Crowley’s named heir.

Readers will remember that Rostovskii began recruiting the ‘Cambridge Five’ in 1933.

In conclusion, the Brits are known for their ‘double crossing’ and using enemy agents to British ends; they claim a perfect record of this against the Germans in WWII. Practice makes perfect. I’ll also point out that it’s a lot easier to run a double against an enemy if that enemy is only hostile a fraction of the time. Semen Rostovskii, the recruiter of the “Cambridge Five”, seems to have protected British and American interests against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics via the World Marxist Review. Could it be that Rostovskii’s ‘Cambridge Five’ were a bunch of spooks who the Brits didn’t ‘double cross’ very well? Whatever the answer, we can be sure that Rostovskii was a ‘champion of freedom’ in the same vein as Aleister Crowley, Winston Churchill, Tom Driberg and Eugene Kaspersky.



P.S. For more information on how wealthy Brits and Americans subsidized the Bolshevik Revolution, please see Is The Devil a German? and A Death in Finland. For more information on how Rostovskii’s protection of CIA strategy allowed the agency to regroup under the Playboy banner, see A.C. Spectorsky and the CFF 2.0, as well as An American Pravda I, II and III.

[1] Regular readers will remember Driberg as Mick Jagger’s political handler, and the Member of Parliament who George Orwell denounced to the Information Research Department as “’Homosexual’, ‘Commonly thought to be an underground member [of the Communist Party]’, and ‘English Jew’.” (All true, according to Driberg’s biographer Francis Wheen.)

Benny’s New Job!

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The next phase in Benny Johnson’s career comes with a big slice of humble pie. BuzzFeed’s disgraced pseduo-conservative ex-editor has taken a job with IJReview, the outfit that cost him his position with Jonah Peretti.

Way, way back in July Johnson unleashed a firestorm of scorn onto himself by lashing out at IJReview for plagiarizing his article on George Bush Sr.’s footwear. Within hours two mysterious, anonymous bloggers, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, attacked Johnson for plagiarism. Less than two days later Johnson’s BuzzFeed bosses had fired him and alerted their ‘competitor’ Gawker.

Why was BuzzFeed so eager to rid themselves of Benny? Probably because they have similar funding to IJReview, which is basically a Bush family concern that’s managed by heir apparent Jeb– you can read all about it in Who Did Benny Johnson Tick Off? (BTW, IJReview relied heavily on BuzzFeed for promotion in 2013.)

Johnson’s role at BuzzFeed was to be the ‘conservative straw man’, he played into common liberal prejudices about what conservatives ought to be: racist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc.. Benny was the ‘antithesis’ to the typical ‘thesis’ lib contributor at BuzzFeed, and Benny was very good at his job.

Of particular interest to me was Benny’s ‘snuff piece‘ on Snowden, in which he interviewed three separate ‘intelligence community’ sickos who fantasized about killing Edward after the ‘leaks’. US intelligence agent Edward Snowden made sure to draw particular attention to Benny’s snuff article during an interview with German NDR television— which means that the ‘intelligence community’ planted Benny’s piece and wanted it to get maximum public exposure.

You guessed it: Benny’s owned by the ‘IC’. To my mind, that makes what happened with IJReview even more interesting, because the Bushes are a CIA family. (Bush Sr.– Jeb’s dad– ran the agency after William Colby. Bush Sr. would have been involved in releasing the final MK ULTRA documentation to John Marks.)

IJReview (IJR) is not a respected outlet, it’s considered a clickbait generator and I’d never heard of it before Benny got on his high horse about plagiarism. IJR is fronted by Alex Skatell  and Phil Musser, it’s part of their election-molding toolkit called ‘Media Group of America’.

Phil Musser was a campaign staffer for US Senator Mel Martinez, a Cuban-American power-broker who ran the fabulously corrupt Housing and Urban Development Dept. before his overt political career. Mel Martinez got his start in government by being a “pragmatic” friend of Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

So what do you think Benny’s career at IJReview is going to look like?

Yeah, and there’s more ‘Republican’ posturing:

Of course Benny’s already started on the familiar barrage of mindless drivel :

This is more of the same belittling coverage of conservatives and libertarians that was Johnson’s BuzzFeed bread-and-butter. It appears that one aspect of IJReview’s strategy is to promote ‘big government’ Republicanism.

Given Jeb’s backing, it’s not surprising that media buddies– and Senator buddies– are giving the disgraced Benny Johnson airtime:

In conclusion, we can expect Benny to morph into a slightly less edgy, Bush-style Republican stooge ready to kiss Jeb’s butt at IJR. If there is a silver lining for Benny it’s that IJR presents an easy opportunity to make himself look like a media magician. If Benny just treads water, i.e. continues doing what he did at BuzzFeed, then Jeb’s content aggregator will already be ‘one up’. I bet Jeb got Benny at a discount price too.

