The CIA's 'family jewels' and Project Mockingbird

The CIA’s release on June 26 of the so-called “family jewels,” in response to a FOIA submission by the National Security Archive, included new information on Project Mockingbird, an operation in which the CIA wiretapped two American national security journalists in 1963. The origins of that initiative can be traced back to the Kennedy administration’s efforts the previous year to clamp down on the leak of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to New York Times reporter Hanson Baldwin. In response, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), a body of advisers answerable only to the President, proposed having the Director of Central Intelligence establish a task force to monitor journalists’ interaction with the Pentagon and to investigate leaks. Dr. James Killian, the chair of PFIAB, argued that such a task force operating under the auspices of the intelligence community would be much better equipped to handle such a mission than the FBI. PFIAB member (and later chair) Clark Clifford strongly supported the plan, telling Kennedy that “To my knowledge it’s never been done before and it is long overdue.” President Kennedy agreed with their recommendation and authorized the establishment of such a group. Director of Central Intelligence John McCone subsequently created the group.

In 2001, the PRP published transcripts documenting the Kennedy administration’s response to the Baldwin leak and the origins of Project Mockingbird, including the August 1962 meeting where PFIAB presented the proposal to President Kennedy. Also included were transcripts of subsequent discussions between President Kennedy and McCone. McCone’s objective was to create the group under his own authority in such a way that it would not be traced back directly to the President himself.

The relevant published transcripts are extracted and available here.

A short multimedia clip extracted from those transcripts is available here.

New York Times coverage of the material is available here.