When the CIA Infiltrated a Presidential CampaignBreaking News
tags: Barry Goldwater, FBI, CIA, Trump
President Donald Trump seems to believe that FBI agents infiltrated his presidential campaign for political purposes, and has tweeted that the bureau’s actions could amount to a scandal “bigger than Watergate.”
Trump hasn’t provided evidence to support these allegations, but regardless of their veracity, there is precedent for an American intelligence agency spying on a presidential campaign. It happened in the summer of 1964; the target was Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and the perpetrator was the CIA, not the FBI.
A CIA officer named E. Howard Hunt—later made infamous for his role in the Watergate break-in—was in charge of the operation. Hunt’s role in the Goldwater caper can be traced back to his involvement in the CIA’s disastrous attempt to depose Fidel Castro by landing a ragtag group of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. Like many agency officers associated with the fiasco, he was put in a kind of purgatory, assigned to a desk job that lacked the excitement or career-advancement potential of foreign clandestine operations.
In Hunt’s case, the CIA tasked him with oversight of clandestine operations with cryptonyms like WUBONBON and WHUHUSTLER that produced and disseminated propaganda for consumption in the United States and internationally. One such propaganda project was a CIA front company called Continental Press, which operated as a news service based out of an office in the National Press Building in downtown Washington. Run by a former Associated Press reporter, Continental Press fed news and propaganda to obscure newspapers in developing countries, and provided cover for CIA operatives in Africa, India and elsewhere.
Over a six-week period in the late summer of 1964, Hunt deployed Continental Press staff to undertake a new type of project: infiltrating the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater on behalf of President Lyndon Johnson.
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