1968 August 5

CIA Memo Explains Co-opting Universities, Professors


A CIA memo on this day explained its operations related to co-opting colleges and universities and professors. The CIA had begun secret funding of institutions and people in the 1950s. The program was finally exposed on February 15, 1967, by an article in Ramparts magazine. Following the exposure, President Lyndon Johnson issued a policy on March 29, 1967, that prohibited any such secret funding.

The history of the role of academics and intellectuals in serving the U.S. during wartime was the subject of blistering criticisms, first by Randolph Bourne in “War and the Intellectuals” during World War I (see December 22, 1918), and during the Vietnam War by Noah Chomsky in a famous essay, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” published on February 23, 1967.

The memo: “ . . . my guess is that 99% of the members of the academy would be willing to assist the Agency if properly and skillfully approached, and that only a small fraction of that other 1% would be angered by an invitation to assist or would attempt to embarrass the Agency in any way.”

Read: Philip Zwerling, The CIA on Campus: Essays on Academic Freedom and the National Security State (2011)

Learn more: Hugh Wilford, A Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008)

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