More than meets the eye?

Eye1191_2 The latest issue of Private Eye features two very interesting stories that, in subtly, contrasting ways, raise the issue of covert political manipulation by intelligence agencies.

On page 6, the HP sauce column tells us that Gordon Brown is currently reading Who Paid the Piper? by Frances Stonor Saunders, a study of ‘CIA secret funding and manipulation of intellectuals and writers in the cold war.’

Stonor Saunders told the Eye she was ‘dumbfounded’ to learn that Gordon Brown was using the book, which she intended as an exposé, as a source of ideas for the war on terror.

The second story ‘Whistleblowing in the Wind’ on page 7 concerns a Foreign Office diplomat who is currently waiting to hear whether he will face charges under the Official Secrets Act, after leaking documents about government relations with organisations connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The material appeared in the Observer and the New Statesman and in a pamphlet by the Conservative thinktank Policy Exchange. The Eye thinks the official in question deserves a knighthood, if anything, for helping to change government policy.

There is a connection betweeen thse two stories. Policy Exchange’s research director for terrorism and security, Dean Godson, is the son of Joseph Godson, a US Labour attache in London during the 1950s, who was involved in just the kind of cold war activities that Stonor Saunders’ book covers.

Dean Godson himself has written:

During the Cold War, organisations such as the Information Research
Department of the Foreign Office would assert the superiority of the
West over its totalitarian rivals. And magazines such as Encounter
did hand-to-hand combat with Soviet fellow travellers. For any kind of
truly moderate Islam to flourish, we need first to recapture our own
self-confidence. (Times Online)

The IRD was a secret anti-communist propaganda unit. Encounter was a British literary magazine which was revealed in 1967 to be funded by the CIA.

There is a useful discussion of how to conduct covert political action in Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: US Covert Action and Counterintelligence, by Dean Godson’s brother Roy. I suspect it is exactly the book that Gordon Brown is looking for.

In the light of all this, the controversy over Foreign Office contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood raises a question I have asked previously:

Is there a US covert operation to shape British politics?

If there is, it would seem to have been successful in altering government policy. The implications are worth considering in the light of this comment by former CIA agent Mike Scheuer:

covert political action campaigns are almost always directed by one nation against another nation that it considers an enemy or whose leaders it judges to be gullible, venal, none too bright, unreliable, or all four. That surely gives one pause for thought, but it truly is the way the world works. (







4 responses to “More than meets the eye?”

  1. Toque avatar

    When I saw the title of this blog post I clicked through thinking it was going to be a review of the new Transformers movie. How disappointed. When are you going to review the Transformers Tom?

  2. Tom Griffin avatar

    I dunno, Gareth. Do you think there’s a decepticon connection?

  3. Charlie Marks avatar

    How on earth do they know what Brown’s reading. He seems rather the secretive type…

  4. Tom Griffin avatar

    Not that secretive in this instance apparently:,,2139810,00.html

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