Courtesy Reuters

America's Secret Operations: A Perspective

Thirty-three years after William J. Donovan set up the first genuine American secret service, and as the first generation of American secret operations officers fades away into unclassified retirement, the American Intelligence Service, or AIS,1 faces a new Administration, new tasks in a new non-confrontation world, and new, as well as old, suspicions. Its belated establishment led initially to a certain amount of hostility both within the foreign affairs establishment and vis-à-vis the internal security organization that had come into being after World War I, and these feelings have never wholly died out. And American secret operations have developed in their brief career an unenviable public image as well, both domestically and abroad.

Designed to cope with the Nazi, then the Stalinist, menace, the AIS has come to be regarded by liberal opinion at home as a haven for reactionaries and stunted cold warriors, as a sinister secret arm of our foreign policy, as a rapist of American civil rights and academic freedom, as co-conspirator with the White House in political skullduggery. Abroad, "CIA" has become a symbol of American imperialism, the protector of dictators, the enemy of the Left, the mastermind of coups and counter-coups in the developing world. It is a strange and remarkable record for an official institution in a democratic society.

What is the action record of American secret intelligence? Where does it stand today? What lies ahead?


During World War II the Donovan organization attained, on the whole, a remarkable reputation. Kept out of the Southwest Pacific by a jealous General MacArthur, yielding Latin American responsibilities for the time being to the FBI, occasionally flawed by the high degree of individualism Donovan encouraged, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) nonetheless rendered signal service in a host of situations. It left a large legacy not only of trained men but of senior officials convinced that such operations could be of great importance in supporting American foreign policy.

For two years after the war the survivors

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.