tv Espionage at the National Press Building CSPAN November 4, 2018 4:45pm-6:01pm EST
gives this talk. he details how spies for nazi germany, japan, the soviet union and the cia operated from world war ii through the cold war inside the building that stands just a few blocks from the white house. the national press club and the spy museum cohosted this hour and 15 minute long event. >> good evening, welcome to the national press club. wonderful people. former presidents. that is the way it should be. my name is gil, i am a former president of the club, chairman of the history and heritage committee, and a bureau chief for the brand-new gaylord news service. i would like to welcome you to the club and welcomed those of -- welcome those of you who are here because you are associated with the spy museum, which is the international spy museum, which is sponsoring this. -- cosponsoring this.
we are sitting here atop the 14th story national press building. it was built by the club in 1927 to house news organizations from around the world. i thought i knew everything about the club and the building, but that was before i met steve usdin and read his book. put it up here, "bureau of spies: the secret connections between espionage and journalism in washington." a nice picture of the national press building is on it. i learned a tremendous amount about what was happening surreptitiously here while thousands of reporters were going about their jobs and gathering news. journalism students are taught
that they should never, ever engage in espionage. that is a no-no. that is what makes the story so fascinating. joining steve this evening is mark stout, the former historian of the international spy museum, the former cia officer, lecturer at johns hopkins university, and president of the north american society for intelligence history. before turning the program over to steve, i just want to read the last sentence of his book. he said, "the national press club remains a place where reporters and sources need to -- meet to solve humanity's problems over a beer." that ultimately is the national press building's greatest legacy and a sign that even in dark times, decency may prevail.
that is how we like to think of the club. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome steve usdin. [applause] mr. usdin: i am going to tell a few stories for a little bit, then i am going to ask mark to come and provide comment, and then we will open it up to questions to all of you. thank you. can you hear me? i want to thank gil, and an -- and the archivist of the national press club/ in the introduction to the book
i would say he is heart and soul of the club. [applause] one of the reasons i want to thank you is because i had trepidation while i was writing this book that you would not be happy about having a press club portrayed as a den of iniquity and espionage aside. i thought it was really important, and i put it in a note in the very beginning of the book to point out that the reason it was possible to write a whole book about espionage that happened in the national press building was because a vast majority of them had nothing to do with espionage. that is a very important point. the reason they could use journalism as a cover was because there were hiding themselves among people who were not spies. there was just a tiny amount of them who were. in today's world that is important to remember. i also think that, skipping
ahead to something i think we might talk about afterwards, i think the take-home message that i have about the book is not that there is an enormous amount of espionage involving journalism now, or that newspapers are riddled with so-called fake news, it is the opposite. journalism itself is under assault and the truth is under assault and it is something that is very important for all of us to work against. with that disclaimer aside, i will get into the meat of the book. when i started working on the book i found out that there were two categories of people that i write about in the book. one is professional spies who pretended to be journalists. there was a surprising number of them, unsurprisingly a lot of them had russian accents. there were also some that worked for the cia.
mark will talk about that. there was a cia undercover operation in the building. the second category that is more important and more interesting is, there were journalists who dabbled in espionage, and there were people who work full-time -- were full-time journalists and they cooperated to a lesser or greater extent with espionage services, with intelligent services. i want to tell a few stories about them. when mark comes up we will talk about the other side that he is more familiar with. the most dramatic example of the spy who dabbled in espionage, his name was john franklin carter. probably nobody here -- the name does not ring a bell. in the late 1930's, early 1940's, he was well-known.
he was a columnist and his column appeared in newspapers all over the country under the pen name j. franklin. it appeared next to elenor roosevelt columns and drew pearson. kind of the punditry of the day. the television pundits of the day wrote columns in newspapers and he was one of them. before he would become a columnist he worked at the state department starting in the late 1920's. he wrote books, he wrote novels. he wrote them under a pseudonym. he called himself the diplomat. the novels were about a fictional intelligent agency -- intelligence agency called "the bureau current political intelligent." it was headed by a swath, debonair diplomat. obviously his alter ego, who reported directly to the president. between cocktails he solve
-- solves difficult mysteries. one of the novels was called "murder in the state department." when his superiors at the state department found out he was writing these novels they give him a choice. cut it out or quit, so he quit. in the course of doing -- in writing these novels he came to know franklin roosevelt. after he quit, first he got a job working in the new deal and then he came to this building and set himself up with a -- as a columnist. his office was one for below this. he wrote this column called we the people. in 1941 he approached the president and said, intelligent -- intelligence in this country lapsed up. it is all screwed up, and he was right. intelligence that time was either nonexistent or screwed up. he said you need a private intelligence service that reports right to you.
