New Book Exposes Covert CIA Fronts, Partners, Operations

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on November 1, 2016

 

The first encyclopedia of covert Central Intelligence Agency partners assembles the vast bulk of the agency's non-government entities that are most important to its secret operations.

The Almost Classified Guide To CIA Front Companies and Proprietaries is an encyclopedia-style listing from A to Z of the CIA's various fronts, proprietaries, and contractors/corporate partners since the agency's inception in 1947.

Wayne Madsen shown during a New York City panel discussion, May, 2015The author is Wayne Madsen, a former Navy intelligence officer, analyst for the National Security Agency, and defense contracting executive.

Shown in a file photo, he is now an investigative reporter at The Wayne Madsen Report (WMR, a subscription service) and a commentator elsewhere who is frequently smeared by political opponents on Wikipedia and elsewhere. Yet he has been published by mainstream newspapers hundreds of times in recent years with op-eds on various current, as well as by various controversial outlets on the right, left and internationally.

Last week, he launched his 350-page book, his 15th book, at the National Press Club during a dinner lecture that aptly underscored the book's importance — and why no one previously has published one like it.

As contrast, the club and mainstream media provided deferential treatment Oct. 31 to billionaire financier Peter Thiel that downplayed the role of his CIA-incubated Palantir Technologies data mining company in order to focus at a newsmaker event on his presidential preference and libertarian philosophy. 

Palatir's initial funding came in part from the CIA, and the company is now near the core of CIA and NSA monitoring of every American's electronic communications — topics that never came up during Thiel's talk, the extensive question and answer period, or coverage of the talk by such outlets as the Washington Post, which is among those named as CIA partners in Madsen's book. (More on that in an appendix.)

"Here's one of the things that shock me the most," Madsen began. "You have an organization [the CIA] dealing with the Campfire Girls and 4-H Clubs, and also the Mafia and Hell's Angels."

He explained that CIA's goal is influence over public life in covert ways, with the ultimate goal of sustaining American political support for empire-building on behalf of the nation's plutocrats who have historically dominated the agency even more than elected politicians.

One of the creators of the CIA's strategy was the late Frank Wisner Sr., the CIA pioneer who a close aide to CIA Director Allen Dulles and weekly dinner companion to Washington Post publishers Philip and Katharine Graham. Wisner coined in private the term a "Mighty Wurlitzer" to denote how the agency could orchestrate public opinion in tandem with his close friends in the media via the Operation Mockingbird program and otherwise, as recounted in such predecessor books as The Mightly Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America by Hugh Wilford (Harvard University Press, 2008).

But no one before Madsen has so far named the names in near-comprehensive fashion. Experts in the field regard the format as particularly useful because front companies and covert partners are often used for black operations such as propaganda, citizen surveillance, arms and drug smuggling, and civil disturbances to create regime change or civil war.

His book's information comes from declassified or other public sources (hence the words "almost classified" in the title) in order to avoid breaking the law on national security. Yet Madsen described the publishing process for this kind of book as so sensitive that he could not trust a commercial publisher, many of whom he found to have hidden ties with the CIA or other intelligence agencies that can disrupt (or augment) book marketing.

Madsen's research matches Justice Integrity Project findings, as well as those from such experts as the late Defense Department executive L. Fletcher Prouty, an Air Force colonel whose job some five decades ago was to serve as the Pentagon's top liaison to the CIA for covert operations. That included placing agency CIA loyalists into key private sector and government jobs where their status as members of the agency's Wayne Madsen Almost Classified CIA Front Cover"Secret Team" would not be known by colleagues or the public.

So, we are particularly delighted to recommend Madsen's book, and summarize highlights of his lecture and courageous, much-needed work. It happens all of the four journalists on our Justice Integrity Board of Directors were noted in his dedication, and so this launch is especially congruent with our goals here.