A final piece of weirdness: the @BennyJohnson twitter account went silent after July 24th last year. Benny never commented on his firing, nor on any of the baiting, snarking, tooth-gnashing that followed. I admire your forbearance, Benny.

Last August, I speculated that the reason for his silence was an iron-clad contract with Peretti which included some type of gag and which made the ‘@BennyJohnson’ twitter account company property. (After all, it was BuzzFeed’s ‘cache’ that built Benny’s audience.)

You’ll notice that Benny’s now tweeting from the same @BennyJohnson account on behalf of the IJReview. Why would Peretti let Johnson take his microphone over to a trashy outfit like IJR? The only way I can see that move making sense is if a massive amount of money changed hands, or if IJReview and Peretti share patronage.

I think it’s most likely that Benny’s continuing his mission over at IJReview, which he’ll mold into his own image. Having Benny at BuzzFeed was, perhaps, just a little too obviously ‘Hegelian‘. Benny’s presence may have forced the zombies on Peretti’s staff to question what they were all doing under one roof. That’s bad tradecraft herdsmanship. Now that Benny is free to pilot IJReview, Jeb’s faltering media investment will get a shot at becoming the ‘Conservatarian‘ BuzzFeed. #YOLO.


P.S. IJReview isn’t the only outfit giving Benny Johnson a second chance.  National Review has made him a contributor too! (Though Johnson hasn’t contributed since January… problems?) Benny does the same trashy ‘numbered list’ articles for NR that he owned over at BuzzFeed.

Why National Review?

Well, here’s one clue: In his National Review column journalist Andrew Stuttaford regularly reblogs writing by ‘ex-spook’ Dr. John R. Schindler— the NSA pundit who torpedoed his own career last year (kinda like Benny). Also like Benny, Schindler has a remarkable ability to draw the ire of Gawker’s J.K. Trotter. The ex-spook is now ‘taking the fight to Putin‘ with an espionage-themed column for Mohammad Zahoor’s The Kyiv Post. Things could always be worse, Benny.

What is Kaspersky Lab?

Founder 'Eugene' Kaspersky owns the logo.

Founder ‘Eugene’ Kaspersky owns the logo in 1991 2012.

On Monday I read for the first time about something that Kaspersky Lab, a Russian anti-virus software company, calls the “Equation Group“. The Equation Group is the latest ‘tech scare’ coming from the NSA– sorry, that Kaspersky strongly suggests comes from the NSA. The NSA’ers are back and they’re more devious than you’ve ever seen them before!

My understanding is that Kaspersky Lab has not uncovered previously unknown spying tools, but has found out interesting details about already identified ones. For instance, the NSA developed thumb drive software that detects when the drive is used in computers which don’t have an internet connection (this helps the NSA map ‘air-gapped’ computer systems); and software that runs at such a basic level that it can’t be erased, or even monitored on your computer, so that the NSA has your machine forever. You can read Kaspersky’s press release here, but this is the pertinent quote:

The Equation group is probably one of the most sophisticated cyber attack groups in the world; and they are the most advanced threat actor we have seen.

Kaspersky’s revelations are often trumpeted in the American press, for instance, the American-Israeli STUXNET virus that ‘got away’ and endangered every nuclear reactor on the planet. ‘Equation Group’  is no exception: Wired, Ars Technica, International Business Times, etc. have all sounded off on the NSA’s latest super-villain weapons. You’ll remember Wired as the outfit that let Kevin Poulsen write an article about his fellow Freedom of the Press Foundation Technical Advisory Board member, Runa Sandvik, and her TOR party with Snowden.

The American press associates three adjectives with the Equation group: “sophisticated”, “threat”, “expensive”. It *appears* that Kaspersky Lab has just cost the NSA a lot of money. On Monday I wondered if Kaspersky had experienced any retaliation from this, so I posted the following question on the blog of Kaspersky Lab’s lead researcher Costin Raiu:

This report and the work you detail in the post are awesome achievements Costin; congrats to you and the team at Kaspersky. Have you or Kaspersky Labs received any blowback from either the US government, or any organization, for making these revelations?

Although Costin makes an admirable effort to address the questions which are posted on his blog– no matter how trivial– he hasn’t touched this one and I’m beginning to think he never will. I suspect the reason is because Kaspersky hasn’t received any (real) blowback.

