Steinem on CIA

Apsken at Apsken at
Tue Mar 9 11:06:33 PST 1999

Bill Lear asked,

"Could you please expand on the 'list of liberal foundations that laundered CIA money'? Anything current or otherwise of general interest?"

If I recall correctly, some of them are mentioned in Victor Marchetti's book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, and in John Marks's book, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. After protestors at the Harvard International Studies Center liberated secret CIA files during a teach-in, the Africa Research Group published the most important one, Intelligence and Foreign Policy (CIA covert-ops chief Richard Bissell's speech to the secret Council on Foreign Relations inner circle), as a pamphlet (reprinted as an appendix to Marchetti's book, but without ARG's explanatory text), with annotations that included a comprehensive list of CIA foundations. I think Ralph McGehee's CIAbase should include them all.

Unfortunately my files are still beyond my reach in Mississippi, but I can cite a couple of examples from memory.

In the South, the great ideological divide was between the grass-roots radical insurgent groupings around the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), which employed me from 1971 to 1975, and the liberal Southern Regional Council (SRC), which sought top-down change through enlightened, self-interested elites gaining power. SCEF's Anne Braden described this conflict in her 1965 book, The Southern Freedom Movement in Perspective.

Carl and Anne Braden of SCEF were relentlessly redbaited, not only by the rabid right and HUAC (which imprisoned Carl for refusing to testify), but also by Leslie Dunbar, the head of SRC, who demanded that SNCC exclude the Bradens as a condition of SRC support. He demanded that Martin Luther King break relations with Stanley Levison for the same reason, which MLK refused to do. That story is told in a recent Taylor Branch volume, I believe.

SCEF worked through the indigenous mass movements -- SNCC, trade unions, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Lowndes County Freedom Party, Council of the Southern Mountains, Highlander Center, and so forth. Dunbar's SRC worked through Human Relations Council branch offices. In Mississippi, the HRC was headed by Rev. Kenneth Dean. When my lawsuit against the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission revealed that Dean and Dunbar had collaborated secretly with the spy agency, Dunbar (by then head of the Field Foundation) demanded that my then employer, the American Friends Service Committee, fire me. To its credit, AFSC refused. Although Dunbar controlled millions of dollars in grants to AFSC projects, he backed down when AFSC firmly supported my work.

None of this was any surprise to activists of those years. In his memoir A Republic of Equals, Dunbar had referred to himself and his Kennedy-era cronies as "the ruling class." Why shouldn't they have been carrying on like this?

Meanwhile, Ramparts had exposed the list of liberal foundations that channeled CIA money secretly to recipients, among them the Norman Foundation. It turned out that Norman had provided cover for the CIA's grants to the Southern Regional Council during the Dunbar years, revealed by Drew Pearson in the ripple of revelations that trailed Ramparts. For radicals, this too was merely logical, but the disclosure caused a (brief) period of soul-searching among Mississippi liberals.

Other Foundations on the list included the J.M. Kaplan Fund, which I've seen in the news lately but I don't recall why, and [I think this is the correct name] the Foundation for Human Ecology, which funded the CIA's mind control experiments at the University of Wisconsin and at McGill University. But the full list is quite long, and many recipients of CIA money escaped unnoticed by the press.

For the book Dirty Work 2 -- the CIA in Africa, I interviwed Naomi Ware, the ex-wife of James Hooker, the Marxist biographer of George Padmore, and writer for Radical America. Hooker had been recruited to the CIA as an undergraduate in the 1950s, and had successfully infiltrated all the liberation movements in exile, trusted by their leaderships. Ware told me that at the time of the Ramparts disclosures, Hooker feared exposure because his funds had been channeled through one of the CIA foundations in the news, but that somehow he escaped scrutiny and carried on his CIA work well into the Angolan post- independence war. I don't recall the name of the foundation, if she mentioned it.

The late African scholar and activist Sean Gervasi claimed that the American Committee on Africa and its leader, George Houser, were funded by the CIA similarly, though on what evidence I never learned. That charge was "tainted" when it was published not in the U.S. media but by TASS reporter Oleg Ignatiev.

Ken Lawrence

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list