Academic journal article American Studies

PATRIOTIC BETRAYAL: The Inside Story of the CIA's Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade against Communism

Academic journal article American Studies

PATRIOTIC BETRAYAL: The Inside Story of the CIA's Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade against Communism

Article excerpt

PATRIOTIC BETRAYAL: The Inside Story of the CIA's Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade against Communism. By Karen M. Paget. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2015.

When Ramparts magazine broke a story in 1967 that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had infiltrated the National Student Association (NSA) and was using it to influence students in the United States and around the world, the CIA and the government managed to downplay the story. The CIA, with the help of a number of senators, crafted a narrative for public consumption, successfully arguing that the agency's support for the NSA consisted only of a small number of travel grants; that top officials in the government had approved the relationship; and that the CIA never exerted enough control over the student agency to jeopardize its independence. Karen Paget, a former staff member of the NSA, proves this narrative a lie in her thoroughly researched, well-written, and often gripping Patriotic Betrayal. In this study she details the development of a liberal strain of anti-communism that led idealistic CIA agents and witting students to work together to try to spread Western ideals through worldwide student organizations.

Paget devotes much of the book to showing that the CIA invested more than travel money in the NSA and expected a great deal in return. Using the NSA's International Commission as a front, the CIA supported revolutionary student movements in Algeria, Cuba, Angola, Iran, and Palestine. Thus, "the CIA ran an operation through the NSA, global in scope, which disguised and protected the hand of the U.S. government-the very definition of covert action" (6).

Because the NSA was a liberal student organization, very few people realized how important it was to the CIA. As long as most of the students-both witting and unwitting-shared the assumption that they were helping to spread a superior Western system while combatting the growth of communism, the arrangement worked. This required most of the students involved to be liberal enough to oppose communism but savvy enough to realize that outright confrontation would do more harm than good.

By the mid 1960s, however, the climate began to change on the nation's campuses as movements from both the right and the left began to grow, and leaders of those movements challenged the NSA's traditional stance. …

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