A Look Back … Truman Appoints First DCI, 1946
More than 60 years ago, President Harry S. Truman appointed the first Director of Central Intelligence, Sidney W. Souers. DCI Souers did not serve in the post long, but he made key decisions that still affect the Intelligence Community today.
The office diary of the President's chief military adviser, Flt. Adm. William Leahy, records a curious event on January 24, 1946:
"At lunch today in the White House, with only members of the Staff present, Rear Admiral Sidney Souers and I were presented [by President Truman] with black cloaks, black hats, and wooden daggers, and the President read an amusing directive to us outlining some of our duties in the Central Intelligence Agency [sic], 'Cloak and Dagger Group of Snoopers'."
With this whimsical ceremony, President Truman christened Admiral Soeurs as the first Director of Central Intelligence. Souers had served as Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence during World War II, and before then had been a St. Louis banker and insurance executive, as well as a pillar of the Democratic Party in Missouri. In late 1945 he had coordinated the various intelligence reform plans considered by the White House in the drafting of the President's January 22, 1946 directive that created the Central Intelligence Group (CIG). Although Souers was not one of Truman's home-state cronies, he quietly inspired the President’s confidence.
What DCI Souers directed at first was only a handful of staffers loaned from the State Department and the armed services. His new CIG as yet had no statutory mandate, no direct appropriations, no authority to sign contracts or hire its own personnel, and (for the time being) no capacity to collect information from agents in the field.
But CIG grew rapidly from this humble beginning. Souers set up his office in Room 4252 of the New War Department Building (now a section of the State Department's main headquarters). On February 15 he sent Truman the first Daily Summary, the first of thousands of daily intelligence briefs for the President that continue to this day.
President Truman liked his Daily Summary, and that favor brought DCI Souers lasting influence. By the end of 1946, CIG also had acquired an operational role. He made the decisions that resulted in CIG taking on the leftover foreign stations of the moribund Office of Strategic Services. With them, Souers and future DCI's were given the responsibility of coordinating all US clandestine activities abroad. Both of these missions--the provision of strategic warning to the President and the coordination of clandestine activities--would be inherited by the new Central Intelligence Agency under the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947.
Souers himself stepped down as DCI in mid-1946, but soon returned to the Truman Administration to serve as the first Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. He died in 1973.