Antecedents of the Modern U.S. Intelligence Community
Of all the major twentieth-century powers, the United States has the weakest intelligence tradition. Because there was no serious permanent external threat to U.S. security during the first 140 years of the nation's history, the United States kept all national security preparations to a minimum.
The current intelligence apparatus began to take shape in 1947, although a few threads can be traced back to the early World War II period. 1 The dearth of previous experience had two profound and contradictory effects on U.S. intelligence as it has developed since 1940. First, because there was such a limited base to build on, there existed wide opportunities and choices of activity for the nascent intelligence effort. The absence of tradition, however, also meant that there were few guidelines for intelligence, which, in turn, often resulted in questionable working methods and types of activities and attitudes that unfortunately developed into standard intelligence agency procedure.
The first major demand during the twentieth century for improved U.S. intelligence came during World War I, and the government response was typical. Only some prodding by interested subordinates prompted the expansion of