The central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

For more than 50 years, the central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has played a key role in shaping American foreign policy. The primary responsibility of this organization is to provide timely and accurate information to the head of the armed forces and other important decision-makers in order to protect national security by thwarting terrorist activities. Over the past few years, the CIA has come under fire, particularly during the Iraq War and the 9/11 attacks. The CIA is frequently criticized for its mistakes, but it is also difficult to learn about its successes because they frequently take place behind closed walls within the government. The CIA gathers, analyzes and distributes foreign intelligence to the President to assist in drafting decisions associate with national security. One of the most intriguing arguments has always been why the CIA was created and what it really does. The significance of the CIA in terms of securing and maintain the safety of the country is now well known by most people. The central reason behind the creation of the CIA was the aftermath of the Second World War II that ensured due to attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Ideally, the war enabled government officials from U.S to realize that victory came to countries that possessed the best information. The need to have such intelligence grew much more by the end of the war after the Soviet Union emerged as rivals to U.S. To that end, Donovan made a proposal to for an independent central agency that gathers all issues relating to intelligence. Henceforth, the CIA was created in 1947 following an effort by President Truman to sign the National Security Act. It is worth noting that most people still do not have an idea surrounding the creation of the CIA despite watching numerous Hollywood films about the CIA.

Reason behind Creation of the CIA

The bombing of the Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, which wiped out America’s Pacific fleet, was a significant contributor towards the creation of the CIA (Jeffreys 187). This surprise attack revealed lack of analysis, coordination, and distribution of vital intelligence information on the American government. The central Intelligence Agency later came into act after demilitarization of the national intelligence agency due to the confusions that President Truman faced as result of different intelligence reports. On that note, the central obligation of the CIA is to obtain and make analysis of foreign intelligence information that is critical to the security of America. Additionally, the significant mandate of the CIA is to unify the functions of other crucial agencies in the intelligence community such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The CIA has numerous obligations, which include engaging in scientific, military and political research as well as counterintelligence activities such as checking radio and television broadcasts from foreign countries (Jeffreys 187).

Since the creation of the United States of America, the country has been involved with espionage and hundreds of spies played a crucial part in the revolutionary World War II (Clarridge 44). Notably, the Army gathered intelligence for the government prior to the creation of an espionage organization, the CIA, from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). According to Clarridge (46), the CIA is the United States’ foreign intelligence agency, mandated by the government to obtain and analyze information concerning foreign governments, individuals, and corporations and availing the information to several departments of the CIA in the U.S government. On that note, the CIA gathers intelligence information and performs secret missions to safeguard the national security. The CIA has a responsibility to conduct an analysis of information from all intelligence agencies in the U.S, and come up with an effective recommendation to the President and his immediate advisors (Clarridge 49). The President determines the general assignments and tasks of the CIA and for that reason; it is worth mentioning that the CIA is an integral part of the Executive Office of the President. For instance, it would be the CIA’s task to find out the number of missiles currently owned by Russia if the President desires to have such information.

As Johnson (66) asserts, the duties and responsibilities of the CIA have diversified more towards protecting the nation from terror attacks in the past few decades. Lately, the CIA operates in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to prevent spies from accessing important secrets of national security in the U.S, a process commonly referred to as counterespionage. Unless American citizens are suspected of being spies to the enemies of states, and an approval is granted by the president, the CIA are strictly forbidden to conduct their secret operations on domestic soil. However, there is a clear distinction between the two agencies. For example, all cases concerning security reasons or treason in the U.S lie and the sole investigation of the FBI whereas the CIA remains solely discrete on any cases regarded as foreign. In order to perform its functions clearly, the CIA is divided into four separate and distinct groups (Johnson 68). Foremost, the Directorate of Support, with the obligation of handling and supporting all other agencies, is the first division of the CIA and mainly does things like training and hiring. This division is responsible for identifying people who may have specialized skills in significant fields such as a finance officer, artist or a generalist with a plethora of diverse talents.

Secondly, the CIA undergoes division into the National Clandestine Service (NCS) where spies have a higher tendency to work. Ideally, employees under the NCS go undercover in foreign countries to gather intelligence and they have an obligation to recruit agents concerned with the collection of human intelligence. As Johnson (70) suggests, the employees under this category know several languages, are well educated, like to work in a global multicultural community and can easily adapt to both favorable and dangerous situations. Moreover, the family and friends of the NCS officials will never be in a position to understand exactly what the officials do. The third division is the Directorate of Science and Technology. Generally, the employees under this division gather open source or overt intelligence, which consists of information appearing on the radio and television, in newspapers and magazines. Concisely, the DI relies on the use of satellite and electronic photography to collect such information as well as attracting people who enjoy engineering and technology in general. The fourth division is the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) solely entrusted with the responsibility to receive all information gathered by the National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology. The employees on this division are responsible for the interpretation of the information and in turn write down reports about the received information. To that end, employees in the DI division should possess excellent analytical and writing skills, be able to work under pressure to meet tight deadline and be comfortable while making presentation before a large group.

