The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the agency of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, was created in 1947. The CIA is America’s first permanent peacetime intelligence agency responsible for keeping the government informed of foreign actions affecting the interests of the United States. It was created by the National Security Act of 1947 and is responsible for coordinating all U.S. intelligence activities, as well as such functions and duties related to intelligence as directed by the National Security Council. All these actions are coordinated by a director and deputy director of the agency who are appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate.
The CIA has a wide scope of responsibilities. The collection of information required to maintain national security that cannot be obtained by any open means requires recruiting agents who can obtain the needed intelligence without detection. Current intelligence reports on foreign affairs of major importance are detailed in daily, weekly, or monthly bulletins in order to keep branches of government informed about the activities of other nations. Periodic projections concerning key nations are presented as national intelligence estimates. The CIA is also responsible for counterespionage activities. Its mission is to prevent the placement of foreign agents in sensitive U.S. agencies; domestically this work is coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Covert political operations have ranged from subsidizing friendly foreign politicians, parties, or pressure groups to providing assistance in combating subversion. Paramilitary operations support certain exile forces with training and equipment. In addition, modern technology has increased the capabilities of intelligence collection. In the 1960s, the U-2 aircraft introduced a new era of aerial photography; this was quickly followed by transmissions from space satellites.
The CIA’s original mission was primarily intelligence gathering, but after Communist takeovers in Eastern Europe and mainland China, the National Security Council directed that the agency engage in political, covert psychological, paramilitary, and economic operations. U.S. participation in the Korean War placed additional requirements on the CIA to support the combat forces. The first major CIA reorganization occurred between 1950 and 1953. An Office of National Estimates was given the mission of projecting future developments. Overseas operations were placed in one directorate; another directorate encompassed all intelligence production; and a third included all support activities. In the period from 1953 to 1961 the CIA was at the height of its Cold War activities, carrying out continuous foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, political action, and propaganda operations. In late 1961 the CIA was reorganized to put more emphasis on science, technology, and internal management. The agency was heavily committed during the Vietnam War (1959-1975) in Southeast Asia. In 1963 an Office of National Intelligence Programs Evaluation was established to coordinate community activities; this was replaced in 1972 by an Intelligence Community Staff.
Over the years the CIA has had many successes and failures. However one of the biggest failures that brought extensive attention to the CIA was the Bay of Pigs. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful attempt in 1961 to overthrow the government of the Cuban premier Fidel Castro by United States-backed Cuban exiles. The tensions that grew between the United States and Castro’s communist regime led President Dwight D. Eisenhower to break off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January of 1961. Even before that, however, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been training antirevolutionary Cuban exiles for a possible invasion of the island. The invasion plan was approved by Eisenhower’s successor, John F. Kennedy. The operation was designed as a means of overthrowing the Castro regime without revealing U.S. involvement in the operation. The plan originally called for the gradual buildup of anti-Castro forces within Cuba into a cohesive political and military unit capable of toppling Castro. However, the operation quickly escalated into plans for a full-scale invasion, with the budget expanding from $4 million to $46 million and the CIA training and supplying anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Guatemala.
On April 15, several days before the invasion, CIA pilots destroyed part of Castro?s air force. They were preparing to complete the job on April 16 when President Kennedy, for reasons that have never been properly explained, ordered a halt to the air strikes. On April 17 about 1500 exiles, armed with U.S. weapons, landed at the Bay of Pigs on the south coast of Cuba. Hoping to find support from the local population, they intended to cross the island to Havana, but were quickly stopped by Castro’s army. By the time the fighting ended on April 19, about 100 had been killed and the rest taken prisoner. The Cuban government later released the captured exiles after a ransom was paid.
The failure of the invasion seriously embarrassed the Kennedy administration, which was blamed by some for not giving it adequate air support and by others for allowing it to take place at all. An internal CIA secret audit of the operation blamed the failure on a series of mistakes made by the agency in the planning and execution of the invasion. The audit concluded that the CIA failed to provide for adequate security measures in the training and preparation of the mission. News of the impending invasion leaked to the media and also reached Castro, who made preparations for the attack. The audit also found that the CIA conducted little reliable intelligence gathering regarding the situation in Cuba and failed to realize that no wide-scale organized resistance to the Castro regime existed to assist the invaders. Despite this lack of information the agency assured Kennedy that an invasion would be met with strong support from the Cuban people. That support never materialized.
The CIA has had many other failures that drew attention. It has been investigated a number of times by various task force groups, one of which in 1949 recommended major reorganization of CIA operations. In 1975 the CIA came under extensive congressional and White House examination. It was found that the agency had been engaged in “unlawful” domestic spying activities and had been implicated in assassination attempts abroad. As a result of these investigations, permanent congressional committees were established to oversee CIA operations. By 1980 these committees had exclusive jurisdiction over review of CIA activities. By 1986, however, the agency was involved in a controversy concerning the secret sale of arms to Iran and the disbursement of monies from the sale to the rebels (known as the contras) fighting the government of Nicaragua. The late CIA director William J. Casey, among others, was suspected of being implicated in the arms scandal.
In the 1990s the CIA was shook by several scandals. In April 1994 Aldrich Ames, a counterintelligence officer who had been with the CIA for more than 30 years, was convicted of selling secrets to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was estimated that Ames was paid almost $2 million and betrayed more than 100 CIA operations that resulted in the deaths of as many as ten agents. He had been working as a double agent for almost ten years and was the highest ranking U.S. official ever to be convicted of treason. The CIA was strongly criticized for its lack of security, which allowed Ames to operate for so long without detection. In March 1995 Congressman Robert Torricelli revealed that two men in Guatemala, an American innkeeper and a leftist Guatemalan guerrilla, had been murdered on the orders of a Guatemalan colonel who was a paid agent for the CIA. Because of pressure from the wife of the leftist guerrilla, the Clinton administration investigated the murders and discovered that the CIA had known that one of its agents was responsible. In the same month, a presidential commission was established to reevaluate the role of the CIA.
The CIA, despite all its failures, is an organization that necessary to national security. The information that the CIA provides are vital for our government to maintain national security, as well as to aid our allies. Even though the actions of the CIA seem may seem t be contradictory to a democracy, they are necessary
“Central Intelligence Agency,” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. 1998 Microsoft Corporation.
Elliston, Jon ?The Bay of Pigs Invasion? http://www.parascope.com/articles/1296/bayofpigs.htm
The Central Intelligence Agency. http://www.odci.gov/index.html