History of Major Government Agency The CIA Part 1

About the history of the major government agency the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA, origins, facts and more.




It wasn't until W.W. II that the U.S. established a central office for the collection of foreign intelligence. That was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the grandfather of the CIA, under the leadership of Gen. William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan. Along with intelligence gathering, the OSS also engaged in covert activities against the Axis Powers and carried out paramilitary operations.

At the war's end, the OSS closed up shop and was shortly thereafter replaced by the National Intelligence Authority and under that the Central Intelligence Group.

In 1947, worried about the cold war and the possibility of another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor, Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947, establishing the CIA. This congressional action seemingly gave no authority for the actions which the CIA has become so well known for, but emphasized the gathering and analysis of intelligence. However, the CIA has insisted that a section of the 1947 law which stated that the CIA was permitted to "perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council [NSC] may from time to time direct" and other classified NSC and presidential memos allow it to interfere with the internal affairs of other countries. What was very clear from the original law was that the CIA was not to engage in activities within the U.S.

In 1949 the Central Intelligence Agency Act was passed, throwing a further shroud of secrecy over the CIA. This act exempted the CIA from all laws requiring the disclosure of "functions, names, official titles, salaries, and numbers of personnel employed by the Agency" and allowed the director to spend money from the secret budget simply by signing his name to vouchers.


Although the CIA does provide intelligence analysis and scientific research, over two thirds of its $750 million annual budget is spent on clandestine activities around the globe. Using a wide variety of "fronts" and wholly or partially owned proprietaries, the CIA channels money to a number of academic, labor, youth, propaganda (e.g., Radio Free Europe), and cultural organizations. The CIA has owned foreign newspapers and magazines, a publishing company, airlines, a psychological testing service, and private detective agencies. The agency has placed agents or contacts in almost every walk of life, including the leadership of foreign governments and the media.

A number of foreign leaders have been implicated as recipients of CIA subsidies through the years. Among them have been King Hussein of Jordan, Archbishop Makarios of Cypress, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Joseph Mobutu of Zaire, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, Chiang Kai-shek of Taiwan, Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines, Syngman Rhee of South Korea, Eduardo Frei of Chile, Willy Brandt of West Germany, Luis Echeverria of Mexico, and Mario Soares of Portugal.

If these subtle measures do not lead to the desired end, which usually means keeping leftists out of foreign governments or positions of influence, the CIA takes harder action. A history of the CIA becomes a history of covert activity. What follows is a list of some of these clandestine actions the CIA has taken throughout the world.

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