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President Harry S Truman: Limit CIA Role to Intelligence

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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-01-10 12:22 PM
Original message
President Harry S Truman: Limit CIA Role to Intelligence
Edited on Fri Jan-01-10 12:36 PM by IndianaGreen
As Ray McGovern wrote in his article Are Presidents Afraid of the CIA?:

In my article of Dec. 22, I referred to Harry Trumans op-ed of exactly 46 years before, titled Limit CIA Role to Intelligence, in which the former President expressed dismay at what the Central Intelligence Agency had become just 16 years after he and Congress created it.

The Washington Post published the op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, in its early edition, but immediately excised it from later editions. Other media ignored it. The long hand of the CIA?

Ray McGovern's article was posted in DU by nashville_brook on Dec-31-09. It can be read here:

Are Presidents Afraid of the CIA? -- Consortium News

Here is President Truman's op-ed about a CIA run amok from its original mission:

The Washington Post
December 22, 1963 - page A11

Harry Truman Writes:
Limit CIA Role To Intelligence
By Harry S Truman
Copyright, 1963, by Harry S Truman

INDEPENDENCE, MO., Dec. 21 I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence AgencyCIA. 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.

I think it is fairly obvious that by and large a President's performance in office is as effective as the information he has and the information he gets. That is to say, that assuming the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs to have available to him the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots in the contest between East and West. This is an immense task and requires a special kind of an intelligence facility.

Of course, every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many intelligence agencies already in existence. The Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Interior and others are constantly engaged in extensive information gathering and have done excellent work.

But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established positions of a given department. This becomes confusing and what's worse, such intelligence is of little use to a President in reaching the right decisions.
Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without department "treatment" or interpretations.

I wanted and needed the information in its "natural raw" state and in as comprehensive a volume as it was practical for me to make full use of it. But the most important thing about this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisionsand I thought it was necessary that the President do his own thinking and evaluating.

Since the responsibility for decision making was histhen he had to be sure that no information is kept from him for whatever reason at the discretion of any one department or agency, or that unpleasant facts be kept from him. There are always those who would want to shield a President from bad news or misjudgments to spare him from being "upset."

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigueand a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.


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Vidar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-01-10 12:40 PM
Response to Original message
1. A useless, totally counterproductive agency.
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discocrisco01 Donating Member (524 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-01-10 01:14 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. The CIA
Equals Bunch of Goons
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nashville_brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-01-10 02:33 PM
Response to Original message
3. (had to use the cache link) --> this passage really stands out -->

With all the nonsense put out by Communist propaganda about "Yankee imperialism," "exploitive capitalism," "war-mongering," "monopolists," in their name-calling assault on the West, the last thing we needed was for the CIA to be seized upon as something akin to a subverting influence in the affairs of other people.

With the aid of 20/20 hindsight, you could paraphrase this as, "With all the anti-American propaganda, the last thing we need is a new agency doing all the things that foment anti-Americanism."

It's like Truman recognized that his policy objectives and the CIA's operational objectives were diametrically opposed, but he wasn't ready to come right out and say that. Perhaps he still believed that the CIA was still "on his team" because the alternative is so unthinkable. Or, "unspeakable."
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-01-10 04:49 PM
Response to Original message
4. The BFEE Poison Pill
Truman was naive, too. We expect that in Democrats. He should have thrown all the Bushes in jail when the plot to overthrow FDR came out. Surely somebody told him about that?
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nashville_brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-02-10 12:02 PM
Response to Original message
5. here's an article that I think might be even stronger than the Are Presidents Afraid of the CIA ->

Break the CIA in Two

By Ray McGovern | December 22, 2009

Editors Note: Exactly 46 years ago, President Harry Truman looked back on the still-young CIA, which he had helped create, and was alarmed at how its original purpose to provide unvarnished information to top policymakers was being perverted by the agencys growing role in covert operations. Nearly a half century since Trumans warning, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern marvels at Trumans prescience and suggests that the only answer today is to separate out and protect the agencys core analytical function:

After the CIA-led fiasco at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, President John Kennedy was quoted as saying he wanted to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds. I can understand his anger, but a thousand is probably too many.

Better is a Solomon solution; divide the CIA in two. That way we can throw out the bath water and keep the baby.
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