Meyer was the son of a wealthy New York family. His father, Cord Meyer Sr., was a diplomat and real estate developer; his mother, Katherine Thaw, belonged to a Pennsylvania family that earned its wealth in the coal business. His grandfather, also called Cord Meyer, was a property developer and a chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee. He was educated at St. Paul's School, New Hampshire, and attended Yale University, where he was a member of the Scroll and Key society. After graduating in 1942, he enlisted with the 22nd Marine Regiment and fought in Pacific War; he took part in the Battle of Eniwetok, and in the Battle of Guam as platoon leader, losing his left eye in a grenade attack. He shared his war experiences, writing for The Atlantic Monthly.
After the war, Meyer was a strong advocate of world government. He was an aide of Harold Stassen to the 1945 San Francisco United Nations Conference on International Organization and in 1947, was elected president of the United World Federalists, the organization he helped to fund.
Circa 1949, Meyer started working for the Central Intelligence Agency, joining the organization in 1951 at the invitation of Allen Dulles. At first he worked at the Office of Policy Coordination under former OSS man, Frank Wisner. In 1953, Meyer came under attack by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which claimed he was a security risk for having once stood at the same podium of a "notorious leftist", and refused to give him a security clearance. An internal CIA inquiry summarily dismissed the claims.
According to Deborah Davis in her 1979 book Katharine the Great, Meyer became the "principal operative" of Operation Mockingbird, a plan to secretly influence domestic and foreign media. Meyer befriended James Angleton, who in 1954 became the CIA's counter-intelligence chief. From 1954 until 1962, Meyer led the agency's International Organizations Division. Meyer headed the Covert Action Staff of the Directorate of Plans from 1962.
On 18 December 1956, Meyer's nine-year-old son, Michael, was hit by a car and killed. Meyer and his wife Mary divorced in 1958. On 12 October 1964, his former wife Mary was shot dead by an unknown assailant alongside the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Her sister and brother-in-law Benjamin C. Bradlee, later the executive editor of The Washington Post, caught Angleton breaking into Pinchot's residence. Angleton apparently was looking for Mary Meyer's diary that allegedly contained details of a love affair with John F. Kennedy, the recently assassinated U.S. President.
He retired from the CIA in 1977. Following retirement, Meyer became a syndicated columnist and wrote several books, including an autobiography. Some insiders incorrectly suspected that Cord was Deep Throat, a key informant in the Watergate Scandal.
Allegations of involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy
After the death of former CIA agent and Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt in 2007, Howard St. John Hunt and David Hunt stated that their father had recorded several claims about himself and others being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy. In the April 5, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, Howard St. John Hunt detailed a number of individuals purported to be implicated by his father including Meyer, as well as Lyndon B. Johnson, David Sánchez Morales, David Phillips, Frank Sturgis, Lucien Sarti, and William Harvey. The two sons alleged that their father cut the information from his memoirs, "American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond", to avoid possibly perjury charges. According to Hunt's widow and other children, the two sons took advantage of Hunt's loss of lucidity by coaching and exploiting him for financial gain. The Los Angeles Times said they examined the materials offered by the sons to support the story and found them to be "inconclusive".
- Peace or Anarchy, Little, Brown (1948).
- The Search of Security, World Government House (January 1, 1947).
- Facing Reality: From World Federalism to the CIA, University Press of America; Reprint edition (September 2, 1982). ISBN 0-8191-2559-8
- Burleigh, Nina (1998). A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer. New York: Bantam Books. pp. 83, 85. ISBN 9780307574176. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
- Hendrickson, Paul (February 7, 1978). "Behind the Scenes of a CIA Life". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.). p. B1. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
- Joseph Preston Baratta (2004). The Politics of World Federation: From World Federation to Global Governance. ISBN 0-275-98068-5.
- Marquis, Christopher (2001-03-16). "Cord Meyer Jr. Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Cord Meyer (1980). Facing Reality: From World Federalism to the Central Intelligence Agency. Harper & Row. p. 65. ISBN 0-06-013032-6.
- Jackson, Harold (March 16, 2001). "Cord Meyer: CIA chief behind clandestine funding of Encounter and Watergate break-in". The Guardian. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
- Deborah Davis (1979). Katharine the Great. p. 226.
- Raymond L. Garthoff (2001). A Journey Through the Cold War: A Memoir of Containment and Coexistence. Brookings Institution Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-8157-0102-0.
- "Key CIA Figure Cord Meyer Dies". The Washington Post. 2001-03-15.
- Benjamin C. Bradlee (1995-09-25). "The Bradlee files". Newsweek.
- Cord Meyer (1980). Facing Reality: From World Federalism to the Central Intelligence Agency. Harper & Row. p. 222. ISBN 0-06-013032-6.
- Riebling, Mark, Wedge (2002) Touchstone ISBN 0-7432-4599-7
- Williams, Carol J. (March 20, 2007). "Watergate plotter may have a last tale". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). Retrieved December 30, 2012.
- Hedegaard, Erik (April 5, 2007). "The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt". Rolling Stone.
- McAdams, John (2011). "Too Much Evidence of Conspiracy". JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think About Claims of Conspiracy. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books. p. 189. ISBN 9781597974899. Retrieved December 30, 2012.