The CIA has a system of checks and balances just like other aspects of the U.S government (Johnson 73). In this regard, the CIA reports both to the legislative and executive branches. Henceforth, the CIA has must report to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the National Security Council (NSC) and the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) with respect to the executive side. The President, his Vice, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State makes up the NSC, which provides advice to the President on foreign, domestic and military issues relating to the security of the nation. The NSC also provides review, guidance, and direction on how the CIA collects intelligence. A study on how well the CIA does its job as well as the effectiveness of its structure is a sole duty of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board whereas ensuring that there is proper and legal collection of foreign intelligence remains within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Oversight Board. On the other hand, the CIA chiefly works with the Senate Select Committee and the Permanent Select committee of the White House on Intelligence on the Legislative side. The Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Relations and the Armed Services Committees alongside the two committees oversee the CIA and authorize its programs.

The U.S has always participated actively in activities amounting to foreign intelligence (Johnson 75). Arguably, the CIA is considered the most significant and proficient intelligence community of the U.S defense structure. As earlier stated, there has been lionization or demonization of the covert CIA overseas operatives engaging in sophisticated national security intelligent issues in hundreds of movies and books in the past few decades. A chief example of covert work of Public knowledge by the CIA is ‘Bay of Pigs Invasion’ aimed at overthrowing Fidel Castro in Cuba. In addition to this, the Iran-Contra Affair, commonly known as arming of Nicaraguan contra rebels as well as the attempt to poison Lumumba the prime minister of Congo forms part of the CIA’s cover work. Accordingly, the CIA works in over twenty foreign countries and U.S intelligence officers work together to track and arrest terror suspects including destruction and penetration of their networks. Over the past few decades, the CIA has undergone through major changes chiefly due to the adaption and the scandals resulting from the post 9/11. In the late nineteenth century, the CIA had been caught conducting domestic spying operations on large proportion of Americans, attempting to assassinate or assassinating foreign leaders, smuggling weapons as part of the Iran Contra Affair and obstructing the FBI’s Watergate break-in investigation (Johnson 84). Therefore, the creation of stable chains of commands when giving directives on covert activities are part of the major structural changes initiated by such incidents.

The book, ‘For the President’s Eyes Only’ by Christopher Andrew gives a critical and detailed analysis of the use and critics of the CIA throughout the history of Presidency in U.S. According to Andrew (14), collection of intelligence was not a serious consideration in the history of the U.S. Nonetheless, the quest for peering beyond the enemy’s interest by American presidents called for the need to have spies. As Andrew (58) notes, experience and time had a minimal influence on the reluctance attributed to collection of intelligence. For instance, President Woodrow Wilson paid scant attention to professional intelligence staff in America despite having supervised its creation. Despite the abuses and critics, people must not despise the fact that the CIA is a vital agency staffed with intelligent, talented and very capable people, who have taken an oath to provide security and peace in the nation as well as protecting the international community from harm and danger. Therefore, it is crucial to correct the negative attitude and naiveties associated with CIA and explore the broader path resulting to the creation and origin of the CIA.

As Andrew (63) asserts, the intelligence community of the U.S began implementing several changes in the organization structure of its intelligence activities due to numerous discussion and debates in 1945. Two years later, the CIA was born in summer of 1947. The disaster of the Pearl Harbor together with failure of predecessors to coordinate and centralize the intelligence community had a great impact towards the creation of the CIA. Apparently, the creation of the CIA came with good intensions especially considering that, the existing security services were not able to prevent the Pearl Harbor disaster. Henceforth, it was logical and understandable for the U.S government to create a centralized intelligence infrastructure, the CIA. In this regard, the NSA of 1947 restructured and changed the U.S security systems and it dismissed the existing Central Intelligence Group and the National Intelligence Authority prior to establishing the NSC alongside the CIA. Even though it was crucial to create the CIA, the entire process was rather complicated given that it came with many sacrifices (Andrew 65). However, the fact that the implementation of the changes took place at the national level, were encouraging efforts towards centralization.

Notably, there was much speculation surrounding the terrible disaster that occurred at Pearl Harbor in terms of why it had to happen and how such disaster could be prevented in the future (Andrew 67). As result, there was urgent need to centralize the intelligence advisers and services and make them more cooperative by providing timely update to the administration of the United States. Precisely, the Pearl disaster gave a very clear indication that there was strong demand for urgent establishment of a centralized intelligence agency. The first proposal and a hotly discussed topic in the mid-1990s in most intelligence forums was establishment of a CIA agency. According to the discussions, the Head of State had a strong belief that disasters such as the Japanese bombings on the Pearl Harbor could be prevented if departments and commanders closely coordinated their activities in a more organized and unified manner (Andrew 72). Similarly, the President believed that such disasters could not take pace again if there was a timely update to the U.S administration from the intelligence agency. Briefly, the disaster suggested that the U.S administration needed a competent intelligence system with better coordination and more unified.