no bullshit. no titles. all off the books and completely secret. i know just the person to run it, me. [laughter] roosevelt said, that is a great idea, do it. don't get caught, i will not acknowledge you, there will never be anything on paper. if anything comes out about it i will deny it. and it is all over. carter accepted under those conditions and congress had given roosevelt a slush fund he could use for emergencies. he decided to pay carter and a number of operatives that worked for carter. a lot of the work that carter did in the early years, in the early months, was what we would call opposition research now. it was research against political opponents of the president trying to dig up dirt on them, to discredit them. the most prominent person who he
spied on and also try to help roosevelt discredit was when lindbergh, the aviator who is a prominent isolationist. he did legitimate intelligence work. the most important job he did before the war was roosevelt asked him to investigate the loyalty of the japanese on the west coast of the united states and hawaii. carter sent an agent out there who made contact with the office of naval intelligence, with the fbi, who went and interviewed scores of japanese-americans. he produced a series of reports for the president and said there are about 150 japanese spies on the west coast. we know who they are. in case of conflict the fbi can arrest them overnight. other than that the japanese do not pose a threat. they are more at risk from the americans who are living around them than americans are from them. in case of conflict you should protect the japanese. roosevelt did not pay attention to that.
once the war started there were hundreds of different things that carter and his operation did. you would have to read the book to find out. the most spectacular one was that he sprung a leading nazi who was in an internment camp in canada, secretly brought him to washington, set him up in a decrepit mansion in alexandria with an alcoholic cook and a servant and a guard and had him work on counterintelligence and counter propaganda activities and writing reports for the president. the one that roosevelt enjoyed the most was a book about hitler's sex life, which roosevelt really, really liked. that is one example. carter, throughout this, and at one time he had 20 operatives working for him.
he had a very large operation. none of his colleagues knew about it. he came and went all of the time. after the war when it all came out, nobody thought that he had done anything wrong even though he was lying to his colleagues and was working for the president. it was pretty extreme. fast-forward. another operation i wanted to talk about was british intelligence. one of the things i was surprised to find out was the extent of british intelligence in the united states in 1940 in -- and 1941. it was a massive operation with over thousands of people in the united states, canada and south america. the whole goal was to get the united states into the war. to get them to provide assistance to britain and then to get them in the war and swing public opinion in favor. they did amazing things. they created an industrial scale of what we would call today, fake news operations. they had a committee that met twice a week in london and they
would approve rumors of fake stories that they wanted to get into the united states newspapers. within a couple of days those stories would appear in american newspapers. i found these memos in the archives in great britain listing the rumors. then i found in the new york times, the washington post and new york posts those same stories. one of the ways that they got them there was that the british subsidized a news agency called the overseas news agency. according to the british, they said that they controlled it. i don't know if that is an exaggeration but they managed to get all the stories they wanted published in the news service. the new service, and turn published in american , newspapers. another thing that they did was
the british created fake public opinion polls and there was an operator for the british to work in this building who created them. they were used to try to convince politicians who were on the edge and did not know whether they should go isolationist or support intervention to convince them their constituents wanted them on the intervention side. it was also used to promote the republicans picking wendell as their presidential candidate. a third thing that they did was dirty tricks. there were operatives in the building that worked for british intelligence, some of them journalists who knowingly created and disseminated false stories, lies about isolationist politicians in an effort to prevent them from being elected or reelected. the whole thing has echoes in things that are happening today. the final story i want to tell before mark comes up is about the cuban missile crisis.