In that spirit, longtime Press Club member and civic leader John Edward Hurley introduced Madsen's talk as follows to the McClendon Group, a speaker society at the club that Hurley has led for a quarter century:

Found in this book, which belongs on the desk of every researcher, historian, journalist, and spy, are the most famous or infamous, depending on one's outlook, CIA fronts and proprietaries.

The reader will find descriptions of Zapata Off-Shore, the Bay of Pigs front linked to George H. W. Bush; Air America, the Indochina War airline once dubbed the "World's Largest Airline" and nicknamed "Air Opium"; Southern Air Transport, the CIA proprietary that flew guns and drugs on behalf of the Nicaraguan Contra guerrillas in violation of U.S. law; and the CIA's favorite money laundering bank, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), also known as the "Bank of Crooks and Criminals."

"While perusing the pages," continued Hurley, "one is immediately struck by the staggering degree that the CIA infiltrated American society, including entertainment, education, the news media, religion, labor unions, corporations, and social organizations."

Hurley's experiences have included covering the White House with famed correspondent Sarah McClendon of the McClendon News Service and running the Confederate Memorial museum for a quarter century, as well as many volunteer posts in civic organizations."The president who created the CIA, Harry S Truman," Hurley continued, "later called for its total reform. However, others felt that the CIA had become too powerful and totally entrenched in American society to be redeemable."

With that warm and apt introduction, Madsen took the podium to describe one of most useful and courageous of his 15 books.

 
A Dry Run at the Dry Cleaners

Madsen, a connoisseur of pop culture as well as black ops, said that the 1964 television spy series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," based on a United Nations-style team fighting powerful evil-doers, introduced to Americans the concept that a U.S.-located "dry-cleaning establishment could be a front for an intelligence operation."

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The 1947 National Security Act creating the CIA and NSA specifically forbade the agencies from operating domestically. It is only in recent years that investigative reporters, declassified documents and similar evidence have revealed that the agencies often overrode publicly stated law restricting their operations, either with or without the secret concurrence of their ostensible superiors in high elected offices, including the presidency and congress.

"U.N.C.L.E.'s headquarters was in back of Del Floria's, a dry cleaning and tailor shop located below a Manhattan brownstone apartment building near UN headquarters," said Madsen. "As an example of life imitating art, the CIA and National Security Agency once operated a joint Special Collection Service (SCS) facility in a strip mall in College Park, Maryland. The super-secret facility was located, believe it or not, behind a dry cleaner that, like the fictional Del Floria's, operated as a legitimate business."

The concept of intelligence fronts and proprietaries refers to organizations that secretly receive at least part of their funding or other sustenance either directly or indirectly from government, often via intermediaries so that the funding cannot be traced. Scoops, book contracts, and special appointments for grants and fellowship are among the widely used incentives the agency provides to its cover allies in the media. Parallel programs exist for other businesses, universities, charities and others. 

For some such organizations, almost all employees know the clandestine roots. For others, only key operatives know of the funding or other benefits (which might be special access to powerful figures) while most workers and even executives simply pursue their public role.

The International Rescue Committee, a huge and much-lauded charitable organization, for example, was transformed by funding from the CIA six decades ago, according to the 1995 book Covert Network by Dr. Eric T. Chester. This year Workshops of Empire by Dr. Eric Bennett documented how the famed Iowa Writers Workshop for novelists was controlled by the agency. Such other authors as Dr. Paul Williams, the late Dr. George Michael Evica, and attorney-historian David E. Wemhoff have also published books recently describing infiltration and control of major religious groups. 

Madsen excluded from his book government organizations that are secretly penetrated by the CIA. He regarded that topic as too complicated and secretive for comprehensive, authoritative treatment in an encyclopedia format of brief entries.

Yet he cites as a source for the existence of the practice the iconic whistleblowing book by Fletcher Prouty, The Secret Team. That 1973 book provided a CIA insider's revelations for the first time. Prouty described how part of his job as top liaison between the Pentagon and CIA during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations was to help place Fletcher ProutyCIA loyalists in U.S. government and elsewhere domestically so that the agency could draw on them when needed.

