Operation Mockingbird was a secret campaign, started by the CIA in the 1950's, in which journalists were recruited [by the CIA] to run stories to specifically forward the agency's agenda.
It was a bold act of subterfuge and a violation of the sanctity of the citizens' bond with government. As the campaign continued, they began to influence foreign media outlets as well.
In direct violation of the rights given to them, "some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts," writes Alex Constantine in his book Mockingbird: The Subversion of the Free Press by the CIA.
Says Thomas Braden, head of the International Organizations Division"If the director of CIA wanted to extend a present, say, to someone in Europe—a Labour leader—suppose he just thought, This man can use fifty thousand dollars, he's working well and doing a good job—he could hand it to him and never have to account to anybody... There was simply no limit to the money it could spend and no limit to the people it could hire and no limit to the activities it could decide were necessary to conduct the war—the secret war..."
Braden played an important role in Operation Mockingbird and later blew the whistle.
It is one of the most well known betrayals of the public's trust performed by the CIA.