one of the reasons i want to tell this is because it involves people that some people in this room knew. two former presidents of the national press club. and a prominent member of the national press club. with ated in the eisenhower adn very beloved reporter in the press club, former president of the press club, named frank homeland, who befriended a soviet journalist. and to everybody believed was an intelligence operative, and he was. he befriended him. he encouraged him to pass
bobby kennedy and they had what today would be called a bromance. arrange these meetings between the two of them, and then bobby kennedy shakov to thel president. one of his key jobs was to try to reduce tensions between the united states and the soviet union, and one of the ways he did this was trying to persuade the kennedys that soviet intentions and cuba were entirely per nine. at one point president kennedy hakov into thels white house. he said, i have heard you want to reduce tensions between the united states and the soviet union, the crew's jeff wants us to stop sending airplanes -- that khrushchev wants us to stop ships, airplanes over
and we are going to do that to reduce tensions. and of course, those ships were sending missiles to cuba. when the kennedys found out there were missiles in cuba, one crossedirst things that bobby kennedy's mind was he had been played by bolshakov. kennedyse crisis, the sent intermediaries to meet with kov to use as a that channel to these soviet leadership. president warren rogers, a great president and a beloved person in the press club said -- there's a longer story in the book about it, but to cut two most interesting episode, he had after kennedytly
got on television and very dramatically announced the rigby and american quarantine around cuba to prevent them shipping more missiles around there, the united states was going to mass troops for a possible invasion of cuba. so he was invited to come along with, what we would call today and embedded reporter. , the bureauis boss chief to the bar and told him to come along and asked him to give $400 as an advance. what they did not realize was their conversation was overheard by the bartender who was a russian from latvia. task hours later, a reporter, a kgb officer, came up
hethe press club bar, and told him about this conversation. nobody really knows why he did this. he wasople speculated actually a kgb source or agents. there's no evidence to support that. maybe he was taunting the kgb and saying, you know what? the americans are going to be watching ann arbor in a week. bondedhe two of them had because they played chess together. i don't know. the kgb officer interestingly ran over to the embassy, which hear, and toldto .is superior he shot this off to moscow, and that ang to documents
russian historian had on earth, chris jeff received this message and it played a critical part in his decision to -- chris job -- khrushchev received this message in a plate of critical part in his decision to turn the ships back. a television reporter had a relationship with this kgb officer. like all kgb officers liked to do, he had another name in the united states. he called himself bowman. he would go to the fbi and tell them everything he had heard. crisisthe cuban missile he called him it, up and said, let's go to lunch. overfter the lunch he ran
to foggy bottom and he said the russians are close to a good deal resolving the cuban missile nationsand the united will be dismantling the missiles and stuff like that. and the state department, the secretary of state brought this news to the kennedys, and together they crafted the message to send back to close jeff -- khrushchev, basically agreeing on it. and bowman met with him at this copy shop and he gave him this message and he ran back to the embassy and nothing happened because he wanted to send this , butge to the politburo the way the hierarchy in the embassy works, to send it to the politburo, he had to send it to
the ambassador who was not at all happy about the kgb going around him and doing secret negotiations and he said no. eventually, hours and hours the cable, not to be politburo, but to the kgb and the kgb eventually decrypts it, and it gets to the kremlin and there's no evidence that khrushchev ever even saw it. when they got messages back from khrushchev, it did not refer to this deal. they thought khrushchev was being difficult and it created this mush in the middle of it, but it was not until -- i don't know, 20 years ago, that the not that he -- scully was
acting as a back channel to the soviets came out and he was hailed as a hero and he went on to have a career in government. no sin made him an and back -- nixon made him an ambassador to the united nations largely on the back of this mythical role he played as a back channel. anyway, i want to bring up mark and ask him to talk about this other side of things. >> great. this seems a little loud to me. does this seem loud to you? i amis a great topic passionate about. those of you who have not read it should do immediately. into some of get the stories and lessons here -- since we are historians, let's do a little historian business. curiouslast book, i was
how you got into this. journalists and intelligence officers have certain things in common. could you tell us a little bit about how you wrote the book? this after i wrote my first book which was about the rosenbergs conspiring. know -- a guidebook to places in washington in i created a huge spreadsheet. i said, that's not going to be really helpful. stay -- i willll
start with the press building. i will write 100 words about the press building. two things happen. i found a huge amount happened here and the other thing, as you somebody else had this great idea and wrote a great book. so i'm very happy i did not do it because this book is better than what i would have written and my book was more interesting to me than doing that. ,f you look at the endnotes there is a wide range of sources. but basically, there was a great deal leaked out from the kgb. the main sources for that are the so-called for nona transcripts, i a program that where theystates had were able to crack the soviet the -- therer word
