News & Information

Rss Feed

The Genesis of Central Intelligence

For more than 230 years, the United States has carried on foreign intelligence activities. Before World War II, however, these activities were never coordinated on a government-wide basis.

With the United States’ entry into World War II seemingly inevitable, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI). Established in July 1941, the COI was the first peacetime, civilian intelligence agency. America's entry into World War II in December of that year prompted new thinking about the place and role of the COI.

OSS – The Beginning

As a result, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was established in June 1942. The OSS–the forerunner to the CIA–had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Members of the OSS also conducted special operations not assigned to other agencies.

During the war, the OSS supplied policymakers with essential facts and often played an important role in directly aiding military campaigns. However, the OSS never received complete jurisdiction over all foreign intelligence activities. The FBI was officially responsible for intelligence work in Latin America when its Secret Intelligence Service was established in June 1940. Military branches also conducted intelligence operations in their areas of responsibility.

President Harry S. Truman, who succeeded FDR in April 1945, felt no obligation to retain OSS after the war. The OSS was officially abolished in October 1945. However, the OSS's analytic, collection, and counterintelligence functions were transferred on a smaller scale to the State and War departments.

The Establishment of CIG

President Truman soon recognized the need for a centralized intelligence system. He established the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) in January 1946. The CIG had two missions: providing strategic warning and conducting clandestine activities. Unlike the OSS, it had access to all-source intelligence.

The CIG functioned under the direction of a National Intelligence Authority, which was composed of a presidential representative and the secretaries of State, War and Navy. The Deputy Chief of Naval Intelligence, Rear Admiral Sidney W. Souers, USNR, was appointed the first Director of Central Intelligence. Twenty months later, the National Intelligence Authority and the CIG were disestablished.

National Security Act of 1947: The Creation of CIA

The National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were created under the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947, which President Truman signed on July 26, 1947. The CIA came into existence on Sept. 18. The 1947 Act charged the CIA with coordinating the nation's intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating, and disseminating intelligence which affects national security. In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act was passed, supplementing the 1947 Act. This Act is the statutory authority which allows for the secrecy of the Agency's budget.

On December 17, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act which restructured the Intelligence Community by abolishing the position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) and creating the position the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA). The Act also created the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which oversees the Intelligence Community and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

Historical Document
Posted: Aug 17, 2007 11:06 AM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 09:00 AM