The Secret Team At Work

Ironically, Prouty (shown in a file photo at right) apparently failed to realize that placement of covert operatives was so opaque that even he failed to recognize it at his publishing house Prentice-Hall. It was so thoroughly penetrated by intelligence that it used as a part-time editor the powerful media mogul intelligence guru William Casey.

Casey, shown in a file photo below right, was a World War II intelligence leader and by the 1970s a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman who was running the Capital Cities Communications media conglomerate, among other positions, when he was an consulting "editor" at Prentice-Hall.

William CaseyCasey would go on to chair Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign and become Reagan's CIA director.

Prouty, by contrast, would complain that distribution of his The Secret Team mysteriously died (through such means as cancellation of its paperback contract) despite favorable reviews and other public interest during a period of widespread public outrage over CIA abuses.

Prouty later argued more explicitly that the CIA help arrange and cover-up President Kennedy's murder, in part via those in its "Secret Team." Two decades later, Prouty voiced his frustration over his Prentice-Hall experience in his 1996 book JFK: the CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy and also in his later remarks to the McClendon Group at the press club before his death in 2001.

Former CIA officer and broadcast news editor John Kelly, a director of our Justice Integrity Project, drew on his deep knowledge to point us two years ago to Casey's work with Prentice-Hall in the early 1970s. Kelly had been an NBC News editor in the 1960, then a CIA officer in Indochina, and then a broadcast journalist again as a CBS editor covering Watergate, among other stories. Kelly's tip about Casey at Prentice-Hall checked out.

Also, Madsen credits Kelly, shown below at left in a file photo, as first suggesting to him the idea of compiling an encyclopedia of CIA-affiliated companies identified via declassified or other "open-source" information.

John KellyIn Madsen's talk to the McClendon Group, an informal speaker society that has hosted experts of such varied views as James Clapper, Ron Paul, Reed Irvine and Ralph Nader, he outlined major areas of American public life where the CIA has sought to fund secret organizations and partners.

These include, he said: Air transport, banks, broadcasting, charities, foundations, health care, law firms, new media, non-profits, political advocacy parties and other civic groups, public relations, publishing, religious bodies, unions, universities, and venture capital, including the CIA's own venture capital firm IN-Q-TEL.

During a question period, Madsen described why secret partners were vital to disguise responsibility for some of the agency's most important operations, including smuggling, regime change, false flag attacks, and propaganda. 

CIA LogoAs an example of how the agency sometimes needs to distance itself from its operations, Madsen cited the example of Edwin R. Wilson, a former Marine who became a well-connected CIA contractor with a  specialty of setting up companies to engage in smuggling, including arms deals with Libya's dictator Muammar Al-Qaddafi.

Wilson became rich through his many operations.
 
But authorities arrested him in 1982 on charges of defrauding the government and threatening to kill prosecutors. Hampered in his defense by national security, Wilson could not  show that he was working with government authorization. Wilson's 57-year term was served for the most part in harsh, isolated conditions until he managed to persuade a federal judge in 2004 to order his release on the grounds that authorities had not fully described at trial his relationship with the CIA.
 
Wilson's fate, Madsen said, illustrates that agency operatives and their organizations run a serious risk of ending up dead or otherwise defunct if that fate is needed for "plausible deniability."
 
The Many Roles of the Press

"It is, perhaps, fitting," John Hurley wrote in his invitation to the Oct. 26 meeting, "that the book event will be held at the National Press Club." Hurley (shown below in a file photo) continued:

John E. Hurley"A major focus of the CIA from its very inception was the penetration of the news media, including the assignment of CIA agents to the newsrooms and editorial offices of America's largest media concerns, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Hearst Newspaper, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and other major newspapers and broadcast networks, as well as political polling companies.