vesili notebooks. she got access to the kgb. here is things happened, and just went with it to london and hijinks ensues. , but it's fantastic for us. it's all out there. it's all translated and published. freedom from information act for the cia and there are memoirs, some of it kgb interviews with former generals provided some
information. there are cia officers, former fbi officers. >> despite what people around the cia ishing, really, really reluctant to use journalists in operations in other countries have had no such reluctance. of the soviet union is certainly one of those. forthe soviet press agency decades had a presence in this building, i think from 1943, when roscoe recognize the soviet union everybody knew here, everybody in washington new, journalists, but it was a cover for espionage. to get the agency able away with this? was the fbi watching them or -- we are, weike, here
are the soviet guys and everybody knows it. it was really remarkable. they were exactly where we are sitting. this corridor was not where we are. it was here or 20 yards down here. they had a picture of stalin and lennon on the wall in a couple -- >> both an enormous stance of the free press. >> yes. [laughter] his very earliest days it might not of been -- spying was probably a sideline and the main thing they were doing was collecting news or propaganda. they had a number of merit of -- of americans that works them. but it was transformed into an for espionage with
journalism on top of it. the fbi, of course, was well are aware of it, at least from the start of the second world war, they bobbed the office. they arranged to have its trash picked up outside every day. there was someone from the fbi that had to go through the gum wrappers and bottle tops and try to find stuff in there. they were under observation, but they still managed to pull off some remarkable operations, a whole string of them, he even though everybody knew that is .hat they were doing i think in part it was because the fbi did not have the resources to follow them as kgbely as, for example, the followed americans in the soviet union in the cold war. in part, maybe it is because the soviet union is such a target rich environment, it was not
that difficult for them, especially during the second world war and the years just war. the second world the result tremendous amount of sympathy for the soviet cause and the soviets penetrated every aspect of american society. there was a section though in your book, which if i recall correctly, you talked about how the fbi was reluctant to into the building, reluctant to enter thatress club, and provided enough space so soviet officers -- that is a great story.
he went on to become the head of kgb. he was and is extremely charming. i'm sure you know him. he tells great stories. he tells a bunch of stories. one of the stories he tells is yet a foreign diplomat providing heormation to the kgb, and knew the fbi was following him, but when he would come into the press building, they would not get in the l.a. -- in the elevator with him. towould come up to the club, the bar. they were not members of the press club. they could not go to the bar. he would go to the bar, have a few drinks. he was very popular here. and he would leave like he was going to the bathroom. stairs, scoot down the a couple floors, and the corridor's in the building, a is a huge floors --
horseshoe shape. so he would arrange that this diplomat would come up in another elevator, get out, take the stairs, come up to the same floor and they would walk towards each other where they can see over each other's shoulders. if there was anybody following them they would give a hand signal or something and keep going. but if there wasn't anybody else in the corridor's, then the two of them would duck into one of the stairwells in the diplomat him the secrets. and he would jog back up to the bar, have a few more drinks and leave. , he probablyy out waved to the fbi. cia's project mockingbird? operation mockingbird is
really interesting. if you google it, you will find a lot of stuff. things that lot of the cia may have done or may not , but as far as i know, from the documents i was able to find, operation mockingbird was a project to plug leaks. president kennedy became enraged by leaks of national security information in prominent newspapers and he believed the fbi couldn't or wouldn't do enough to find out where these leaks were coming from. the fbi toed reporters. man who -- ifs a
theread my book, he is first spy i mentioned because in 1933 he was spying for the soviet union. by this time, by the 1960's, he was an anti-communist sell it, and he was convinced that kennedy was sleepwalking the united states into capitulation to the soviets. he had two sources in the white house. one of them was a clerk who had access to documents. he had all of these tremendous sources feeding him information because they believe to the same things he believed and he wrote ofmy fictionalized versions all this information he would get in the newspapers and it drove these cia crazy. they bugged his phone, they of andpartners' phones,
without whom his sources were. this only lasted a few months and then it got shut down. why itt entirely clear got shut down. i think the ca that there was a security -- i think the cia thought there is a security leak and it was not legal for the cia to be bugging american reporters at that time. they never did find out who the source and the cia was who was leaking to him. >> did they find out -- >> no, nobody knew that. that came out as a result of the gnome the transcripts and he was long dead by the time anybody found that out. the press club as an institution and its officers, cooperating with the u.s. government, what role did this instant to touche and play?
