Ronald Reagan, 1981-89

"Our First Line of Defense" Presidential Reflections on US Intelligence (U)


Covert action gained a new urgency under President Ronald Reagan and his Director of Central Intelligence William Casey. The United States met the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with aid to the Afghan mujahidin. Reagan also directed CIA to support the anti-Communist Contras fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

In December 1981, Reagan issued Executive Order 12333, which gave CIA the exclusive right to conduct covert action unless the President decided that another agency would be more appropriate to attain a specific objective.

During Reagan's second term, CIA expanded its headquarters complex in Northern Virginia. Like President Eisenhower did for the original building, President Reagan helped break ground for the addition in 1984.


    "IT IS NOT ENOUGH, OF COURSE, simply to collect information. Thoughtful analysis is vital to sound decisionmaking. The goal of our intelligence analysts can be nothing short of the truth, even when that truth is unpleasant or unpopular. I have asked for honest, objective analysis, and I shall expect nothing less. When there is disagreement, as there often is, on the difficult questions of our time, I expect those honest differences of view to be fully expressed."

    President Ronald Reagan, 4 December 1981


    "WHETHER YOU WORK IN LANGLEY or a faraway nation, whether your tasks are in operations or analysis sections, it is upon your intellect and integrity, your wit and intuition that the fate of freedom rests for millions of your countrymen and for many millions more all around the globe. You are the trip-wire across which the forces of repression and tyranny must stumble in their quest for global domination. You, the men and women of the CIA, are the eyes and ears of the free world."

    President Ronald Reagan, 23 June 1982




    "[WE'RE] RIGHTLY REGARDED AS a candid and open people who pride ourselves on our free society. And yet our secret services, our spies and intelligence agencies--from Nathan Hale to Midway, from OSS to CIA--have not written just a striking, stirring chapter in our history but have often provided the key to victory in war and the preservation of our freedom during an uneasy peace."

    President Ronald Reagan Remarks to former members of the OSS, 29 May 1986


    "WE CAN NEVER LEGISLATE AN end to terrorism. However, we must remain resolute in our commitment to confront this criminal behavior in every way--diplomatically, economically, legally, and, when necessary, militarily. First-rate intelligence remains the key element in each of these areas. We will continue to improve our ability to predict, prevent, and respond to threats of terrorism with an expanded intelligence-gathering capability."

    President Ronald Reagan, 27 August 1986




    "[UNFORTUNATELY], MANY OF your successes can only be celebrated in private. But those of us in the executive branch and the Congress know about these gallant efforts and recognize, for example, verifying arms reduction agreements and the continued expansion of freedom must rest on a solid intelligence foundation. So, we have a responsibility to assure the American people that they have the best intelligence service in the world, and that it is staffed by honorable men and women who work within the framework of our laws and our shared values.

    "[But] our liberty, our way of life, requires eternal vigilance. The United States cannot survive in the modern world without a vigorous intelligence agency, capable of acting swiftly and in secret."

    President Ronald Reagan Swearing-in ceremony of William H. Webster as DCI, 26 May 1987






Historical Document
Posted: Mar 19, 2007 01:33 PM
Last Updated: Jul 07, 2008 02:01 PM