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The Central Intelligence Agency

With mystery, deception, espionage, secrecy and assassinations, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began to slowly surface and these words trailed its discovery with haste. As America entered World War II, a secret intelligence agency known as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) emerged as America’s “ace of spades” allowing them to control the flow of the war. Not only did the O.S.S. contain some of America’s best World War II soldiers, but it definitely foreshadowed the new age of espionage that was about to consume the world. Franklin D. Roosevelt believed that America’s intelligence agencies were poorly skilled and ill-mannered, and this allowed William J. Donovan to step in as the leader of the O.S.S. In 1942, Roosevelt reinforced the poor intelligence agencies of America and funded them, generally without limit. The O.S.S.’s job was to collect foreign intelligence which allowed for America’s strategic troop deployment and supply deployment all over Europe and the Pacific, but since the O.S.S. was not “permitted” to control all foreign affairs it remained as secretive as possible.

As America and its allies successfully ended the war, Roosevelt dismantled the O.S.S., dividing it among the State and War Departments. Donovan would not stand for his America to be run solely by politicians, so he proposed a new plan, stating “A powerful, centralized civilian agency would coordinate all the intelligence services and we will engage in subversive operations abroad, but no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad." Even though a strong intelligence agency was a great idea, it was shot down by the (FBI) Federal Bureau of Investigation, who believed it breached their “civilian territory,” and the military completely opposed the two forces coming together. Eventually Harry S. Truman created the Central Intelligence Group and the National Intelligence Authority in 1946, but twenty months later the decision was made to “pull the plug” on both operations. Finally by 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council were both generated under the National Security Act of 1947, allowing the Central Intelligence Agency to be responsible for discovering intelligence, securing its validity, and deciding the level of national security.

Once the Central Intelligence Agency was established, it proved to be a great source of America’s information during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The Central Intelligence Agency was given 46 million dollars by President Eisenhower in 1955 to have the CIA Headquarters built in Langley, Virginia. By 1961 the CIA supported the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs by providing the Cuban exiles with weapons and training. Later, the Central Intelligence Agency discovered that Cuba had Soviet missiles pointed at the United States on nuclear missile carriers; this created the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. During the Cold War the CIA played the biggest role in counter-espionage ever, but once the Cold War began thaw the focus fell on the CIA control. In 1977, Jimmy Carter finally made the decision to give the Director of Central Intelligence full control of the budget and operations the CIA performed, but he also stated that anything that goes wrong is the director’s fault, not the “little man.” The CIA always remained as secretive as possible and hid themselves well for almost 25 years, supported by President Reagan and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which gave criminal penalties to those who named covert operative specialists. The CIA has controlled the underground of America for almost half a century and they will continue to keep America safe with any means necessary. The Central Intelligence Agency played one of the biggest roles in how America would be shaped throughout the Cold War and played an even bigger role in the world’s affairs to come.

Researched by Derek Rhule
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School


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