-- this institution play? interesting story about that. hoover -- he was fanatically fbi. to himself and to the and it was terribly important to him to maintain his personal reputation and power and the fbi's one of the things he would do is he controlled fbi interactions with the press. he did not want fbi agents blundering into reporters and trying to recruit them as sources and that ending up in the press and smearing the fbi. he had a strict rule of engagement. if anyone in the fbi wanted to contact a reporter, they had to do a background check on the reporter, they had to get permission from their superior at the fbi to probably would
have prompted all the way up to hoover and it would take at least a month before they could have permission to approach somebody. there was an fbi counterintelligence officer who was assigned to follow all who were known kgb officers. aboutigured a workaround this. the result particular kgb officer. officer liked to tell american -- ask american reporters to have lunch with him. just to learn something about american society and the fbi really wanted to know what they were talking about. so what he would do, this fbi agent, he would call the --sident's of the national the president of the national press club up and he would say
we know that this guy is going to meet for lunch with a certain reporter and he would say -- is this guy ok? and the president of the club would say don't mess with him or , you know what? he is an marine. he is going to be fine, and the president of the club would call the reporter up and say, you know, the fbi would really like it if you would volunteer to cooperate with them and most of the time the reporter would call this agent up and volunteer. and then they were off and running. and so, other fbi agents found
out about this and they did the same thing. so they used this guy. they did it with two different presidents to help them recruit american reporters as sources. that raises the question of what should be the proper relationship between an american journalist and government. andthere was a great scoop i wondered if you could outline that story and maybe reflect on what does this research tell you it the appropriate intelligence awareness that an american journalist should have? we are skipping around to
different times. and i will tell the story, but there's an end to that -- things now are very different. chicagod for the tribune, which was a fiercely isolationist, anti-roosevelt newspaper. it was the fox news of its day, and he was friends with the most fiercely isolationist senator in washington. his name was burton wheeler. he was from, i believe, montana. thead developed a source in military, in the army, who was feeding him information. this source came to him one day and gave him what was called the rainbow five and that was a series of contingency plans
about what to do if the united states went to war in europe. take atid it would least two years for the american military to be prepared. x number need to build of ships, of planes. they laid out the whole plan. manly goes over to his house. he has a secretary that takes it all down in shorthand and the next day he publishes this, the american plan for the second world war. the germans -- >> this is something like -- >> i was going to get to that. >> the -- ok. german ambassador cables
and sends it straight to berlin. stopsrlin high command everything they are doing and they realize this is incredible era they also realize, if the united states get into a war, it will take them to years, but they will have an overwhelming force and that will be the end of it. they wrote up this plan and they sent it to hitler's and they attack have to stop this on the soviet union. britain.o crush we have to occupy the iberian peninsula, and we have two years to do this before the united states are going to come. and hitler's actually signed an order saying they are going to do this. actually for the world he tore
it up and insisted on continuing with the invasion of the soviet union. it was a very close thing. washington they had to figure out who leaked it to them. it did not come out for many years who leaked it to chesley manly. four years -- four days later, pearl harbor happened and it was blown off of peoples consciousness. why did he do this? he and his they were isolationist, not fascists. they believed firmly that roosevelt was secretly and deviously trying to get america into a war that the united states should not be in. and that exposing this, this was the height of journalistic responsibility. they were shining a light on
hidden plans and they would see -- save the united states from the war. one pearl harbor happened and the united states gotten a war manley said he wanted to slit his throat. he realized what a horrible thing it was. to me, part of the message is, for journalists of the most , one sacred and important things a journalist can do is blowing a whistle on government malfeasance, shining a light on things the government is trying to hide that they should not be -- hiding. on the other hand, just having good intentions is not enough. people need to think about the consequences and maybe they are not always right. chesley manley was not always right. the last question and then i will be trying this over to the audience. >> there have been a few fights
in the national press club. i am sure nobody here today was ever involved in any. i learned from your book that those fights i imagine were not height of violence. there is it -- there was at least one no kid in -- no kidding trained assassin. vladimir probably didn't -- provdin. stand up guy. do you want to talk about him before we take questions? mr. usdin: we are going back down to the second world war. the head of task for all of the united states, he was based in york but spending great till of -- deal of time here, again, right in this room probably, in washington. his name was vladimir providence -- vladimir, which means man of truth. that was not his real name. his real name was -- and he was the son of a cello instructor then he went to st. petersburg
after being born in england. he went to russia where his father taught at the conservatory. he learned to speak russian. he left a few years after the founding of the soviet union. york and wasn new working in hotels in york. spent two years as a guest of the american government in penitentiary for impersonating an immigration officer. deported back to england where he was born. he was an english citizen. was recruited into soviet intelligence. one of the more spectacular operations was there was another soviet intelligence officer who had defected as a result of the purges. he sent a letter to stalin for turning a metal he had gotten saying i am done with you guys. you are rotten and i will join
up with trotsky. he knew that stalin would send people to kill him. he was hiding. the person he sent to kill him was pravdin. he recruited this guy's former girlfriend and seduced her. he told her he was going to marry her. she got in contact with this guy that went to switzerland and pravdin gave her a box of chocolates to give to him which were filled with strict knives. -- strychnine. she gives the chocolates to him and at the not -- he takes them and then she snatches them back because she gets cold feet because the guys wife and child is there and she does not want to murder the wife and child. then pravdin gets her to arrange a meeting and a car. -- in a car in april area of switzerland. he drives up with a machine gun and liquidates him. when the swiss police find him
later, the corpse, he has the hair of this woman in his hand. so pravdin and the woman escapes and they go back and she was put into a camp because the kgb did not like that she was sentimental about killing women and children. [laughter] happened to her. pravdin was promoted and was given this new name. he came to the u.s. and his cover was to be the head of tass. he was meeting with walter lippman in the head of upi, and ap. he was considered to be a very prominent soviet representative. at the same time, he was running soviet intelligence at a time when the soviet union had penetrated every aspect of the american government.
