British Security Coordination

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British Security Coordination operated during the Second World War as an umbrella organisation in the Americas for a number of British intelligence organisations represented by its head Sir William Stephenson. They included SIS, MI5, the Special Operations Executive, the Political Warfare Executive, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Security Executive and Special Branch.[1] It shared premises and worked closely with the overt propaganda operations of the British government known as British Information Services.

William Boyd described BSC in the Guardian in 2006:

BSC was set up by a Canadian entrepreneur called William Stephenson, working on behalf of the British Secret Intelligence Services (SIS). An office was opened in the Rockefeller Centre in Manhattan with the discreet compliance of Roosevelt and J Edgar Hoover of the FBI. But nobody on the American side of the fence knew what BSC's full agenda was nor, indeed, what would be the massive scale of its operations. What eventually occurred as 1940 became 1941 was that BSC became a huge secret agency of nationwide news manipulation and black propaganda. Pro-British and anti-German stories were planted in American newspapers and broadcast on American radio stations, and simultaneously a campaign of harassment and denigration was set in motion against those organisations perceived to be pro-Nazi or virulently isolationist (such as the notoriously anti-British America First Committee - it had more than a million paid-up members).[2]

Roy Godson, intelligence writer and neoconservative, writes:

In addition to infiltrating groups like America First, an isolationist lobby to keep the United States out of the war, they also created their own competing front groups. They worked closely with other major nongovernmental groups like the American Federation of Labor and ethnic fraternal organizations. They fed rumor mills to support people and issues they favored and discredit those they did not. They used a variety of devices, including what would clearly be called "dirty tricks" today, to neutralize their opponents.[3]

Propaganda role

According to Boyd:

BSC's media reach was extensive: it included such eminent American columnists as Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, and influenced coverage in newspapers such as the Herald Tribune, the New York Post and the Baltimore Sun. BSC effectively ran its own radio station, WRUL, and a press agency, the Overseas News Agency (ONA), feeding stories to the media as they required from foreign datelines to disguise their provenance. WRUL would broadcast a story from ONA and it thus became a US "source" suitable for further dissemination, even though it had arrived there via BSC agents. It would then be legitimately picked up by other radio stations and newspapers, and relayed to listeners and readers as fact. The story would spread exponentially and nobody suspected this was all emanating from three floors of the Rockefeller Centre. BSC took enormous pains to ensure its propaganda was circulated and consumed as bona fide news reporting. To this degree its operations were 100% successful: they were never rumbled.
Nobody really knows how many people ended up working for BSC - as agents or sub-agents or sub-sub-agents - although I have seen the figure mentioned of up to 3,000. Certainly at the height of its operations in late 1941 there were many hundreds of agents and many hundreds of fellow travellers (enough finally to stir the suspicions of Hoover, for one). Three thousand British agents spreading propaganda and mayhem in a staunchly anti-war America. It almost defies belief. Try to imagine a CIA office in Oxford Street with 3,000 US operatives working in a similar way. The idea would be incredible - but it was happening in America in 1940 and 1941, and the organisation grew and grew.[4]

Front Groups

References

  1. Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception, Brassey's 1999, pp.11-14.
  2. The Secret Persuaders, by William Boyd, The Guardian, 19 August 2006.
  3. Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, by Roy Godson, Transaction Publishers, 2001, p.24.
  4. The Secret Persuaders, by William Boyd, The Guardian, 19 August 2006.
  5. i to vii listed in PRO OF 898/103 Political Warfare Executive, Morrell, "SO.1," 10 July 1941, quoted in Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States 1939-44, Brassey's, 1999, pp.23-24.
  6. Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States 1939-44, Brassey's, 1999, p.24.
  7. Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States 1939-44, Brassey's, 1999, p.24.
  8. Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States 1939-44, Brassey's, 1999, p.24.
  9. Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States 1939-44, Brassey's, 1999, pp.38-40.