CIA's Trojan Horse enters the heart of India
by Shelley Kasli on 20 Jan 2014 6 Comments
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) often uses philanthropic foundations as the most effective conduit to channel large sums of money to Agency projects without alerting the recipients to their source. From the early 1950s to the present, the CIA’s intrusion into the foundation field was and is huge. A US Congressional investigation in 1976 revealed that nearly 50 per cent of the 700 grants in the field of international activities by the major foundations were funded by the CIA.


The CIA considers foundations such as Ford “The best and most plausible kind of funding cover”. The collaboration of respectable and prestigious foundations, according to a former CIA operative, allowed the Agency to fund “a seemingly limitless range of covert action programs affecting youth groups, labor unions, universities, publishing houses and other private institutions”. The latter included “human rights” groups beginning in the 1950s to the present. One of the most important “private foundations” collaborating with the CIA over a significant span of time in major projects in the cultural Cold War is the Ford Foundation.


CIA & Ford Foundation


By the late 1950s the Ford Foundation possessed over $3 billion in assets. The leaders of the Foundation were in total agreement with Washington’s post-WWII projection of world power. A noted scholar of the period writes: “At times it seemed as if the Ford Foundation was simply an extension of government in the area of international cultural propaganda. The foundation had a record of close involvement in covert actions in Europe, working closely with Marshall Plan and CIA officials on specific projects”.


This is graphically illustrated by the naming of Richard Bissell as President of the Foundation in 1952. In his two years in office, Bissell met often with the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, and other CIA officials in a “mutual search” for new ideas. In 1954, Bissell left Ford to become a special assistant to Allen Dulles. Under Bissell, the Ford Foundation was the “vanguard of Cold War thinking”.


One of its first Cold War projects was the establishment of a publishing house, Inter-cultural Publications, and the publication of a magazine, Perspectives, in Europe in four languages. The Ford Foundation’s purpose, according to Bissell, was not “so much to defeat the leftist intellectuals in dialectical combat (sic) as to lure them away from their positions”. The board of directors of the publishing house was completely dominated by cultural Cold Warriors. Given the strong leftist culture in Europe in the post-war period, Perspectives failed to attract readers and went bankrupt.


Another journal, Der Monat, funded by the Confidential Fund of the US military and run by Melvin Lasky, was taken over by the Ford Foundation to provide it with the appearance of independence.


In 1954, the new president of the Ford Foundation was John McCloy, who had previously been Assistant Secretary of War, president of the World Bank, High Commissioner of occupied Germany, chairman of Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank, Wall Street attorney for the big seven oil companies, and director of numerous corporations.


McCloy integrated the Ford Foundation with CIA operations by creating an administrative unit within the Foundation specifically to deal with the CIA. He headed a three person consultation committee with the CIA to facilitate the use of the Foundation as a cover and conduit for funds. With these structural linkages, the Ford Foundation was one of the organisations that the CIA was able to mobilize for political warfare against the anti-imperialist and pro-communist left.


Numerous CIA “fronts” received major Ford Foundation grants. Numerous supposedly “independent” cultural organizations, human rights groups, artists and intellectuals received CIA/Ford Foundation grants. One of the biggest donations of the Ford Foundation was to the CIA-organized Congress for Cultural Freedom which received $7 million by the early 1960s. Numerous CIA operatives secured employment in the Foundation and continued close collaboration with the Agency.


From its very origins there was a close structural relation and interchange of personnel at the highest levels between the CIA and the Ford Foundation, based on shared imperial interests. The result of their collaboration was the proliferation of a number of journals and access
to the mass media which pro-US intellectuals used to launch vituperative polemics against Marxists and other anti-imperialists. The Ford Foundation funding of these anti-Marxist organisations and intellectuals provided a legal cover for their claims of being “independent” of government funding (CIA).


Journalist Andrew Kopkind wrote of a deep sense of moral disillusionment with the
private foundation-funded CIA cultural fronts:
“The distance between the rhetoric of the open society and the reality of control was greater than anyone thought. Everyone who went abroad for an American organisation was, in one way or another, a witness to the theory that the world was torn between communism and democracy and anything in between was treason. The illusion of dissent was maintained: the CIA supported socialist cold warriors, fascist cold warriors, black and white cold warriors. The catholicity and flexibility of the CIA operations were major advantages. But it was a sham pluralism and it was utterly corrupting”.