I’ll remind readers that the NSA likes to ‘leak’ about it’s vast technical superiority. The first NSA leaks ever, Perry Fellwock’s leaks, were sensationalist accounts of the NSA’s masterful capabilities against the struggling Russians; they were also leaked to David Horowitz, who was/is probably an American intel asset. You could view ‘Snowden’s revelations’ as a backhanded compliment to the NSA too– they don’t seem to have inspired self-examination in the ‘intelligence community’. And now, in 2015, we have a Russian firm proselytizing.

A KGB-tainted Russian firm, no less.

Bloomberg News, America’s portal to the business world, recently accused Kaspersky Lab founder, Evgeny ‘Eugene’ Kaspersky, of having KGB ties. The article says that Kaspersky Lab only investigates American espionage outfits, not Russian ones. Kaspersky posted a typical reply saying that US investigator FireEye, a CIA-funded In-Q-Tel concern, did all the work on Russian threats for them: “FireEye did some great research, so publishing our own after theirs made no sense.”

In the Midwest, we call this ‘one hand washing the other’.

Bloomberg’s KGB accusations are actually not the first against Kaspersky. Wired’s Noah Shachtman broke the ice in 2012:

But Kaspersky’s rise is particularly notable—and to some, downright troubling—given his KGB-sponsored training, his tenure as a Soviet intelligence officer, his alliance with Vladimir Putin’s regime, and his deep and ongoing relationship with Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Back in 2012 Kaspersky wrote a blog post denying these allegations, and frankly, Shachtman doesn’t seem to have slowed Kaspersky down. Right now, in 2015, many Western media outfits like the New York Observer, PC Magazine, The Moscow Times have already given  ‘Eugene’ a platform from which to refute Bloomberg’s claims. (The English-speaking public has a long history of coping with the Russian name Evgeny, so to me the use of ‘Eugene’ seems disingenuous and smarmy.)

I consider the ruckus around Kaspersky’s KGB ties to be evidence of the US media’s extreme cynicism and hypocrisy. Of course Kaspersky has KGB ties. Guess what? He’s also got ties with the NSA. Back in early 2014, Kaspersky was on the bandwagon screaming that Snowden was a “traitor” who “belongs in the ninth circle of hell”; Kaspersky behaved just like ex-NSA head Michael Hayden and MI5 hag Dame Stella Rimington. Kaspersky went on record saying that his Lab wouldn’t hire Snowden nearly one year before I, and probably most laypeople, had seen through Edward. This makes me suspect that Kaspersky’s relation to the NSA and/or the CIA is of the ‘contractor‘ nature. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the NSA likes Kaspersky’s KGB ties and probably encourages the anti-virus oligarch to snuggle up to the Kremlin as much as possible– then come Stateside for a cup’a joe.

What Bloomberg should be asking is not whether Kaspersky Lab has KGB ties, but to which espionage outfit he’d side with on the occasion that the NSA’s and the FSB’s interests collide. As I’ve written elsewhere, these two espionage operations have strong incentives to cooperate (for instance, manipulating Islamic extremists) and have obviously done so with respect to Edward Snowden; if the Rooskies were 100% antagonistic to the Americans, they’d have sent Edward home with a white cone on his head. (Which makes the forced landing of the Bolivian diplomatic plane in 2013 a meaningless bit of theater, doesn’t it?)

Click for Kaspersky's "Equation Group" Victim's Map. The only "Islamic Scholars" targeted are in the USA and the U.K.

Click for Kaspersky’s “Equation Group” Victims Map. The only “Islamic Scholars” targeted are in the USA and the U.K.; i.e. the ones we let in.

The FSB/KGB and NSA/CIA cooperation has sound historical precedents too, the CIA’s founders–particularly William Donovan– actively sought to cultivate partnerships with Russian intelligence agencies and to hide these partnerships from Congress and the American people. Donovan worked with the Rooskies on the sly because J. Edgar Hoover advised him to: Hoover understood that such partnerships would be (correctly) identified as contrary to the public interest. The OSS and its daughter, the CIA, have always existed to lie to and manipulate the voting public; little has changed.

I believe that all of the KGB connections which Wired and Bloomberg accuse Kaspersky of are true. However, the American media– which is deeply captured by US intelligence– has given Kaspersky more than ample opportunity to refute these claims. I’ll also point out that Kaspersky keeps some high-level company, according to Noah Shachtman at Wired:

Over the past 72 hours, Kaspersky explains, he flew from Mexico to Germany and back to take part in another conference. “Kissinger, McCain, presidents, government ministers” were all there, he says. “I have panel. Left of me, minister of defense of Italy. Right of me, former head of CIA. I’m like, ‘Whoa, colleagues.'”

Bloomberg take note: “Whoa, colleagues.”