they ran really amazing spy operations, including from this building. one of the people who he recruited into soviet espionage was a woman named judith who worked at the justice department as a liaison working on intelligence operations against the soviet union. mark: on that note i consider. -- i could sit here and geek out with steve all evening but i'm sure there are questions from the audience. gil will run the microphone to you for the sake of the c-span filming. who has a question? >> i will start. stone, a very interesting american journalists. tell us a little bit about his relationship to the soviet.
mr. usdin: talk about revered journalists. he was a revered journalist and muckraker. early in his career he was a man -- maybe he was a communist, i don't know if he was, but he was a leftist and he did not make any efforts to hide that. at one point he was recruited and was a paid operative of soviet intelligence. i write about in the book, and i think that -- we don't know 100% everything that he did, but we know some of the things that he did. there are two ways that a journalist like him was useful to the soviets at that time. it was not about stealing secrets. he did not have access to secrets. if you imagine that if you were a soviet kgb officer, the united states -- it was not called the kgb but we were call it that. -- will call it that. the united states has recognized
the soviet union, you come here, you barely speak english, you are working in the embassy in washington and you have to recruit americans to spy on the united states. if you do not do it you will suffer consequences. this was stalin's era. if you screw up, you will really suffer consequences. you screw up if the fbi catches you, or if you try to recruit somebody and they run to the fbi or to the newspapers, you are toast and your family is toast. what do you do? you go to people who can help you identify people who are going to be likely empathetic to the soviet union. that is one of the things that stone did. he gave lists of people to soviet intelligence who he thought could be recruited. the other thing that soviet intelligence wanted then as any soviet intelligence wants now is, they want to be able to plant stories and newspapers.
who can do it better than a journalist. >> the gentleman in the second row. >> really quickly. stone definitely worked for the kgb. it was for a relatively short period of time. later, there were two attempts, including one from vladimir pravdin to entice him to work from the soviets again and he rebuffed both of them. >> you started off at the building being built in 1927. so from the 1930's on, this seems to be the most obvious target for intelligence in washington. you have all of them in one building. with electronic intelligence and cables, we know the soviets and russians can do it from above the hills. they do it and san francisco.
they can electronic surveillance. the question is, do you have any evidence of how the soviets or how the french, germans, or chinese survey of this building and its occupants over it. -- over a period of time? and what is the protocol of journalists who find they are surveilled? what is the expectation to how they respond? mr. usdin: in the 1930's i don't think there was any sophisticated surveillance. it was old-fashioned face-to-face stuff. they would meet in the club, they would meet in bars, the smoky rooms were they were -- where they were playing cards. all the cliches from the movies is, a lot of it was that way. i have never seen any evidence of anything much more sophisticated than that. the fbi in the late 1940's started tapping the phones and bugging their office.
i am not aware of the soviets having electronic surveillance against other reporters here. by definition, most of what intelligence does this tries to keep it secret and i don't pretend that i found out everything that happened. there are some things that i found out about that i thought sounded like they were probably intelligence operations and there probably were people cooperating in working with other services, but i cannot prove it 100% and i did not write about those. i felt strongly about that then and now that it is irresponsible and dangerous to accuse anyone of being involved in espionage if they have neither admitted it or there is not any clear documentary evidence that it is so.