The CIA's Operation Mockingbird and "The Mighty Wurlitzer" are torn from the pages from America's post-World War II history that the media would like to leave blank."

Madsen (shown below right in a photo from his years as a Navy intelligence officer) said he self-published the CIA encyclopedia via Lulu, with distribution through such channels as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Books-a-million.com. The list price is $20, plus shipping. His purpose was to avoid the kinds of self-censorship and marketing sabotage that authors like Prouty encounter via commercial publishers that may work out special arrangements with authorities and their intermediaries to thwart books and films that are especially sensitive.

Any author in this field, Madsen and others have said, are vulnerable to being denounced as "conspiracy theorists," a term popularized by the CIA in the 1960s first to smear critics of the Warren Report on Kennedy's assassination. The term has been widely used since then to attack the reputation, jobs and finances of those who believe in serious government misconduct regarding more current crimes and other operations. The major articulation of the CIA's conspiracy theory plan is in a 53-page CIA document dated 1967, No. 1030-960, which was declassified in 1996.

Wayne Madsen Navy PhotoWikipedia's smear of Madsen as a "conspiracy theorist" was installed and maintained by several anonymous editors beginning in 2009 despite many attempts by him and his defenders to correct it. Madsen, in frustration, then wrote a 2014 column for the subscription service Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) about the unsuccessful efforts to correct the record under a process created by Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales. Entitled The Outlaw, Jimmy Wales and excerpted below, it reported that the CIA's venture capital arm IN-Q-TEL helped Wales ascend from being a porn site entrepreneur to become a CIA-funded success.

Madsen's description in the new CIA encyclopedia is briefer and more restrained, describing the web encyclopedia as a "CIA Partner" that "has been accused of promulgating character assassination and disinformation." On Nov. 1, the libertarian Cato Institute is hosting Wales, who lives overseas and seldom responds to complaints and other inquiries, in a rare U.S. appearance that this editor is scheduled to attend in Washington, DC.

Our Justice Integrity Project has reported many times on such hidden control mechanisms in both traditional and new media even though we, like most Americans, use Wikipedia, Amazon.com, newspapers and other media every day. Yet Amazon.com, for example, won a $600 million contract to handle CIA cloud computing needs, as reported by none other than the Washington Post, which is itself owned by Amazon.com's founder, Jeffrey Bezos.

These interconnections are truly everywhere. That helps make Madsen's new book all the more valuable.

But that utility does not necessarily make him popular, especially in a city so tightly controlled as the nation's capital by the military-intelligence "community" of which he was once a part.

That's especially true when he writes books organizing information normally kept secret, as now, and speaks bluntly about citizen redress against the CIA's excesses.

"There's no supervision of the agency," he concluded during Q&A at his talk last week. "I don't think you can reform the CIA."

"I agree with President Kennedy: Get rid of it," Madsen continued. "But I wouldn't want to be the president does that — based on what happened to Kennedy."

 
 
Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 

Sample Wayne Madsen column excerpts from investigative site "The Wayne Madsen Report" (WMR)

Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein White House Photo

Vice President Joe Biden swears into office U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power in 2013 with her husband, Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein, at center (2013 White House photo)

WMR, Cass Sunstein's new book: Conspiracy theories are dangerous thoughts, Wayne Madsen, March 11, 2014 (excerpted with permission from subscription site costing $32 per year). President Obama's former director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein, who is married to the interventionist U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, has a new book out. The title says everything about the book's content and Sunstein's previous ideas that certain dangerous ideas held by Americans be either taxed or declared illegal: Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas.

Although one should not judge a book by its cover, Sunstein's book has an almost obligatory drawing of the "all seeing eye" found on the U.S. dollar bill, a bete noire for those who believe that Freemasons secretly run the affairs of the United States.

Sunstein not only believes that conspiracy theorists are dangerous members of society but that they tend to lump all conspiracies into one master grand conspiracy with the Illuminati and Freemasons behind them all. Sunstein's generalizations and the wide brush he uses to criticize those who demand accountability from their government is typical behavior for academic elitists like Sunstein.