In his biography Honorable Men, William Colby, the CIA chief who cooperated with KGB assets, strongly suggests that Henry Kissinger also cooperated with Russian heavies and kept the CIA in the dark about the cooperation— Colby says he doesn’t blame Kissinger for doing so! My point is, at the top of the pile there’s little to distinguish KGB from CIA from NSA from FSB. It’s all about who is useful when– the little people on the bottom are just collateral damage.

Our government doesn’t have to be this way; but in order to fix things the general public needs to understand the nature of the people who are exploiting them. I’m going to continue writing about Kaspersky to that goal, but my post on Colby’s second wife, The Ambassadress, deals with the same ‘sickness’.

When Kaspersky isn’t hobnobbing with Henry Kissinger or ex-CIA chiefs, he’s beating the American porn industry on its own turf: the US legal system. Kaspersky recently “won” a case brought by an Ad agency that claimed “trade libel” because Kaspersky blocked their software on obscenity grounds– a Washington judge threw the case out. Usually in the USA, porn wins by wrapping itself in the flag while its ‘amen choir’ in the media sing “Free Speech!”. It looks like this Russian can trump pornographers’ interests.

Kaspersky’s ‘anti-virus’ products are selling well in the USA; his company has a strong American presence; he’s been lauded by the American chamber of Commerce in Moscow. Kaspersky has been flattered as a ‘Top 100 Global Thinker‘ by Foreign Policy magazine (US government mouthpiece); Kaspersky was named a “top innovator” by CRN, which “salutes the most influential and innovative channel executives in North America“; and ‘Eugene’ won the V3 Technology Award, just like Steve Jobs. But that’s not all: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave Kaspersky the Russian Federation National Award in Science and Technology; he’s won China’s National Friendship Award; and he’s been granted an honorary doctorate from the U.K.’ s Plymouth University.

In fact, Kaspersky Lab’s holding company is registered in the United Kingdom and Kaspersky’s first wife and business partner Natalya (not ‘Natalie’) was trained in the early 1990s by the U.K.’s Open University. Most Russians were struggling to find food when Natalya was getting her British degree– and most British billionaires were looking for an ‘in’ on Yeltsin’s corrupt privatizations.

On closer inspection Kaspersky Lab looks more like an Anglo-American multinational than a Russian firm. (Natalya’s corporate offshoot is now heavily invested in German tech companies.) Kaspersky’s ex has also come out in support of Putin’s internet censorship, according to The New York Times:

Natalya Kaspersky, chief executive of InfoWatch, a software company that provides data protection services, said some new restrictions were needed in Russia to protect children and that the fears of government censorship seemed overblown.

“We might argue if such ‘black list’ approach is efficient in the modern Internet assuming the sites might quickly move to another address,” Ms. Kaspersky wrote in an e-mail. “However, it is better than nothing.”

She added, “Right now we have a tremendous freedom of speech in mass media, with no prohibited topics at all.”

If Natalya had changed her name to ‘Natalie Casperson”, she’d probably be sitting on McAffe’s board right now!

I think I’ve made my point about Kaspersky’s backing. Kaspersky is particularly useful because of his KGB roots: unsophisticated people will assume ‘KGB-aligned’ means ‘not American controlled’. The next question is: how is ‘Eugene’ using the platform he’s been given?

When Kaspersky isn’t blogging about his exotic holidays, he’s calling for global cooperation to combat internet “threat actor” abuses. We all need to band together to protect a couple of thousand “prestigious” targets from NSA attacks– no doubt by installing products that Kaspersky will have designed. In 2012 at the ITU Telecom World conference, Kaspersky gave his audience an idea of what such products might look like:

In his keynote address, Eugene Kaspersky described the essential measures to protect industrial control systems. A new, secure unit to obtain trusted workflow information is the first step towards an efficient protection against cyber-warfare. In response to such challenges, Kaspersky Lab is working on a Secure Operating System, which will serve as the trusted node for Industrial Control Systems.

That was one year before Snowden told the world about the NSA’s horrific industrial espionage capability. Kaspersky was already positioning himself to benefit from the fallout.

There are a couple of things going on with Kaspersky’s ‘Equation’ revelations: 1) the NSA is continuing its decades-long propaganda offensive by touting its technology dominance vis-a-vis Russia; 2) Kaspersky is engaging in ‘elite-targeted propaganda’ to build a climate of fear; and 3) Kaspersky is ‘astroturfing’– he’s trying to set himself up as an organic political alternative to abusive American technology companies. Those three points need a little fleshing out.

