The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government, to 1950

The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government, to 1950

The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government, to 1950

The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government, to 1950


This unique history offers the most detailed and best documented account of the early years of the CIA currently available. It reveals the political and bureaucratic struggles that accompanied the creation of the modern U. S. intelligence community. In addition, it proposes a theory of effective intelligence organization, applied both to the movement to create the CIA and to the form it eventually took.

The period covered by this study was crucially important because it was during this time that the main battles over the establishment, responsibilities, and turf of the agency were fought. Many of these disputes framed the forty years, such as the relationship of the CIA to other government agency intelligence operations, the role of covert action, and Congressional oversight of the intelligence community.

The sources upon which Darling drew for this study include the files of the National Security Council, the wartime files of the OSS, and interviews and correspondence with many of the principal players.


Two themes run through this historical study. The theory of central intelligence has developed with the growth of the instrument of government. The themes are so interrelated that they are not to be treated separately. When attention is upon the developing theory, the issue is that of individual versus collective responsibility, the rivalry between the Director of Central Intelligence and the chiefs of the departmental services who constituted his board of advisors. They were his counsellors with respect to many affairs of the central organization and in particular the production of national estimates.

When considered from the position of the growing instrument of government, the question is whether the institution should continue as a cooperative interdepartmental activity or should become an independent agency, authorized by law as determined by the Congress rather than subject to direction as recommended to the President by his Secretaries. They were caught between the interests of their departments and their collective authority over the central intelligence organization, first in the National Intelligence Authority and then as the National Security Council.

Thucydides found his task a laborious one. Eyewitnesses of the same occurrences, he said, gave different accounts as they remembered or were interested in the actions of one side or the other. Throughout this study the purpose has been to retain historical perspective, however contemporary the crisis or heated the conflict of interests. The records of the National Security Council were open for this investigation. References in the endnotes show the significant documents and interviews which have been gathered in a permanent Historical Collection for the Director of Central Intelligence.

December 3, 1953

Arthur B. Darling . . .

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