WMR, The Outlaw Jimmy Wales, Wayne Madsen, March 27, 2014.  WMR has been covering Alabama politics for so long that little escapes our attention when it comes to Alabama politicians and their well-connected friends in other states. It has recently been brought to our attention by one of our trusted Alabama sources that the so-called "founder" of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, an Alabama native, has close ties to the king of political sleaze, Karl Rove, George W. Bush's "brain," who is also known as "turd blossom." We put "founder" of Wikipedia in quotes because Wales, who is reluctant to change the bogus and defamatory listings for others having erroneous Wikipedia entries, decided to eliminate the name of Wikipedia's co-founder, Larry Sanger, for any mention in Wales's own Wikipedia entry.

Wikipedia states that subjects of Wikipedia entries are not permitted to alter their own pages. However, in Wales's libertarian world, such rules do not apply to him. According to Wired magazine, for whom this editor once wrote, Wales has edited his own Wikipedia page at least 18 times from the launch of Wikipedia to 2005. Perhaps that is why Wikipedia refuses to include my past writing for Wired in my Wikipedia entry.

Wikipedia is not the first government-controlled and politically-motivated encyclopedia. That distinction belongs to the former "Great Soviet Encyclopedia," which ensured that its entries toed the Soviet Communist Party line. However, there is one major distinction between Wikipedia and the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. The Soviet 65-volume work with its 65,000 entries relied on professional writers and researchers, not the rank amateurs and mamma's basement dwellers who Wikipedia calls its "research staff."

WMR previously reported on how the National Security Agency and its partners around the world were using Wikipedia as a tool in their information warfare operations. One of the classified PowerPoint slides revealed by Edward Snowden points to this fact.

But Wikipedia not only has a relationship with the Intelligence Community that permits NSA and other cyber-warfare operators to manipulate Wikipedia information to serve their own needs, but Wikipedia's original seed money came from the CIA's venture capital firm, IN-Q-TEL. A source who has tracked IN-Q-TEL's various incubator programs for companies like Facebook and Google discovered the same links between the CIA and Wikipedia. Therefore, there should have been no surprise that in 2007 a tool called WikiScanner discovered that CIA personnel were routinely making "questionable and opinionated" changes to Wikipedia entries.

When the conservative World Net Daily referred to Wales as a "pornography trafficker,' Wales demanded a correction. Wales wrote, "I demand an immediate edit to that story to remove the lie about me." Ironically, when those libeled by Wikipedia entries demand Wales take down the offending entry, he responds by saying the entries are not his responsibility but those of his army of anonymous editors.

Wales, who is now regaled as an Internet guru, is trying hard to erase his past as a smut peddler. He even personally edited the Wikipedia page for Bomis to change the description of the company providing "soft core pornography" to "adult content." Wikipedia co-founder Sanger charged in 2010 that Wikipedia was knowingly distributing child pornography, adding another sleaze factor to Wales's already sizable resumé of perversion. It is interesting to note that Wales, who lives in London, criticized an attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron to regulate Internet content through the use of filters to combat child pornography. Later, Cameron's consultant on Internet filters, Patrick Rock, was arrested for possession of child porn on his computer.

Had it not been for IN-Q-TEL money from the CIA, NSA's sponsorship of Wikipedia as an information warfare weapon-of-choice, and the elevation of Wikipedia by some phonies in the news media to a legitimate reference source, Jimmy Wales's name may have only been known to a few straight and gay porn actors in California's San Fernando Valley and those who bother to read the ending production credits at the end of sleazy porn flicks.

To be sure, Wales is insensitive to criticism. But I have a deal for the Outlaw Jimmy Wales: I'll stop telling the truth about you if you stop telling lies about me.