1) In Adrian Chen’s career-ending article on Perry Fellwock, he says this about the first NSA leaker’s information in Ramparts magazine:

And there, in 1972, was a rogue analyst, some kid in his 20s, describing the NSA’s business down to the colors of the badges worn at its headquarters. Winslow Peck [Perry Fellwock] claimed that the NSA had broken all of the Soviets’ codes…

Of course, ‘Snowden’s revelations’ are also a sneaky compliment to the US intelligence community’s ability to intrude on the privacy of everyone. Now Kaspersky is following suit with “the most advanced threat actor we have seen”.

What does the NSA get out of blowing its own horn? I’ll speculate that the tools we hear about through Kaspersky are tools which have already been compromised in some way, as Thomas Fox Brewster reports in Forbes. Also, GCN reports:

The Kaspersky revelations are not the first time firmware reprogramming has been mentioned in relation to the NSA. In December 2013, German magazine Der Spiegel published a lengthy investigative piece on the activities of the NSA, which had several months earlier been shown to have intercepted the mobile phone conversations of a number of state leaders, including that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

As a part of that investigation, the magazine detailed the contents of what it called the NSA’s Spy Catalog, a years-in-the-making collection of NSA-developed malware and surveillance hardware. That included, according to documents the magazine obtained, “spyware capable of embedding itself unnoticed into hard drives manufactured by Western Digital, Seagate and Samsung.”

During the Cold War, US strategists liked to tout their nuclear superiority as a ‘deterrent’ to the use of nuclear weapons (they say). Could the NSA be trying to demoralize their opponents (domestic and international) with claims of “omnipotence”? Or are they working with their industry partners to see which ‘suspect’ organizations are sending in orders to replace products from the following (Equation-compromised) tech companies: Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital, Toshiba, Micron?

2) Perhaps the best reason for the NSA to ‘out’ its own tech superiority is to drum up money for more research. Maybe the NSA’s ‘leak’ game with Kaspersky is about “elite targeted propaganda”, like the 1950 National Security Council Report-68 (NSC-68) which journalist Alex Doherty says was used to browbeat skeptical US elites into supporting massive Cold War military spending. Wall Street Journal writer Henry A. Crumpton got in on this act three days after Kaspersky’s “Equation” revelations by whining about how the USA is losing tech superiority to Islamic terrorists– a “weakness of our own making” because of budget deadlock!

Are Kaspersky’s ‘revelations’ about drumming up more funding for NSA spooks, which in turn drums up more demand for Kaspersky’s “leadership” and security products? I strongly suspect so.

3) Astroturfing is a political strategy whereby establishment actors try to present their interests as those of honest, grass-roots political activists. In his reply to Noah Shachtman’s 2012 Wired article, Kaspersky says the following:

And finally, the very mission of our company is to fight cyber-crime all around the world – together with our colleagues in the industry. We don’t do it just because it happens to be our business; we also do it because we believe that protecting the world from malware is critically important and will continue to allow us to live in a better, safer, more open and effective society. It’s our underlying principle by which we stand firmly and always will.

You see, Kaspersky isn’t in business for the money or power, he made himself a billionaire out of altruism!

Kaspersky ends his reply to WIRED's Noah Shachtman with this emboldened statement: "I’m just a man who’s “here to save the world”."

Kaspersky ends his reply to Wired’s Noah Shachtman with this emboldened statement: “I’m just a man who’s “here to save the world”.”

In the real world Kaspersky is setting himself up to be managed opposition to NSA abuses; the NSA probably believes Kaspersky is believable in this role because he’s Russian therefore ‘not controlled by Americans’. He just wants to save the world like the Americans… Someday soon we’ll hear how Kaspersky is funding an open-source initiative that ‘wards off’ NSA intrusions.

In conclusion, Kaspersky is an American asset who’s hiding behind the heavy perfume of a Russian corporation. I’m not trying to imply that the NSA is not an abusive organization; I am saying that managed opposition figures like Kaspersky are as untrustworthy as the NSA. If the Snowden debacle has taught us anything, it’s that US citizens need to redefine how we view the world. It’s not about ‘Russia vs. America’, nor even ‘CIA vs. KGB’. It’s about plutocrats versus the groups of people they leech off of; it’s about parasites trying to remain invisible to their hosts. Anything that Kaspersky recommends to protect against NSA abuses *is not the answer*. If you want intelligent advice about internet security, I’d go to guys like Poul-Henning Kamp.

An American Pravda, Part III

Timothy Leary's mug shot prior to his jail break and flight to Algeria.

Timothy Leary’s mug shot prior to his jail break and flight to Algeria.

About a year ago I came across an article titled “Timothy Leary and the CIA” by Walter H. Bowart, who wrote a book about MK ULTRA one year before John Marks did, but did so with Marks’ help. Bowart’s book, Operation Mind Control (1978), was based on personal accounts of brainwashing from people Bowart found through classified advertisements in Rolling Stone and Soldier of Fortune magazines. (Rolling Stone was the home of CIA chief William Colby’s pet literary agent David Obst.)

