Gloria Steinem and the CIA by Daniel Brandt

excerpted from Portland Free Press March/April 1997

If you don't know who John McCoy was, suffice it to say that he was chairman of Rockefeller's Chase Manhattan Bank and was a key figure in U.S. cold war strat- egy. Other names mentioned below, C.D. Jackson and Cord Meyer, were top figures in U.S. intelligence. Since there are only several paragraphs that mention Steinem - on two pages from the text and one from the footnotes - I will quote them in full. The source is Kai Bird, The Chairman: John J. McCloy and the Mak- ing of the American Establish- ment (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp. 483-84, 727. Note that Bird's docu- mentation includes a letter from Steinem to Jackson while she was getting money from the CIA:

"In the summer of 1959, just before McCloy took his fam- ily for an extended trip to Eu- rope, C.D. Jackson wrote to remind McCloy that later that sunnner a World Youth Fes- tival was scheduled to take place in Vienna. Jackson asked McCloy to contribute an article, perhaps on the "be- nign and constructive as- pects" of the U.S. occupation of Germany. The piece would appear in a daily newspaper to be published in Vienna in conjunction with the festival. McCloy agreed, and the ar- ticle was published (in five languages) in a newspaper distributed by a twenty-five- year-old Smith graduate named Gloria Steinem.

"McCloy's connection to Steinem went beyond contrib- uting an article to the propa- ganda operation of which she was an editor in Vienna. Late in 1958, he and Jackson had discussed how the United States should respond to the expected Soviet propaganda blitz in Vienna. Previous gath- erings of this kind had always been held in Moscow, East Berlin, or other cities in East- ern Europe. These events were major propaganda cir- cuses, and the CIA was deter- niined, in the words of Cord Meyer, a career CIA officer, 'to compete more effectively with this obviously successftil Communist apparatus.'

"Washington expected some twenty thousand stu- dents and young scholars from all over the world to con- verge on Vienna that summer for the three weel festival. Consequently, the CIA wanted an organized student presence in Vienna in order to counter Soviet propaganda.

"C.D. Jackson recognized the Vienna Youth Festival as 'an extremely important event in the Great Game.' He explained, 'This is the first time commies have held one of these shindigs on our side of the iron curtain; and what goes on, how it goes on, and what the follow-up will be is, I think, extremely important.'

"By the time Jackson first approached McCloy, in the autumn of 1958, he and Cord Meyer, head of the CIA's Interna- tional Organizations division (I0), had a plan. The Agency would provide discreet funding to an 'informal group of activists' who would constitute themselves as an alternative American delegation to the fes- tival. The CIA would not only pay their way but also assist them to distribute books and publish a newspaper in Vienna. Among other individuals, Jackson and Meyer hired Gloria Steinem to work with them. Steinem had recently returned from a two-year stint in India, where she had been a Chester Bowles Asian Fellow.

"'I came home in 1958,' Steinem later explained, 'full of idealism and activism, to discover that very little was being done. ... Private money receded at the men- tion of a Communist youth festival.' Convinced that a contingent of liberal but anticommunist American students should go to Vienna, she heard through her con- tacts at the National Student Association that there might be funding available to finance American participation in the fes- tival. Working through C.D. Jackson and Cord Meyer, Steinem then set up an or- ganization in Cambridge, Massachusetts called the Independent Service for Infor- mation on the Vienna Youth Festival. She obtained tax-exempt status, and Jackson helped her raise contributions from vari- ous American corporations, including the American Express Company. But most of the money came from the CIA, to be managed by Jackson in a 'special ac- count.' The entire operation cost in the range of $85,000, a not inconsiderable sum in those years. (Steinem's or- ganization, later renamed the Independent Research Service, continued to receive support from the CIA through 1962, when it financed an American delegation to the Helsinki Youth Festival.) Steinem ended up working closely with Samuel S. Walker, Jr., vice-president of the CIA- funded Free Europe Committee. Because the Austrians did not want to be associ- ated with the Free Europe Committee, the Agency set up a commercial front called the Publications Development Corpora- tion (PDC). Walker was made president of this dummy corporation, funded in part by 'a confidential one-year contract' worth $273,000 from the Free Europe Committee. His job was to super- vise the book-and-newspaper operation at the Youth Festival. . .