WMR, CIA document: Clay Shaw was a CIA asset, July 5, 2016. Ever since 1967, when New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison indicted New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw for conspiring to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, a phalanx of journalists, authors, professional "debunkers," aided by the CIA-influenced Wikipedia, have sought to portray Shaw as an innocent victim of a overly-driven D.A.

 

Related News

BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) via YouTube, The Conspiracy Files: The Trump Dossier, Nov. 3, 2016 (59:28 min. documentary). Narrated by Carolyn Catz; Filmed, Produced and Directed by John O'Kane; and  Producer (American footage) Ceri Ishfryn. A BBC team, O'Kane and Ishfryn, traveled the United States to document "conspiracy theories" involving presidential candidates either as advocates or as alleged perpetrators. Aside from candidates, among those voicing opinions were commentators Roger Stone, Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, Nancy Soderberg, and Wayne Madsen. The producers began their United States-based research with a background interview with the Justice Integrity Project in Washington, DC.

 

Case Study 1: Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales Lecture At Cato Institute, Nov. 1, 2016

Cato Institute, Wikipedia and Reasoned Discussion, Jimmy Wales, Nov. 1, 2016, Washington, DC. Jimmy Wales, introduced as Wikipedia's founder, spoke to a capacity crowd in the Hayek Auditorium, named after a philosopher he described as his inspiration for the world's fifth largest site in terms of viewership. As statistical signs of progress: he said the online encyclopedia founded in 2001 contains 40 million entries, with 400 million "unique visitors" each month, published by some 80,000 volunteer editors in 286 languages (with many of those with relatively few sites in their language). He said 10 sites, however, have more than one million entries apiece in their language and 48 sites with at least a thousand entries.

Jimmy Wales at Cato Institute Nov. 1, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project Photo)Wales, shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo, said Wikipedia and its related entities are of the 501-c-3 charity under the U.S. IRS Code. He described the Wikipedia staff as being between 250 and 270 persons, primarily based in San Francisco, CA. He said there are about 80,000 volunteer editors who are active with about five edited entries a month. He said their average age is about 26 and they were 87 percent male. He said the gender imbalance is a problem that concerns leaders because it leads to unintentional bias, such as longer entries for material appealing to men in some instances.

Further, he described the site's philosophy, drawn from Hayek, as allowing controversial decisions to be made by "communities" of editors, and not by centralized editorial staff.

After his well-received lecture this editor thanked him for it, described the frustration that Wayne Madsen has experienced for more than three years with a highly disparaging profile by anonymous editors who refuse to publish balancing information. We told him also that the Justice Integrity Project has summarized Madsen's complaints. Madsen and his defenders in the news and intelligence sectors have described how he became the subject of a massive smear campaign, including on Wikipedia, after British intelligence pressures the London Observer in June 2013 to kill a Sunday front-page story after its first edition quoted Madsen as a national security expert.

Britain has no written constitution that includes free press guarantees, and the Observer's sister newspaper, the Guardian, had had multiple computers smashed by authorities that month for publishing whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA. Madsen has said a now-fired professor orchestrated a media campaign that weekend to generate misleading "news" reports about the matter in intelligence-affiliated web publications that could be used to disparage Madsen on Wikipedia.

Wales said he would look into the matter, and we assured him we would publish his response as an update here when we received it.

-- Andrew Kreig

National Pess Club President Thomas Burr, left, and guest speaker Peter Thiel Oct. 31, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo) National Press Club President Thomas Burr, left, and guest speaker Peter Thiel on Oct. 31, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo) 

Case Study 2: Sample coverage this week of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel at National Press Club

Editor's note: The National Press Club hosted Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel (pronounced "Teel") Oct. 31 at one of its hour-long "Newsmaker" lectures, in part because of his outspoken support (including a $1.2 million recent donation) to GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Excerpted below is a sample of coverage, including the club's announcement and website write-up, as well as four different news stories by four Washington Post columnists.

