When you think of a CIA agent, you probably think of the Hollywood stereotypes: a tall, athletic man in a black suit with dark sunglasses, walking around with one hand on his gun and the other on his ear piece.
But that's stupid. Spies are meant to blend in, not stick out, and the best spies are the ones you're least likely to expect. So I bet you never knew these people were secretly working for the CIA.
1 – Julia Child
When you think Julia Child, you probably think "soufflé" before you think "spy." But you'd be wrong.
Julia McWilliams was an advertising copy writer for a New York City furniture store when Pearl Harbor changed her life. Wanting to join the war effort, she applied to the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of today's CIA, and started work as a research assistant directly under OSS Director William "Wild Bill" Donovan.
From there her career took several surprising turns. She helped develop a shark repellent to coat marine explosives for the U-boat warfare effort. She spent time in Ceylon helping to coordinate the invasion of the Malay Peninsula. She ran the OSS Registry in China during the final crucial months of the war in the Pacific.
She also met her husband, Paul Child, who was also working for the OSS, and the two were married in 1946. He joined the US Information Agency and was assigned to Paris in 1948 where Julia studied French cooking at one of France's most prestigious cooking schools, Le Cordon Bleu. And the rest as they say, is history. The officially-sanctioned history with all the spy bits left out, that is. Julia's role in the OSS wasn't declassified for over 50 years.
2 – Arthur Sulzberger
As publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Sr. was one of the most influential men in the news media from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. And he worked hand in hand with the CIA.
The connection was first uncovered by Ramparts Magazine in 1966, investigated by Congress in the mid-70s and documented in detail by Carl Bernstein in his landmark 1977 Rolling Stone article, "The CIA and the Media." In the report, Bernstein identifies Sulzberger (along with Henry Luce of Time Inc., William Paley of CBS and numerous other mass media organizations) as working directly and knowingly with the CIA to help the agency achieve its propaganda objectives. There were ten CIA operatives working at the New York Times in the 50s and 60s alone.
The CIA's drive to infiltrate the news media was codenamed "Operation Mockingbird" and included everything from Sulzberger's New York Times and Paley's CBS down to AP, Newsweek, Reuters and even the Louisville Courier-Journal. The program formally came to an end in February 1976 when then-Director George. H.W. Bush created a new agency policy promising that the CIA would never again contract with any accredited U.S. news service, newspaper, radio station, television network or journalist. Because we all know the CIA would never lie about something like that, right?
3 – Jackson Pollock
Do you ever get the feeling that modern art can only exist because it's being funded by the CIA in a vast conspiracy to confuse and disorient the public? Because if you do, you'd be exactly right.