National Security

Declassified CIA Docs Include Serious Pitch From Penthouse Magazine

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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A recently declassified CIA database includes a letter from soft-core pornographic Penthouse Magazine requesting an interview from then director Adm. Stansfield Turner.

The letter, dated Jun. 27, 1977, was written by journalist Joseph B. Treaster, a well-known writer who worked for Penthouse and several other major outlets. Treaster made a compelling argument as to why Turner should grant the interview, noting the magazine’s extensive audience.

“In the not too distant past, I would have felt it would be fruitless to approach the Director of Central Intelligence with such a proposal,” wrote Treaster. “But in view of your efforts to give the public a better understanding of intelligence activities, it seemed to me that you might welcome the opportunity to reach the approximately five million Americans who buy Penthouse each month.”

Treaster added that many of the magazine’s readers are “rather well educated” and that the interview would be a good opportunity to “lay out the realities of intelligence work and to dispel some of the myths.”

He offered Turner a rather good deal, giving him the opportunity to correct any possible errors. The CIA responded to Treaster’s letter noting that Turner’s busy schedule would not allow him to take the interview.

Although the CIA ultimately turned down the offer, Treaster’s timing was smart. The CIA had just gone through the Church hearings, a series of Senate committee hearings led by former Sen. Frank Church which investigated the agency’s activities. The hearings brought to light many of the CIA’s secret activities, causing some backlash from political leaders.

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