At the beginning of the 1946, the President implemented major changes in the organization of the intelligences services in America in order to prevent a repletion of the Pearl Harbor disaster (Mickolus 115). Therefore, the changes resulted to the creation of the CIA in two major steps in which the first step in 1946 focused towards centralization when Truman, the Head of State, established the Central Intelligence Group and the National Intelligence Authority. After weeks of intense debates and discussion over the future of security in the U.S defense and security system, congress approved the changes, a year later and President Truman ascended to the National Security Act. Furthermore, the act realigned the structure of the national intelligence and spearheaded the establishment of the CIA. This implies that the founders of the CIA were the President Truman and the U.S congress. According to the white house and the congress, creation of the CIA was a strategy to assist the intelligence community in minimizing challenges associated with the national security and preventing the nation from facing another similar tragedy like the Pearl Harbor. Additionally, President Truman claimed that technological advancements in relation to newly developed sophisticated weapons made it a necessity to have an effective, centralized, and properly coordinated intelligence agency as an issue of national security (Mickolus 118). He further argued that failure to offer such intelligence services would amount to a national disaster.

On the contrary, among the groups of individuals who invested a lot of their time and efforts through knowledge, competency, and experience to create the CIA were high profile politicians. According to Streissguth (130), the congress and the White House regarded intelligence issues as a national responsibility and thus invested many efforts towards the structuration and centralization of the U.S intelligence services during 1946 to 1949 in order to make it more cohesive, organized, and collaborative. President Truman had a strong belief that if there had been a platform that allows coordination of government information, there would have been no attack on the Pearl Harbor. In this regard, the government of U.S agreed that there was an urgent need for centralization of the intelligence agency in December 1945 with a new concept and responsibility. In order to exercise control over receiving of information and intelligence activities from several departments, the administration of the U.S government together with the President needed control points (Streissguth 131). In this respect, an independent agency such as the CIA could possibly offer such services since its main aim was free standing point of view and objectivity on national security.

The CIA was a successor and predecessor of OSS, dismissed by Truman at the end of the World War II and its main aim was to provide strategic warning and effective coordination of foreign clandestine activities (Streissguth 133). Despite the dismissal of the OSS, Truman’s administration preserved certain key function of the OSS while establishing the CIA due to the experience and expertise of the OSS. The CIA therefore, inherited the functions of the OSS thereby creating an intelligence structure that maintained a stronger institutional structure by keeping the essential capabilities of the OSS. Henceforth, most of the valuable components of the OSS were integrated into the CIA as a vital part of foreign intelligence. The creation of the CIA obtained its legal status since the government alongside the administration of the White House, wanted a newly profound agency that guide and coordinates foreign and national security policies of U.S through provision of complete and reliable information on the conditions outside America. In a more articulate term, the CIA aimed at achieving full, accurate and skillfully analysis of adequately coordinate sound information. To this end, the CIA was the best instrument to warrant and reassure the Head of State that foreign information is correct, genuine and appropriately evaluated. Moreover, the CIA expected the NSC to provide such information and that all other agencies to have the ability to evaluate the strength and weakness of foreign status of U.S with a higher frequency of accuracy and alter the foreign policy of the U.S with regard to the status.

As Weiner (22) notes, the congress presented all activities and authorities under one roof and entrusted the CIA with the ability to coordinate clandestine operations and provide quality intelligence in the most formidable manner. Similarly, the White House had a strong belief that modernization of U.S intelligence services through creation of the CIA was a prerequisite for the post war military reforms. Despite its creation, the CIA had to pass through various oppositions. The idea of creating a centralized intelligence agency by the FBI and the Bureau of Budget was faced by strong objections and opposition from the Secretary of State. Several Historians also expressed their distaste for the agency arguing that the creation of the CIA would allow it to intervene abroad into sovereign nations due to its clandestine political actions (Weiner 26). In addition to this, before the congress could pass and the Truman could ascend to the Act of National Security, there was a long duration of heated and intense discussion between departmental and congressional authorities concerning the future of security in U.S.


In retrospect, the main reason for the creation of the CIA was the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and thus the looming disaster signified an urgent need for centralization of intelligence agency. On that note, President Truman strongly believed that unified coordination and organization of actions among commanders and departments and could be critical in avoiding the disaster if there was a timely update from the administration of the U.S intelligence. Therefore, the disaster was an indication that America required improved intelligence system, which is well coordinated, and more unified thus resulting in the creation of the CIA in summer 1947. The chief responsibility of the CIA is to enhance national security and promote coordination of activities in other government agencies associated with national security in order to maximize its efficiency. According to the history of intelligence, the creation of the CIA was a new era because there were no other nations at that point in time that had established an intelligence agency, which combine both operational and intelligence coordination under one roof.

Works Cited

Andrew, Christopher. For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. HarperPerennial, 1996.

Clarridge, Duane R, and Digby Diehl. A Spy for All Seasons: My Life in the CIA. Scribner, 1997.

Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri. "The CIA and American Democracy." Foreign Affairs, vol. 68, no. 2, 1989, p. 187.

Johnson, Loch K. The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence. Oxford UP, 2012.

Mickolus, Edward F. Stories from Langley: A Glimpse inside the CIA. Routledge, 2014.

Streissguth, Thomas. America's Security Agencies: The Department of Homeland Security, FBI, NSA, and CIA. Books, 2008.

Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. Allen Lane, 2007.

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