History of the Office
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has always had a chief legal officer who played a major role in support of the mission of the CIA. The position of General Counsel was established within the CIA in 1947, the same year that President Truman signed into law the National Security Act that created the CIA. The first CIA General Counsel was Lawrence R. Houston, who had served as Assistant General Counsel of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS); General Counsel of its War Department successor organization, the Strategic Services Unit; and General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Group (CIG). Houston was a principal draftsman of the legislative proposal to abolish the CIG and establish the CIA, which was incorporated into the legislation that became the National Security Act.
When the CIG was abolished by the National Security Act of 1947, all CIG personnel were transferred by law to the newly established CIA, where Houston continued to serve as General Counsel. Within the next three years, two other attorneys, Walter Pforzheimer and John S. Warner, joined Houston as Assistant General Counsels. Together all three attorneys helped to draft the legislation that became the CIA Act of 1949, which gave CIA special statutory authorities unique within the federal government.
In 1953, the Office of General Counsel was formally established. Over the years, the OGC has varied in size, generally growing as the law affecting CIA has become more extensive and increasingly complex. During this time, OGC resided in different parts of the CIA, including within the former Directorate of Administration, and now is an independent office under the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (formerly the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)).
In 1976, the Office began to hire a greater number of staff attorneys from outside the CIA, and the DCI appointed the first General Counsel from outside the CIA, Anthony A. Lapham. More recently, in 1996, a statute was enacted requiring the General Counsel to be appointed by the President and confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Today, OGC has more than 100 attorneys, who are involved in providing counsel on a wide range of CIA activities, such as clandestine collection, counterintelligence, covert action, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counternarcotics, as well as many others. OGC attorneys are complemented by a strong support structure composed of special assistants, administrative assistants, paralegals, a central registry, an information management staff, a librarian, and an administration staff, that together continue to provide CIA with dedicated and professional legal representation in the tradition of Lawrence Houston.