In “Timothy Leary and the CIA” Bowart describes an interview he conducted with Leary in prison after Leary’s stunt in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver, which Playboy covered in ’71. I’ll point out that not just anybody can get access to prisoners like Leary; especially if that ‘anybody’ writes things which the US government doesn’t like. Here’s the pertinent part of Bowart’s reported interview, taken from “” as archived by the Wayback Machine:

“Have you ever knowingly worked for the CIA?” I [W.H. Bowart] asked.

“If I were working for the CIA,” he [Timothy Leary] said, ” I would have ten people working making a living exposing me. If I were the CIA, I’d own New Republic. I’d own The New Masses. I’d own Rolling Stone. I’d have 50 groups of people exposing the CIA…” “Do you think CIA people were involved in your group in the sixties?” I asked. Without hesitating Leary said, “Of course they were. I would say that eighty percent of my movements, eighty percent of the decisions I made were suggested to me by CIA people…

Of course, Bowart could be lying, Leary could be lying. I can’t speak to either man’s motivation, however, what Leary described is a well-known political manipulation strategy. The ‘Hegelian Dialectic’ strategy, which I last wrote about with regard to Benny Johnson, necessitates controlling all ‘sides’ of an argument– that means controlling all sources of information. When presented with a carefully chosen array of information, a rational person will be compelled to draw the desired conclusion while still believing they are forming their own opinion, which is the gold standard for behavior conditioning. The Hegelian Dialectic doesn’t work if, say, there’s only one news agency: there has to be a CNBC, a FOX, a CNN, etc. There has to be the appearance of diversity.

I can’t know if Leary was lying in the quote above, but I can do a thought experiment like the one Poul Henning-Kamp did for the intelligence community’s involvement in open-source software, which allowed him to predict HEARTBLEED. Would the CIA, an organization which barters in information, benefit from implementing the Hegelian Dialect in American media? Of course they would. What’s more, we know that the Agency did this in Europe during the Cold War… which brings me back to Playboy.

The only reason I was able to put Playboy’s selection of featured writers into context was because I had read a book called The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders. Saunders introduced me to the 1960s culture-industry names which popped up so many times on Playboy covers; her book is the ‘gold standard’ exposé of the CIA’s anti-Kremlin leftist crusade in Europe after WWII.

Who is Frances Stonor Saunders? She’s the daughter of a disinherited British noblewoman and commoner Donald Robin Slomnicki Saunders; she’s a BBC radio host; and was arts editor at The New Statesman, a British magazine known for its one-time mindless support of Stalin and for being used by the KGB as late as 1994 to place “anti-American” propaganda. That’s the story.

As a person, Frances Stonor Saunders bears extreme bitterness: her writing seethes with hatred for the German people; conservatives; and all fellow lefties whose opinions don’t match her own. There are very few people for whom Frances doesn’t have contempt. However, in The Cultural Cold War Frances shows an uncharacteristic, child-like admiration for Ramparts magazine, as well as the ‘Beat writers’ including Allen Ginsberg; theater wild-child Kenneth Tynan; Norman Mailer; Indian politician Jawaharlal Nehru; John Kenneth Galbraith; and director Stanley Kubrick. These chosen people are the world’s hope in the face of blundering CIA aggression, according to Frances. In her own words:

With the rise of the New Left and the Beats, the cultural outlaws who had existed on the margins of American society now entered the mainstream, bringing with them a contempt for what William Burroughs called a ‘sniveling, mealy-mouthed tyranny of bureaucrats, social workers, psychiatrists and union officials… Alan Ginsberg, who in his 1956 lament Howl had mourned the wasted years– ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness’– now advocated the joys of open homosexuality and hallucinogenic ‘Peyote solitudes’. Munching LSD, singing the body electric, reading poetry in the nude, navigating the world through a mist of benzedrine and dope, the Beats reclaimed Walt Whitman from stiffs like Norman Pearson Holmes, and sanctified him as the original hippy. They were scruffy rebels who sought to return chaos to order, in contrast to the obsession with formulae which characterized magazines like Encounter [CIA funded ‘non-communist left’ magazine –a.nolen]. (p. 361)


It [Quest, the CCF publication in India] probably didn’t deserve J. K. Galbraith’s sneer that ‘it broke new ground in ponderous, unfocused illiteracy’. Certainly Prime Minister Nehru didn’t like it, as he always distrusted the Congress as an ‘American front’. (The Cultural Cold War, p 216)

Of course, readers will remember all those names from my analysis of Playboy’s featured authors: Spectorsky and the CCF 2.0, Part I, Part II. All Saunder’s ‘heroes’ were lauded by the CIA’s Playboy outfit, too.

