Volume 65, No. 2 (June 2021)

The Quiet Warrior Rear Admiral Sidney Souers and the Emergence of CIA’s Covert Action Authority Dr. Bianca Adair

Much has been made of the origins of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Shrouded in myth, the notion of the CIA ushers forth images of skulking in back alleys and fight­ing security threats in secrecy. Yet, to shield intelligence collection from the political maelstrom after World War II, the CIA needed quiet warriors who had mastered the art of bureaucratic diplomacy and understood the impli­cations of effective intelligence and covert action. Not normally identified as a swashbuckling intelligence offi­cer like Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Director William “Wild Bill” Donovan, RAdm. Sidney Souers served as a critical founder of the CIA even after his tour as the director of central intelligence (DCI) and direc­tor of the Central Intelligence Group (CIG—the immediate successor of OSS) ended. Souers understood how to move within a bureaucracy to win battles through compromise, wielding power and influence with a heavy hand only when needed. He balanced creation of an apolitical intelligence agency with the demands of the early Cold War and an equally demanding White House.

Marking the 75th anniversary of the completion of Souers’s service as the first DCI (January 23, 1946–June 10, 1946), this article commemorates his leadership, which set the foun­dation for the modern CIA. Souers served as DCI for only six months, but his service to the agency extended well beyond his tenure in office.

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