Covert intelligence gathering, propaganda, fake news stories, dirty tricks--these tools of spy craft have been used for seven decades by agents hiding in plain sight in Washington's National Press Building.
Election meddling in U.S elections is not a new, a point made by political historian Steven T. Usdin in his 2018 non-fiction, “The Bureau of Spies.” The heyday of such skullduggery harkens to the 1930/40s when foreign meddling into our elections included Japan, Germany, Russia and even the United Kingdom.
Usdin’s book points out the epicenter of these operations emanated out of Washington DC. No surprise. And, spies posing as journalists working out of DC’S National Press Club building did much of the meddling. Also, no surprise.
“...In the spring of 1940, as war raged in Europe, Britain (America’s best buddy) launched a vast, covert foreign-intelligence operation in the United States, deploying legal and illegal techniques to subvert America’s political institutions and manipulate its news media.
“British intelligence operatives, including American journalists in the National Press Building, worked to elect candidates who favored US entering WWII, defeat those who advocated neutrality, and silence or destroy the reputations of American isolationists they considered a menace to British security...”
Usdin’s work in enlightening. With the British as friends, who needs enemies.
“The Bureau of Spies” is written cleverly. It has a quick pace almost as if he had to get the words on paper before getting “the” knock on the door.
Not to be a spoiler, but one chapter is amazing in it describes how the Woodward and Bernstein of December 4, 1941 published a stolen military plan that described the US’s plans to deal with the eventuality of war with Germany and Japan. The reporters gave the stolen document to the Chicago Tribune, who published it immediately. The Anti-Roosevelt leaning Tribune wanted to “out” Roosevelt as being anti-isolationist nevermind the fact the documents in the long run cost American lives.
In any other country, the revealers would have been met by bullets or a hangman’s rope. Instead, they walked away free—even though it was considered treason by so many historians.
|Overheard at the National Press Club bar: "...esteemed colleague, if I pick up your bar tab, will you spy for Lower Volta interests?"|
What is also revealing in “The Bureau of Spies” is how easily journalists could be wooed to spy on behalf of other countries. Money. You could buy a spy for as low as $100 a month. Remember this was the Depression/1930s when a C-note was big bucks.
All in all, the media comes off as slippery as the spies and politicos inhabiting the “swamp.”
Usdin’s book is available at better bookstores or online at Amazon. Click here.
Although, not mentioned in “The Bureau of Spies,” an interesting note is the fact Reuter’s John Heffernan was the only foreigner to be elected President of the National Press Club.
Lyndon Johnson referred to the burning of the White House by the British Army in 1814 when he wrote personally to Heffernan (pictured above), an Englishman of Irish descent: “Seven score and fourteen years ago, your fathers brought forth on this continent a conflagration. In short, they burned down the house I am now living in. I think there is no more heartening evidence of our accepting bygones as bygones than your election as President of the National Press Club.”
We rest our case.
Also: Click here. For an article on how the Brits tried to change the course of the 1940 US Presidential election.