A Correspondence with the CIA


On June 1 of this year an official of the US Central Intelligence Agency paid a visit to the New York offices of my publisher, Harper and Row, Inc. This CIA official was Mr. Cord Meyer, Jr. (now the CIA’s Assistant Deputy Director of Plans; formerly the CIA official in charge of providing covert financial subsidies for organizations such as the National Student Association, Encounter Magazine, and the Congress for Cultural Freedom).1 Mr. Meyer urged several of his old friends among Harper and Row’s senior management to provide him with a copy of the galley proofs of my history of the international narcotics traffic, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. In this book I show the complicity of various US agencies—particularly the CIA and the State Department—in organizing the Southeast Asian drug traffic since the early 1950s.

Mr. Meyer presented one of Harper and Row’s senior editors with some documents giving the CIA’s view on the Southeast Asian drug traffic. His manner was grave. He said, “You wouldn’t want to publish a book that would be full of inaccuracies, embarrass the United States government, or get you involved in libel suits, would you?”

Harper and Row’s management promised to consider Mr. Meyer’s request and summoned me from Washington, DC, where I was then testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee on my findings after eighteen months of research into the Southeast Asian drug traffic. This research included more than 250 interviews with heroin dealers, police officials, and intelligence agents in Europe and Asia.

At a meeting in New York on the afternoon of June 8, Harper and Row’s president, Mr. Winthrop and its senior vice president, Mr. B. Brooks Thomas, told me that they had decided to provide the CIA with a copy of the galley proofs prior to publication for the following reasons:

First, the CIA would be less likely to seek a temporary court injunction barring publication of the book if the Agency were given a chance to persuade itself that national security was in no way endangered by portions of my book; and secondly, Harper and Row felt that a responsible publisher should have enough confidence in the veracity of any of its particularly controversial books to show them to any reputable critic for comment prior to publication.

At first I disagreed strongly with Harper and Row’s decision, arguing that submitting the galley proofs to the CIA could set a dangerous precedent and ultimately weaken First Amendment guarantees concerning freedom of the press. Moreover, in view of what I had learned of the CIA’s operating methods in Southeast Asia I was convinced that the Agency was capable of using unethical means—such as coercing my sources into retracting statements they had made to me about US complicity in the international narcotics traffic—in order to induce Harper and Row to withdraw the book from publication.

After a week of negotiations, however, Harper and Row told me that they would not be willing to publish the book…

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