When US journalist Dwight Macdonald, an editor of Encounter (a Ford Foundation-CIA funded influential cultural journal), sent an article critical of US culture and politics, it was rejected by the editors working closely with the CIA. In the field of painting and theatre, the CIA worked with the Ford Foundation to promote abstract expressionism against any artistic expression with a social content, providing funds and contacts for highly publicized exhibits in Europe and favourable reviews by “sponsored” journalists. The interlocking directorate between the CIA, Ford Foundation and New York Museum of Modern Art lead to a lavish promotion of “individualistic” art remote from the people, and a vicious attack on European painters, writers and playwrights writing from a critical realist perspective. “Abstract
Expressionism”, whatever its artist’s intention, became a weapon in the Cold War.


The Ford Foundation’s history of collaboration and interlock with the CIA in pursuit of US world hegemony is now a well-documented fact. The issue is whether that relationship continues into the new millennium after the exposures of the 1960s. The Foundation made some superficial changes. They are more flexible in providing small grants to human rights groups and academic researchers who occasionally dissent from US policy. They are not as likely to recruit CIA operatives to head the organization. More significantly they are likely to collaborate more openly with the US government in its cultural and educational projects, particularly with the Agency of International Development (USAID).


The Ford Foundation has in some ways refined their style of collaboration with Washington’s attempt to produce world cultural domination, but retained the substance of that policy. For example the Foundation is very selective in the funding of educational institutions. Like the IMF, the Ford Foundation imposes conditions such as the “professionalization” of academic personnel and “raising standards.” This translates into the promotion of social scientific work based on the assumptions, values and orientations of the US empire; to have professionals delinked from the class struggle and connected with pro-imperial US academics and foundation functionaries supporting the neo-liberal model.


As in the 1950s and 60s, the Ford Foundation today has developed a sophisticated strategy of funding human rights groups (HRGs) that appeal to Washington to change its policy while denouncing US adversaries their “systematic” violations. The Ford Foundation supports HRGs which equate massive state terror by the US with individual excesses of anti-imperialist adversaries. The Foundation finances HRGs which do not participate in anti-globalisation and anti-neoliberal mass actions and defend the Foundation as a legitimate and generous “non-governmental organisation”.


In the current period of a major US military-political offensive, Washington has posed the issue as “terrorism or democracy,” just as during the Cold War it posed the question as “Communism or Democracy.”  In both instances the Empire recruited and funded “front organizations, intellectuals and journalists to attack its anti-imperialist adversaries and neutralize its democratic critics. The Ford Foundation is well situated to replay its role as collaborator to cover for the New Cultural Cold War.


CIA’s Trojan Horse reaches India


India has long been sucked into the spiral of this Cultural Cold War. However with the US 
economy already bust and the EU falling like dominoes; it is again the East where the West would anchor its sinking ship of so-called Exceptionalism that fuels the Western Civilization. The game on the Indian side is very well crafted and carried out through CIA’s Trojan Horse which has entered the heart of Indian Politics – Delhi.


A new political party pledging to sweep corruption from the Indian capital made surprising gains in state elections, grabbing a huge share of votes from the incumbent Congress party. The Aam Aadmi Party seized 28 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats just nine months after its formation. The Bharatiya Janata Party took first place with 31, while Congress was left with a meagre eight, a stunning decline from its previous 43. [AAP later formed the Government with outside support from the Congress].


CIA lays the “Foundation” of Indian Policymaking


The Ford Foundation, which soon completes six decades in India, provides a continuing flow of grants to institutions, think-tanks, civil society, and even farmer groups, to carry out research and advocacy work. The sums are not inconsequential - about $15 million (Rs 70 crore) a year. And the recipients - 320 grants, over the past four years - are the who’s who of civil society and advocacy groups in India.


