Death of a Cold War spy/”journalist”

By Christopher B. Daly 

As if we needed any reminders that it is not a good idea to mingle spying and journalism, the recent death of Austin Goodrich is a good example. It was true during the Cold War that the U.S. spy agencies and American foreign correspondents often cooperated.

The spies offered briefings to U.S. foreign correspondents as they headed abroad — all very chummy and gratis — and they expected to “debrief” those journalists when they returned home.

At the same time, real spies sometimes used a journalistic position as “cover” for

U.S. spy masquerading as a journalist.

U.S. spy masquerading as a journalist.

their espionage. That appears to have been the case with Goodrich.

Either way, these are bad practices, which the journalistic establishment eventually came to recognize. For one thing, it is dangerous to the health of journalists if other peoples have reason that we are all spies and should be treated as such.

During the 1970s, thanks to the Senate special committee known as the “Church Committee” (for its chair, Frank Church), a lot of secrets about American spy agencies came to light. Among them was the cozy relationship between some journalists and some spies.

The Church Committee’s findings deserve to be reviewed today. I assume that over the course of the intervening decades all of the abuses exposed by the committee have been resumed, along with new ones. I would say it’s time for a new Church Committee to try once again to get to the bottom of the spy game.

 

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Filed under Journalism, journalism history

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