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Laura Moorhead – Norwood Allman, the CIA and Representations of Intelligence

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Laura Moorhead (Independent Scholar) – Norwood Allman, the CIA and Representations of Intelligence

As a one-time State Department diplomat and newspaper journalist in China, Norwood Allman traded language lessons with a young Mao Zedong and attended Chiang Kai-shek’s wedding before becoming a U.S. spy. His earliest covert work in Shanghai (largely with the British) rolled into the efforts of the Office of Strategic Services, where he began working as director of the Far Eastern bureau within months of the OSS’s 1942 launch. After fleeing China in 1950, Allman worked in Manhattan as “an editor” for Business International Corporation, a cover organization for the CIA, where he practiced psychological warfare (his “specialty”). By 1951, Allman was involved “in a number of [CIA] covert operations [the U.S. government] would rather the Nationalists not know about,” most notably organizing “on the mainland anti-Communist forces who were […] covertly known as the ‘Third Force.’” A year later, Allman helped put into play a “de facto model” that recast the Third Force as a fifth column which encouraged the overthrow or destabilization of Communist governments outside China. During 1953, Allman was part of the CIA operation that overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala, and he went on to push a similar coup d’état in Iran during 1954. Through a collection of memoirs, “renegade” accounts, primary source material from the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University, and the U.S. government’s national archives and CIA records, I consider one man’s efforts to manage the representation of intelligence within the documentary record of American foreign policy, through both his personal and public records, writing, and broadcasts.

Laura Moorhead has worked in publishing for more than 15 years, including an 11-year period at Wired, where she worked as a senior editor. Most recently, Laura was a contributing editor and writer at PBS Frontline/World. In the fall, she will be returning to Stanford University for a doctoral program.

Contact information: laura_moorhead@stanford.edu

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