This editor attended the event, sitting in the front row in a standing-room-only, packed room, and can attest that it was a successful event by most standard measures. Yet it was unusual in certain other respects, which included only pre-screened written questions (from a stack more than an inch-high) and bodyguards stationed on both sides of the platform and at all entrances, plus instructions for all reporters to remain in the room until the speaker departed with his entourage. 

Perhaps more significantly, from at least this perspective, was the total lack of questioning or even coverage (aside from oblique references in the Washington Post business story on Palantir excerpted below) of the irony of a CIA-funded libertarian calling for more freedom when his own company is at the heart of CIA, NSA and Defense Department data mining that some experts have argued compromises every American's freedom by permitting the government and its contractors to intercept, store and potentially retrieve every American's electronic communications via phone, Internet or otherwise. While certain other experts dispute those fears, none of those challenging questions were discussed at that rare opportunity to quiz a key player before a dozen cameras recording his comments.

None of this or the excerpts below are to suggest that the event was not a success so far as it went, or that there was any conspiracy to avoid sensitive topics. The room was packed and lots of press coverage resulted. Less than one reporter out of a hundred (hence not one viewer or reader out of 10,000) probably knows what Palantir does in any detail. So any omission of sensitive topics was almost unnoticeable, especially because lively fare was offered up on such topics as freedom (including press freedom), Donald Trump, a sex tape, Hulk Hogan, libel, and gay pride.

To imagine that something important might be omitted from such an array of free-wheeling topics would be like imagining that a top intelligence executive might carry a non-descript title at a publishing house, or that an intel operation could be based in a dry cleaning establishment.

Couldn't happen. Or could it? 

 

Peter Thiel Noel St. John Oct. 31, 2016Peter Thiel (Noel St. John photo)

National Press Club, Newsmaker: Silicon Valley Trump Supporter Peter Thiel, Oct. 31, 2016. Billionaire venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel has rocked Silicon Valley with his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Thiel will discuss that political endorsement and the 2016 election at a National Press Club speakers newsmaker event on Monday Oct. 31. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies Inc., endorsed Trump at the Republican National Convention in July and pledged a $1.25 million campaign donation in support of the candidate.

National Press Club, Silicon Valley's Peter Thiel defends funding lawsuit against Gawker, support of Trump, Angela Greiling Keane, Oct. 31, 2016. Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel told a packed National Press Club audience Oct. 31 that his only regret about funding a lawsuit against Gawker Media is that he wasn’t more transparent about being the person with the deep pockets financing the suit.

Thiel's comments about the highly publicized suit, which led to the website's bankruptcy, came at a Speakers newsmaker event where he also defended his controversial support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

That position has garnered criticism from Thiel’s Silicon Valley counterparts. Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal, characterized Trump as a candidate of change whom he supports even as he criticized the nominee’s comments on women. He said the timing of his announcement of his contributions to support Trump’s campaign was coincidental to the fact that it came just days after a raw tape of Trump talking graphically about women was released.

"Voters are tired of being lied to," said said. "It was both insane and somehow inevitable that D.C. insiders expected this election to be a rerun between the two political dynasties who led us through the two most gigantic financial bubbles of our time." Thiel’s appearance at the Club was the first time he’s spoken at length and taken questions about his donations to support the Trump campaign. He spoke in July at the Republican National Convention to endorse the candidate.

Washington Post, What Peter Thiel says Silicon Valley gets wrong about America, Steven Overly, Oct. 31, 2016. The tech industry's success may cloud its perspective, the billionaire investor said.

Washington Post, Peter Thiel’s Palantir scores a win in fight for lucrative Army contract, Christian Davenport, Oct. 31, 2016. A federal judge issued an injunction ordering the Army to consider commercial offers such as Palantir’s. Palantir Technologies, the Silicon Valley software firm, has won an audacious federal case that could allow it to further break into the Pentagon’s rigid procurement process by competing for a lucrative Army contract, the firm said Monday. Earlier this year, Palantir sued the Pentagon, the agency that it is courting as a potential customer, because it said it was blocked from bidding on a program designed to gather all sorts of information — battlefield terrain, weather, enemy locations — and process it for soldiers on the ground. The contract at issue was worth $206 million, but the program could lead to more lucrative work.