>> just to comment quickly. what we know a great deal about soviet espionage, human operations, we know very little about soviet, correspondingly about russian signals intelligence that we know some bits and pieces about their cyber operation. you're asking a question about -- that has been a historical black hole. if i were a reporter here i would be really worried about my telephones and i would take great care with them. the russians are good at that sort of thing. >> we have a question here. >> during the time when the soviets had their operation within the building, is there any stories or evidence of them being able to directly influence american journalism through some sort of framing stories or skewing the truth? mr. usdin: i would argue that,
certainly i give you for stories that were tremendously sympathetic to the soviet cause. you could argue, was he doing it because he was working for soviet intelligence or was he working for soviet intelligence because he was sympathetic to the soviet cause? that is hard to discern. there have been numerous soviet intelligence officers over the years who have close and friendly relationships with american reporters and use those relationships to gather information, but also to persuade them to report things in ways that were slanted to the soviet union. there were also more over at -- covert operations. the soviets had active measures. efforts to plant propaganda into american newspapers. one example that is much more recent was in the 1980's. they had success around the
world in persuading people that aids was a result of chemical and biological warfare activities of the american government. i find that particularly reprehensible because it is a disgusting thing to allege one it is not true. one of the things that happened as a result of that is that people did not believe that aids was caused by the hiv virus. they did not believe that anti-retroviral drugs could extend people's lives and people died as a result of that. it also leads me to something else that i wanted to say, which is at the end of my book, which is the difference of what is happening today and what happened during the cold war. during the cold war both sides, the united states and the soviets planted stories in newspapers around the world. a talking little bit about that -- i talk a little bit about
that. the reason they did it is because people believed what was in the newspapers. they believe what was in the new york times and what was on cbs news. if the soviets could get a fake story into an american newspaper it was tremendous because everybody would believe it. today, it is very different , i think. the russian intelligence, and i have to say the united states, from the white house down, their goal is not to persuade americans that something that is not true is true, their goal seems to be to persuade americans that there is no such thing as truth. or that if there is, you can never know what it is. for example, when something happens that the russian government wants to fuzz up, shooting down an airplane over
ukraine, trying to assassinate a former officer in the united kingdom, they do not put out a lie and try to get everybody to believe it, they put out 10 lies on the same day that are all contradictory. the reason that they do that is because some people will believe this one, some will believe that one. but a lot of people will throw their hands up and say, maybe it could be this or that, who knows. when in fact, we do know. >> you talk about planting stories and how it happened on both sides and in several newspapers. things are different now. at the time, did the papers ever wise up, or did they change their policies in regards to catching some of the fake news that was seeping in? did anything change in the news
business side as more information became evident? mr. usdin: the first instant is just before and during the -- before entering the second world war when british intelligence had this industrial scale operation to get fake stories into american newspapers. just to give one example, they decided to plant a story in 1941 that hitler's had gone crazy. that his physician had gone to meet carl young in switzerland to try to get the diagnosis and care for him. he was raving and thought it was the first world war all over again. that story got into newspapers all over the world. it was never retracted. it seems that the newspapers that published it to leave did.
-- believed it. the only instance that i found was one that the newspaper walked something back was that the british put out a story through overseas news agencies. the story was that the british invented a super explosive that was 47 times more powerful than any known explosive. there were putting him in depth charges and they would use it to decimate german submarines. this was super secret. they had reporters that went around and interviewed british military and industrial people involved in creating this who told him about it and said it was super secret. at the time nobody asked that if this is secret, how could they be worried about it? it was on the front page of the new york times and other papers.
the day after that the new york times buried a little story saying, that story we ran yesterday, maybe you should take it with a grain of salt. maybe it was not really true. very, very, very few. if you go over time, during the cold war, of course the american media became hardened and aware of efforts to plant fake stories in american newspapers and in radio and television and it became increasingly difficult. because of that, the soviets would plant stories and foreign newspapers. and the united states did the same. they planted stories and foreign newspapers. both the united states and soviet union used them to plant their story.
they also used book publishers to spread information create the soviets had captive book publishers. the cia also had relationships with book publishers. it was actually created by a guy named eugene. he had actually been in intelligence operative during the second world war. after he started the photo guide series. later when the cia was created they approached him and asked him to hire cia officers to give them cover that they could travel around. he was pleased to do it but the only condition he had was that they had to actually write the book. and they did.
