Presidential Reflections on U.S. Intelligence: Harry S. Truman
From President Truman on, each President has written a note of thanks to the men and women of the CIA. These notes are displayed with the President’s official photograph in the Presidential Gallery of the New Headquarters Building. This story is the first in a series about the relationship each president has had with the CIA. This article will focus on President Harry S. Truman.
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With the fall of the Axis powers and the end of World War II in 1945, President Harry S. Truman and Congress demobilized wartime agencies, like the Office of Strategic Services (OSS ) — the forerunner of the CIA.
However, President Truman began to have second thoughts when he realized how much information regarding intelligence and national security was being withheld from him. Truman also noticed that he was receiving redundant and confusing intelligence reports from several different agencies. He recognized the need for an organization that would correlate reports and give him a regular and consistent intelligence product.
Establishing an Intelligence Organization
For this reason, Truman decided to establish the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) in January 1946. The main purpose of CIG was to provide the president with regular updates on matters concerning national security in a timely manner. This led to the launching of two publications: the Daily Summary and the Weekly Summary. Both of these publications were intended for the president and were continued after CIG became CIA.
In September 1947, President Truman recognized the need for a permanent, civilian intelligence organization. The Central Intelligence Agency was established with the signing of the National Security Act of 1947, which charged the fledgling intelligence office with coordinating the nation’s intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating and disseminating intelligence affecting national security.
During President Truman’s time in office (1945 – 53), he discovered just how invaluable the Central Intelligence Agency was to national security. At a CIA orientation, President Truman acknowledged the contribution the CIA makes to national security:
“Those of you who are deep in the Central Intelligence Agency know what goes on around the world — know what is necessary for the President to know every morning. I am briefed every day on all the world, on everything that takes place from one end of the world to the other, all the way around — by both the poles and the other way. It is necessary that you make that contribution for the welfare and benefit of your government.”
It was President Truman who began the tradition of writing a note thanking the men and women of the CIA for their service to the United States. On June 9, 1964, he penned the first note that appears in the Presidents’ Gallery:
“To the Central Intelligence Agency, a necessity to the President of the United States, from one who knows.”
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