Operation Mockingbird is an alleged large-scale program of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that began in the early 1950s and attempted to manipulate news media for propaganda purposes. It funded student and cultural organizations and magazines as front organizations.
According to writer Deborah Davis, Operation Mockingbird recruited leading American journalists into a propaganda network and oversaw the operations of front groups. CIA support of front groups was exposed after a 1967 Ramparts magazine article reported that the National Student Association received funding from the CIA. In the 1970s, Congressional investigations and reports also revealed Agency connections with journalists and civic groups. None of these reports, however, mentions by name an Operation Mockingbird coordinating or supporting these activities.
A Project Mockingbird is mentioned in the CIA Family Jewels report, compiled in the mid-1970s. According to the declassified version of the report released in 2007, Project Mockingbird involved the wire-tapping of two American journalists for several months in the early 1960s.
For foreign news media, the report concluded that:
The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.