Its representative Steven Solnick said the Foundation’s last installment to Kabir (an NGO run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia) was in 2010. “Our first grant to the NGO was of $1,72,000 in 2005 ; the second was in 2008 of $1,97,000,” (Business Standard). Kabir has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years.

[Screenshot of the link for $197,000, now removed by Ford:]


In reply to an RTI query regarding the funding and expenditure of Kabir, the organisation disclosed that it received funds from the Ford Foundation (Rs 86,61,742), PRIA (Rs 2,37,035), Manjunath Shanmugam Trust (Rs 3,70,000), Dutch Embassy (Rs 19,61,968), Association for India’s Development (Rs 15,00,000), India’s Friends Association (Rs 7,86,500), United Nationals Development Programme (Rs12,52,742) while Rs 11,35,857 were collected from individual donations between 2007 to 2010.


Thus, a major part of the funding to an organisation that is prominent in the “War against corruption” has come from abroad, mainly from the United States [the UNDP, Ford Foundation and India Friends Association are US-based, while PRIA and Association for India’s Development are headquartered in Asia].


The Foundation makes no bones about its neo-liberal agenda, broadly pro-market, seeking accountability in governance, and promoting marginalised groups. It funds a small number of
institutions, but chooses effectively. At a post-budget meeting two years back, it was noted that all the think-tanks represented (NCAER, NIPFP, ICRIER and the Centre for Policy Research) on the dais received grants from the foundation. Academicians and scholars from these think-tanks are regularly consulted by the government on various policy issues. On whether the views of these intellectuals actually get reflected in subsequent policies, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia refused to comment, but conceded that India’s association with the Foundation “is something that has been on for a long time”.


Three core members of the anti-corruption movement - Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia - are also winners of the Magsaysay Award, an Asian award endowed by the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, ostensibly in the memory of Ramon Magsaysay, former President of The Philippines.


According to well-placed sources in the US Intelligence community opposed to the State Department’s policy toward The Philippines, $30 million in covert funds was supplied to the Philippine opposition to help finance its presidential campaign. The money was laundered through Hong Kong. Philippine sources said that the money had partly been funnelled into the CIA-controlled citizens elec­tion watch group, called Namfrel (National Movement for a Free Election), originally created  in  1953 in order to bring Ramon Magsaysay to power. 


In 1957, the Rockefeller Foundation established the Ramon Magsaysay Prize for community leaders in Asia. In 2000, the Ford Foundation established the Ramon Magsaysay Emergent Leadership Award. The Magsaysay Award enjoys prestige among artists, activists and community workers in India. MS Subbulakshmi and Satyajit Ray won it, so did Jayaprakash Narayan and journalist P Sainath. In general, it has become a gentle arbiter of what kind of activism is “acceptable” and what is not. In reality, the award is the living memory of the dictatorial President of The Philippines, known for the murder of thousands of communist guerrillas during the Huk Rebellion under US-planned anti-communist counter-insurgency operations. [For more details read: CIA manipulation of 1953 elections]


All this perfectly fits in with a recent shift in the US policy of association with India, which is now focusing on building state-to-state partnerships by “engaging Indian state and local leaders” throughout the country on “topics of mutual interest”. Civil society groups and think-tanks are expected to play an important role in this. As Prof Anil Gupta of IIM-Ahmedabad said, “Their influence is far beyond what is recognized, and not always benign.”


Should NGOs receiving grants from international agencies like the Ford Foundation and others be barred from participating in the shaping of public policy? Are these civil society groups working as stooges of the West to execute an “American agenda”? These are questions the aam aadmi has to answer. Not the copyrighted ones; but the real aam aadmi.



-        The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

-        Who paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Francis Stonor Saunders

-        Ford Foundation, a philanthropic facade for the CIA

-        CIA manipulation of 1953 elections

-        Warren Commission (link dead; snapshot added)

-        Allen Dulles

-        John J. McCloy

-        Flowing The Way Of Their Money

-        Claims that Hazare’s movement is US-funded baseless: Arvind

-        ‘We’re No Policy Advisors’

-        Kejriwal Admits, His NGO Took Money From Ford Foundation 2 Years Back

-        It’s Official – US-Based Ford Foundation Funding Anna’s Movement

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