Of all the frightening organizations that exist in the world today, there is quite possibly none that should send a shiver down your spine more than the organization known simply as the CIA. As the official and unofficial stories that have leaked from the Central Intelligence Agency attest, there is literally no lengths that this agency will go to do what the President of the United States requests. Heck, the former head of the CIA, George Tenet, once even lied right to the President’s face by saying that the intelligence that Dick Cheney had requested showing Iraq presented a clear and present danger to the people of America was, and I quote, a “slam dunk.” (As it turned, Britney Spears was more of a clear and present danger to America than Iraq.)
What we know and fear today as the CIA actually began as a part of the OSS. It became official in-coincidentally?-the very same year that aliens are said to have crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. The year was and the world was finally awakening full tilt from its stasis caused by World War II: A black man was showing that he could play baseball better than 99% of the white guys, despite the plentiful availability of state of the art boats Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific Ocean in a wooden raft, and the woman who would become Queen Elizabeth married a tin scarecrow born with neither a brain nor a heart nor access to a Wizard from which to ever receive them. Meanwhile, aliens and spies became all the rage in America and people forgot about Wyoming.
The OSS stood for the Office of Strategic Services and in World War II it was the equivalent of the CIA today, providing intelligence and analysis to the President. Fortunately, during World War II intelligence gathering was less subject to-shall we say “creative” interpretation-than it today. Have you ever wondered why the American intelligence agency contains the word “central” in it? Especially since it is located nearly as far to the right-of America’s geography, of course-as possible? In fact, the CIA is known as the “central” intelligence agency because until it existed you had a dozen different agencies vying to be considered the most vital intelligence gatherer in American. At various points, the leader in this horserace had been the Army, the Navy and even the FBI. In fact, to this day the FBI often illegally engages in activities that are supposed to fall under the domain of the CIA. It was considered vital in the establishment of an intelligence agency that all those vying for the top spot be placed within a centralized agency. This served two distinct purposes: One, to quit the bickering and, more importantly, to halt the inefficiency of a dozen intelligence agencies all providing duplicate information. As Gomer Pyle might say, “Wasteful, wasteful, wasteful.” There was also a third element, of course: Since nobody really could be sure who was doing what for what reason, on occasion you would have one intelligence agent actually investigating the activities of another intelligence agent.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted the OSS five years previous during the height of World War II for the express purpose of making intelligence gathering for the war effort more efficient and reliable. Three years after that, Pres. Harry Truman moved toward a more centralized intelligence agency by eliminating the OSS. In 1946, Truman officially created the Central Intelligence Group along with the National Intelligence Agency. These two distinct agencies both were populated by former OSS agents, but the military was still allowed to operate their own intelligence gathering. Finally, in 1947 Congress mandated the creation of the National Security Council and it was under the NSC that the CIA would go about collecting intelligence to preserve national security.