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Most of the anthropologists who worked for the CIA during the 1950s had worked for the Office of Strategic Services or engaged in intelligence work at other agencies during the Second World War. During the 1950s, several anthropologists worked as analysts within the CIA, while others undertook field operations abroad. Frank Bessac joined the CIA and later traveled overland from China to Tibet with CIA agent Douglas Mackiernan in 1950. The CIA careers of anthropologists Donald Wilber, Michael Coe, and others are described.

The structure and function of CIA funding fronts are examined, and several dozen CIA funding fronts from the 1950s and 1960s are identified. These fronts allowed the CIA to outsource research to unwitting scholars, including anthropologists, who gathered information and produced analysis of interest to the CIA. The Asia Foundation, a CIA asset from the early 1950s until 1967, gained access to lists of Asian anthropologists by offering to subsidize AAA membership dues for Asian anthropologists.

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