Palantir has cast the suit as an effort not just to win a government contract but to help transform the way the Pentagon does business with the commercial sector. The lawsuit is another attempt to force a culture change at the Pentagon, traditionally resistant to outsiders, and bridge the divide between it and the start-ups that have transformed so much of the nation’s economy.

The effort is a top priority for Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, who has named Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent Alphabet, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, to the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Palantir alleged that the Army has spent $6 billion on its data processing system with little to show for it. Its system could work for the Army, it argued. But the Army has not allowed it to compete for the contract, displaying “a profound ignorance of advances in commercial technology,” the lawsuit said.

Co-founded by Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder, Palantir has had some success selling its system to federal agencies, including the Marine Corps, the U.S. Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, it said in the lawsuit. The company also received $2 million from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment arm.

 Oct. 31, 2016. Billionaire venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel has rocked Silicon Valley with his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Thiel will discuss that political endorsement and the 2016 election at a National Press Club speakers newsmaker event on Monday Oct. 31. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies Inc., endorsed Trump at the Republican National Convention in July and pledged a $1.25 million campaign donation in support of the candidate.

Washington Post, Even Peter Thiel isn’t defending Donald Trump’s plan to erode the First Amendment, Callum Borchers, Oct. 31, 2016. Peter Thiel got the ultimate revenge against a news outlet that crossed him, bankrupting Gawker through a massive lawsuit earlier this year. But even Thiel, a Donald Trump supporter, can’t abide the Republican presidential nominee’s plan to “open up our libel laws.”

Washington Post, Peter Thiel’s media critique: Reporters take Trump’s statements ‘literally’ but not ‘seriously,’ Erik Wemple, Oct. 31, 2016. Valley billionaire Peter Thiel appeared at the National Press Club on Monday for a chat about his preferred presidential candidate — Donald Trump — and his central role on bringing about the shuttering of Gawker, among other topics. As CNN has taught us, it is impossible to stick up for Trump without veering into wholly untenable and far-fetched arguments. Even though Thiel is more thoughtful and measured than the Trumpites on cable news, he failed to avoid this dynamic.

Thomas Burr, president of the National Press Club, asked Thiel what he thought about Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim entry into the United States. Showing a bit of independent thinking, Thiel responded that he doesn’t support a “religious test” and expressed misgivings with Trump’s language. Then came the defense: “But I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always has taken Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally.”

It’s quite the opposite for Trump voters, argued Thiel: “I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. And so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment or things like that, the question is not ‘Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or, you know, ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is ‘We’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.’ ‘We’re going to try to figure out how do we strike the right balance between costs and benefits.’ ”

The Erik Wemple Blog, who was in attendance at the event, was unsure how to interpret all that. Is Thiel actually recommending that the media not take literally the things that Trump says? Should we ask voters what Trump is saying, and then report that material as fact? One thing is for sure: If you do take Trump literally, it becomes very hard to take him seriously. In any case, it does appear that Thiel has been reading The Atlantic.

We would have liked to press Thiel on this front, but that wasn’t happening. Burr, who presided over the event and posed some quite-good questions, asked attending press to wait while Thiel left the room following the Q-and-A. Then, the media was kept from exiting the room for several minutes. We asked Burr about this approach. His response:

"Today’s event followed the long-standing format at the Press Club for the president to ask questions of our high-profile guests. This is done with the aim of ensuring a wide variety of questions are asked. We have often tried to accommodate guests who wish to leave because of scheduling conflicts right after our programs and that was done in this case. Quite often, I’ve seen reporters stake out spots outside the room or outside the building in anticipation they could ask follow up questions."

Can’t have follow-ups.

 

Stat trackers