Saunders agrees with the CIA on more than just Beat writers. She places the blame for CIA excesses at the feet of James Angleton and his ‘crew’ through well-chosen quotes from Allen Ginsberg’s writing:

Allen Ginsberg even fantasized that T.S. Eliot was part of a literary conspiracy mounted by his, Eliot’s, friend James Jesus Angleton. In a 1978 sketch called ‘T.S. Eliot Entered My Dreams’, Ginsberg imagined that ‘On the fantail of a boat to Europe, Eliot was reclining… “And yourself, “ I [Ginsberg] said, “What do you think of the domination of poetics by the CIA. After all, wasn’t Angleton your friend?”

In Saunder’s quote, Ginsberg goes on to opine: “The subsidization of magazines like Encounter which held Eliotic style as a touchstone of sophistication and competence… failed to create an alternative free vital decentralized individualistic culture. Instead, we had the worst of Capitalist Imperialism”. (p 249)

By ‘Eliotic’ Saunders means ‘in the style of T.S. Eliot’. Saunders presents Ginsberg’s imaginings as though they contain fact; she goes on to support Ginsberg’s assertions by making assertions of her own: a James-Angleton-CIA-literary-conspiracy caused Ezra Pound to be awarded the Bollinger Prize. (You can read her theory in The Cultural Cold War.)

What Saunders fails to mention is that both Eliot and Pound lead their field before the OSS was a twinkle in Stephenson’s eye. Despite modern judgments about their politics, these men were stars of the last literary generation not deeply captured by the intelligence community. What’s important about Saunders’ stance on Eliot and Pound is that she knows it’s a ‘safe’ stance to take: bashing them is not going to anger her patrons. Who are Saunders’ patrons?

It may strike readers as odd that Saunders, who spent years researching how the CIA co-opted the post-WWII literary community, would put so much naive trust in the Beat writers, who were promoted by outfits like The Paris Review which Saunders herself identified as a CIA front. Experience would suggest prudence and caution when dealing with the ‘Beats’, yet the thought that Allen Ginsberg might be just corrupt as CIA literary golden-boy Peter Matthiessen never flutters across Saunders’ consciousness.

It may also seem stupid that Saunders would blame the CIA’s counterintelligence chief for ‘anti-communist left’ abuses that clearly originate from something like the CIA’s “Special Communications Programs” division. I mean really, Frances, James Jesus Angleton only had 24 hours in his day and by the time the CCF got rolling he had other things to worry about.

I say Saunders’ position ‘seems stupid’, because of course Frances Stonor Saunders is following a well-trodden CIA path when she blames Agency excesses on Angleton: every official ‘exposer’ does this, from John Marks to Tom Mangold. James Angleton’s legacy is the black hole that CIA propagandists throw their garbage into. Bill Colby started that practice in the ’70s.

In writing The Cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders protected the legacy of CIA assets like Allen Ginsberg at the expense of CIA assets like T. S. Eliot. Frances Stonor Saunders promoted the same ‘intellectuals’ as Playboy promoted 40 years before in response to the obvious failure of the Congress For Cultural Freedom. Why would a pornography rag care about obscure ‘Beat’ writing? Why would an American pornography rag feature an Indian politician like Jawaharlal Nehru at all– but especially as Playboy’s first ever featured politician? See A.C. Spectorsky and CCF 2.o.

It’s almost as if somebody at the CIA called Frances up and said: “Franny, here’s a list of men who Spectorsky promoted in order to deal with the CCF setback. Write a history of the CCF that justifies Spectorsky’s strategy in hindsight. Can you do that, Franny?”

Now we have The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters.

Frances Stonor Saunders’ intellectual dishonesty puts her in ugly company; it also casts a shadow over her favored leftist publication: Ramparts magazine. But that shadow is just one of many. Ramparts magazine founder Warren Hinckle went to Hugh Hefner, the Playboy front man, for funding. (See Hinckle’s autobiography.) Playboy followed Ramparts’ lead when they published the work of Black supremacist Eldridge Cleaver; both magazines published Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Paris Review crony Terry Southern, amongst others. Playboy and Ramparts traveled a very similar path… which means that Ramparts traveled a similar path to a CIA front.

