On This Day — President Truman Creates the Central Intelligence Group (January 22, 1946)

“At lunch today in the White House, with only members of the Staff present, Rear Admiral Sidney Souers and I were presented [by President Truman] with black cloaks, black hats, and wooden daggers, and the President read an amusing directive to us outlining some of our duties in the Central Intelligence Agency [sic], ‘Cloak and Dagger Group of Snoopers’.”

Admiral William Leahy (January 22 1946)

On January 22 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the directive establishing the National Intelligence Authority and the Central Intelligence Group. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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On January 24 1946, President Harry S. Truman appointed the first Director of Central Intelligence, Sidney W. Souers.

The office diary of the President’s chief military adviser, Flt. Adm. William Leahy, records a curious event on January 24, 1946:

“At lunch today in the White House, with only members of the Staff present, Rear Admiral Sidney Souers and I were presented [by President Truman] with black cloaks, black hats, and wooden daggers, and the President read an amusing directive to us outlining some of our duties in the Central Intelligence Agency [sic], ‘Cloak and Dagger Group of Snoopers’.”

With this whimsical ceremony, President Truman christened Admiral Souers as the first Director of Central Intelligence.

Souers had served as Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence during World War II, and before then had been a St. Louis banker and insurance executive, as well as a pillar of the Democratic Party in Missouri.

In late 1945 he had coordinated the various intelligence reform plans considered by the White House in the drafting of the President’s January 22, 1946 directive that created the Central Intelligence Group (CIG).

“CIG was responsible for coordinating, planning, evaluating and disseminating intelligence. CIG also acquired a clandestine collection capability as well as authority to conduct independent research and analysis.

This was key as CIG was no longer just coordinating the intelligence it received from government agencies, but was now producing intelligence on its own. This enlarged CIG’s personnel strength considerably.

The new organization spied overseas with employees lent to it from the Army, Navy and Department of State. CIG functioned under the National Intelligence Authority, which was composed of a presidential representative and the secretaries of State, War and Navy.

Within months of its creation, CIG became the nation’s primary agency for strategic warning and management of clandestine activities abroad.

Yet, it was shackled to the constraints and resistance of the Department of State and the armed services. And so, to free itself, CIG became an independent department and was renamed the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The CIA was created under the National Security Act of 1947. Two years later, President Truman signed the Central Intelligence Agency Act, which authorized CIA to secretly fund intelligence operations and conduct personnel actions outside of standard US Government procedures.

By 1963, Truman admitted in writing that he was seriously “disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment.”

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency. At least, I would like to submit here the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency during my Administration, what I expected it to do and how it was to operate as an arm of the President. (…)

We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.” (December 22 1963)

The day after the mysterious death of U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (29 July 1905 – 18 September 1961), President Truman told a group of reporters:

“Hammarskjöld was at the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him’.”

REFERENCES

President Truman Creates the National Intelligence Authority and the Central Intelligence Group, January 22, 1946: The Documents — National Archives

A Look Back … Truman Appoints First DCI, 1946 — CIA Official website

Truman on CIA — CIA Official website

History of the CIA — CIA Official website

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On This Day — President Truman Creates the Central Intelligence Group (January 22, 1946)

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