>> thank you for the talk. there he interesting. it seems like throughout history and in many of the stories you have a told involve journalists planted to mislead a foreign audience. are there cases that you know of that are the reverse? they were planted to -- a -- mislead a domestic audience? mr. usdin: do you mean journalist who want to mislead americans? >> yeah. >> most of what i was talking about about british intelligence
was american reporters who were planting stories in american newspapers that were intended to persuade americans of things that were not true, to mislead americans on behalf of britain. that was an example of that. i use the building and the reports the operations were , happening in the building is a window into the topic of the relationship between espionage and journalism. i cannot claim to be an expert on it and i did not write about it, but certainly there are examples of reporters, even in the cold war. they were trying to mislead americans. there was a publication that was called covert action information bulletin. that was a publication that was
published by people that were aligned by people with the cia defector called philip. they publish soviet disinformation. they published until congress passed a law preventing them from doing this. they published names and biographies of cia operatives who are working overseas with -- were working overseas with the intention of disrupting the cia's ability to conduct intelligence overseas. mark: i think the rest of the question was rather -- whether you come across questions of journalist who had been suborned by u.s. intelligence to mislead the american public. by the bureau or cia. mr. usdin: i am not aware of that happening. >> a lot of people believe that is fairly common. mr. usdin: i am not aware of that happening.
i write in the book about blowback where american reporters has stories that were fake stories put in newspapers overseas intended to mislead people overseas. later, though stories came back here. >> oops. [laughter] impossible now for the cia to plant a story overseas and expect it would stay there. anything that they plant anywhere would come back. i am not aware of and i did not come across in my research examples of the cia or fbi trying to get american reporters to tell lies to americans. i came across examples of foreign intelligence agencies doing that and succeeding. >> you just answered the question. >> anybody else?
if not, i think we will start to wrap it up. why don't you all have one more shot at it. [laughter] >> so much to work with here. i guess i would just ask you -- we talked a lot about the soviets and the british, were there other players here? >> sure. i don't want to be too soviet. >> there were others. >> in 1941, which at the time, i said at the beginning the vast majority of american reporters were not involved with espionage and that is true. that there was this time in 1940 and 1941 where it was like casablanca.
there were people working in british intelligence. there were nazis. there were american fascists. there were reporters working for imperial japan in a class i intelligence -- clause i intelligence role. one was a german new service that was called german transocean news. it was a front for propaganda and intelligence. they tried to do some of the same things that the british did but they were far less effective. they persuaded an american newspaper publisher to print thousands of copies of the book that reported to be cables of american diplomatic activities. in europe this was something theoretically captured in poland and it showed that the american state department trying to maneuver the united states into the war.
then it was exposed as a fabrication and the whole thing blew up. mark: one of the things that struck me was in your book there was a great deal of camaraderie between american journalists and spies or intelligence officers from other countries. there were soviets that got sent to the gulags. the members intervened. there was a japanese reporter in your book that i was very fond of. i thought it was interesting when you are talking about international brotherhood of reporters that could cross ideological lines. mr. usdin: there are two things about it. one, reporters generally like each other often. >> a gregarious lot. >> the press club before 1970, it was a ticking club. -- drinking club. drinking, poker, causing,
-- cussing, spitting and all that stuff and women were not admitted intel 1971. they liked each other. if you think about it, who makes good spies? people that make good spies are people that are likable. people that get along with each other. it is not surprising that a lot of them did like each other. one of the more dramatic examples was the second story that i tell in the book. it was a fellow named vladimir was a soviet intelligence officer. he came to the united states undercover of being the first soviet reporter who was posted to the united states. he was adored. people loved him. bernie pyle, who later became famous for writing stories in the second world war about average gis and stuff. he wrote a whole column that was
printed in newspapers that would've made them blush. it said what a wonderful person he was. how he was altruistic and spoke multiple languages. he practically could stop speeding trains with his hand. they loved him. he was called back to soviet union and he was told that he would be made a reporter in london. it is unlikely if you really believe that was why he was going back. he went back and he went back with his wife and child. he was arrested when he got back and he was a witness, he was used as a witness in a trial of people alleged to have been collaborating with trotsky in one of the show trials that they allegedly were trying to overthrow the soviet union. he had to confess in this trout to being an agent of the
japanese and of the germans in all of this horrible stuff. when the american reporters found out about this, they were astounded and horrified and believed he was absolutely innocent. the president of the national of the boardembers of governors, and all the prominent journalist in washington sent a cable and said -- a cable to stalin and said you have the wrong guy, this guy was a solid advocate for the soviet union, he could not have been a spy. they went to the soviet embassy and demanded an audience of the soviet ambassador and said this is all a big mistake, he could not have been a spy. of course he was not a spy. it was not really relevant. he was executed. eventually, they rehabilitated
him, for whatever that was worth. there are a lot of stories like that of people suspected or new likely spies for foreign governments or were involved in espionage but they were still happy to share a beer with them. >> i definitely recommend all of you buy the book. it's available outside with my former colleagues with the international spy museum. i think he will be happy to sign the book as well. [applause] >> thank you all. the books are out there. come up to the bar if you are a club member. we can keep the tradition going.