Now back to Timothy Leary’s suggestion about the CIA “owning” magazines like Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone prides itself on breaking news stories which are damaging to the US government and ‘intelligence community’. Rolling Stone magazine is an off-shoot of Ramparts: it was founded by two of Warren Hinckle’s employees when Ramparts folded. Rolling Stone’s founders were Jann Wenner and his patron (perhaps better described as ‘handler’) Ralph Gleason, who prior to becoming a Jazz critic, worked for the Office of War Information during WWII. (The ‘intelligence community used Jazz as a cultural weapon abroad.) Ramparts was also the vehicle David Horowitz and Peter Collier used to place Perry Fellwock’s ‘anti-NSA’ leaks in 1972. Ramparts and Rolling Stone have a lineage.

jann wenner

Jann Wenner cofounded Rolling Stone, you can read about his background in this article. Like Gawker’s Nick Denton, Wenner displays extremely narcissistic characteristics: superficially charming; ruthlessly exploitative of employees; with the emotional maturity of a two-year old, according to Salon’s David Weir. Also like Denton, and many media-oriented intelligence professionals, Wenner is homosexual.

There’s a ‘lineage’ between the magazines which are used to leak sensitive intelligence information. Adrian Chen tripped over that lineage when he tried to equate Edward Snowden with Perry Fellwock in Nick Denton’s online publication

Gawker’s coverage of the ‘Snowden Saga’ was designed to encourage apathy in readers: Denton tried to accomplish this by exploiting side-shows, as well as through Adrian Chen’s dismissive coverage of the leaks.

What do I mean by ‘exploiting sideshows’? Denton’s ‘Snowden Saga’ editorial policy was to marginalize concern over the NSA leaks by associating that concern with ‘lunatic fringe’ pundits and their unnewsworthy antics.  Denton employed his own Hegelian Dialect to attempt this marginalization, for example, he covered an obscure squabble between a spooky, pro-NSA Naval War College professor and a nameless blogger, who sparred over the prof’s violation of the Hatch Act by lobbying for the NSA: “unhinged spook” + “small-government wingnut” = “only crazies are concerned about Snowden issues”.

It may interest readers to know that the two protagonists from above took very different paths: the mysterious, nameless “wingnut” stopped blogging (xxtwitterwarcommittee.wordpress) and disappeared shortly before “spook”, John R. Schindler, was fired from his teaching job for personal indiscretions;  Schindler now writes about evil Russian and Iranian espionage in Ukraine via The Kyiv Post, Jed Sunden’s former rag, which is funded by reality t.v. freak Mohammad Zahoor.

Zhanna Kobylinska is the Kyiv Post's interpretation of Rainbow Brite.

Zhanna Kobylinska implements The Kyiv Post’s version of the American propaganda outfit Zunzuneo. She also does PR for a well-connected cult in Kiev.

Denton’s second, more subtle, strategy was to assign Adrian Chen to the ‘Snowden Saga': Chen took the establishment line of promoting Tor, while dismissing Snowden as a misguided idealist, and dismissing privacy fears as overblown. Chen shot himself in the foot with his magnum opus, a lengthy investigative piece that compared Snowden to Perry Fellwock, the first NSA whistleblower, who now thinks he was used and regrets his actions.

In the 1970s Perry Fellwock leaked his NSA information to two Ramparts journalists, David Horowitz and Peter Collier. Adrian Chen got fired because he suggested that David Horowitz was an intelligence agent, and that Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras were too. Chen didn’t know what readers know about the CIA’s ties to Playboy, and the ugly shadow they cast over Ramparts. Chen came very close to writing about the stuff I’ve been writing about for almost a year now, and that cost Chen his job because his editor, Nick Denton, is likely part of the ‘intelligence community’ too. (The pro-outsourcing wing of the ‘intelligence community’ was *best* served by Denton’s editorial policy; the public interest was not served well at all.)

Where is Adrian Chen now? Currently Adrian is a managing editor for The New Inquiry in NYC; I have no idea how he’s supporting himself.

There has been an interesting development with Chen’s old overseer at, John Cook. Soon after Chen was fired, Cook also left Gawker for a position as “Editor in Chief” at billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept, which also employs Glenn Greenwald. In a weird twist, Cook quickly left The Intercept and returned to, which is known for notoriously low pay. Cook’s new Gawker title is “Executive Editor for Investigations”– so Denton must have forgiven Cook for letting Adrian’s Fellwock piece print.

Was Cook promoted to his level of incompetence at The Intercept, or did something else sour the beer? Your answer is as good as mine.

I’m going to wind this up by harkening back to Timothy Leary’s observation: “If I were the CIA, I’d own New Republic. I’d own The New Masses. I’d own Rolling Stone. I’d have 50 groups of people exposing the CIA…””

There has been a diverse list of publications mentioned in this post: Ramparts, Playboy, The New Statesman, Rolling Stone, The Intercept,, The Kyiv Post. Regular readers know that I’ve criticized most of these titles over the last few years. If Leary’s right, then I’ve just been criticizing the same thing all along.

I guess the USSR didn’t lose. ;)