Editor's note: This column is the second part of a series that began earlier on July 16.
Reporters face a daunting challenge if they seek to cover the CIA, NSA, and the nation's dozens of other intelligence bodies.
Everyone knows the history of the Washington Post's Watergate reporting. Here is another side to government news coverage during that era. The snapshots below illustrate the tight and largely hidden ties between the Post, news outlets like it, and the powerful United States intelligence community.
A month after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, former President Harry Truman published an op-ed in the Washington Post complaining that the CIA had grown too powerful. The op-ed disappeared without explanation from the Post's later editions even though Truman had created the CIA and its super-secret sister, the National Security Agency (NSA), in cooperation with Congress.
The Truman column's disappearance from the Post parallelled the London Observer's spike of a 2013 column based on documents provided by former NSA analyst Wayne Madsen showing secret surveillance of European nations. The first part of this series described the Observer's mysterious removal of that front-page story after one edition.
The 1976 experience of Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong illustrates even more clearly the difficulties that aggressive reporters can encounter covering the agency.
Armstrong sought to question James J. Angleton, left, the retired former CIA chief of counterintelligence from 1954 until 1975. The topic was a major murder mystery in Washington.
Armstrong wanted to follow up on a 1976 revelation that Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief Benjamin Bradlee in 1964 had given Angleton the diary of Mary Pinchot Meyer, Bradlee's sister-in-law, shortly after her fatal shooting while she was walking on a secluded canal path in Georgetown.
Meyer had been a well-regarded artist and an articulate advocate — in private Georgetown circles — for a more peaceful world.
A striking beauty, she had published poetry in the New Yorker at age 18, and married the best-selling author, Yale grad, war hero, and world-famous peace advocate Cord Meyer shortly after World War II. But she divorced him in the 1950s after he began work for the then-new CIA. He occupied himself with secret duties as the agency's top executive responsible for influencing important news stories important to the agency in its ever-expanding global role.
Several years after the divorce, she became the lover of President John F. Kennedy, who had flirted with her in the 1930s when she was in her mid-teens and attending private school.