U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: CIA 1035-960 - "Countering Criticism of the Warren Report", NARA Record Number: 104-10404-10376
Although the use of the term "conspiracy theory" (in the pejorative sense) may be traced back to the US historian Richard Hofstadter (so suggests James F. Tracy*), its ubiquitous presence in the media and upon the lips of those who uncritically internalise its propaganda, may be credited to the CIA of the late 1960s. Concerned to quell the growing public (and international) scepticism towards the Warren Commission's findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA issued a directive to its assets in the media entitled "Countering Criticism of the Warren Report", in which guidance was given on how best to discredit and undermine the arguments of "conspiracy theorists" who presumed to question the findings. Ever since, the term has served as a psychological weapon to be wielded against anyone who suspects government of secret wrongdoing, and continues to function as a powerful thought-stopper in the collective consciousness - an instance of Orwellian "crimestop".
Excerpt from interview with Barrie Zwicker
Released in response to a 1976 FOIA request by the New York Times, CIA Document 1035-960 offers advice to its assets in the media on “countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists", and suggests that they " employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics [through b]ook reviews and feature articles...” The list of techniques suggested in the memorandum, which together provide a catalogue of fallacies for convenient use, includes:
a) To "point out, as applicable, that the critics are":
- "wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in"
- "politically interested"
- "financially interested"
- "hasty and inaccurate in their research"
- "infatuated with their own theories."
b) To argue that...
- "No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider."
- "Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses... and less on ballistics, autopsy, and photographic evidence."
- "Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States..."
- "Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other."
- "Oswald would not have been any sensible person's choice for a co-conspirator."
- "As to charges that the Commission's report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms."
- "Such vague accusations as that "more than ten people have died mysteriously" [during the period of the Warren Commission's inquiry] can always be explained in some natural way e.g.: the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes..."
c) And advised...
- "Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission's Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics."
Page 2 bears the famous number 1035-960.
These digital images were made available by the Mary Ferrell Foundation (http://maryferrell.org) and are used here with kind permission.
* James F. Tracy, "CIA Document 1035-960: Foundation of a Weaponized Term", Memory Hole Blog (20 January 2013)