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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Essay (Book Review)


The Central Intelligence Agency emerged during the reign of President Harry Truman in 1947. Truman signed the National Security Act (NSA) which led to the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency amongst other entities. This replaced the existing Central Intelligence Group (CIG) formed by the State’s Secretary in conjunction with secretaries of war and navy in 1946 under Truman’s orders. By replacing CIG, the CIA absorbed most of the components like the Office of Reports and Estimates (ORE).

The functions of ORE were diverse; creation of the national, economic, scientific, and technical intelligence, and coordination of the national estimates. The CIA introduction faced much hostility particularly from the military who considered that it is a tremendous threat and competitors for their operations and resources, respectively (Richelson, p. 40). This paper examines the CIA evolution and development including descriptions of how the organization could have been more effective.

CIA Evolution and Development

The evolution of the CIA did not take place haphazardly. Likewise, others systems such as the National Security Council, CIA development is understood based on three interrelated dimensions. These are the initial design, political actors influence and the exogenous events.

The structural laws contained in the 1947 National Security Act removed of the development options at the expense of others. In addition, the political influence of the president, bureaucrats as well as the policy makers helped in narrowing further these possibilities. Furthermore, the events acted as a reinforcement which entrenched the whole agency alongside the route. All together, these dimensions ensured that the concealed capabilities of CIA prospered while the coordination capabilities lapsed (Richelson, p. 39).

Internal Design

CIA development emerged from the schizophrenic design. The CIA provisions in the NSA provided the foundation upon which the agency evolved. With these provisions, the covert activities developed as the coordination capability and functionality diminished. This prevailed as the NSA concealed the whereabouts of the covert activities. Interestingly, this was boosted by additional of two other vital provisions by the NSA.

To begin with, the act empowered CIA to take control of common activities that are of concern since the NSC worked more in centralized, manner. Next, and most important, the act authorized it as a new agency mandated with power to perform functions and duties about intelligence touching national security as NSC would recommend from time to time (Richelson, p. 48).

Political Actors Influence

The original CIA’s design ensured ease in creating of covert capabilities but experienced hardships in centralizing the intelligence analysis. In this respect, the political actors influence changed this into reality. The political forces, which were instrumental in this success, included the president, bureaucrats and policy makers (Richelson, p. 46).


Presidents are amongst the significant players in CIA evolution. The presidents of all calibers have promoted and protected the clandestine operations of the CIA, for instance Truman. Truman had no faith in covert operations, but he became the first president to embrace them in war. On the other hand, President Kennedy is most renowned for his increased emphasize on the use of covert activities during and after the Bay of Pigs catastrophe. Additionally, Ford is hailed for his greater efforts in protecting the agency during the 70s. Ford strived to fend off investigations by the Congress by forming his own commission which he restricted to certain extents. This included only the abuses which had already been publicized by the press. According to him, disclosing all CIA’s abuses would diminish the effectiveness of which he feared (Richelson, p. 45).

There are which are two reasons attributed to why each and every postwar president supported as well as relied more on the CIA. First, the presidents had a stronger natural incentive for directly developing foreign policies on their own without interference from the Congress. This indicates that presidents were held responsible for the successes and failures of foreign policy. Secondly the rise of the Cold War triggered the use of covert operations. With the heightened conflicts between the Americans and Soviets, each power sought the alternative to the other without using military intervention. This urgency rose with the anticipation of the nuclear war. To counteract such aggression called for a new tactic to balance between war and diplomacy. Covert operations solved this problem (Richelson, p. 36).


The bureaucrats in the larger intelligence community wanted their freedom. In this respect, they strongly advocated for decentralization of the intelligence system in 1947. Moreover, they endured the long development of the CIA system as it did not interfere with their own affairs, budgets and their people at large.

Although greater autonomy is preferred by all, intelligence was necessary to maintain their independence. As of 1948, Ferdinand Eberstadt echoed that each and every organization required intelligence based on their needs, for example, military intelligence (Richelson, p. 3).

The military has the defense intelligence which can only be interpreted by qualified military personnel. Therefore, such organizations like the military amongst others allowed the development of the CIA freely. Notably, they even supported CIA in getting the covert capabilities. However, the bureaucrats admitted that they never hoped that the CIA covert capability would grow powerful or large as it did (Richelson, p. 45).

Law/Policy Makers

The lawmakers played a role in the evolution of the CIA, though it was complex. In the first half of the evolution process, the legislators blissfully ignored the covert operations and the management challenges in the CIA. In addition, the oversight committees and subcommittees like of the Armed forces awarded the CIA little attention.

The onset of 1970s saw the law makers’ active participation in matters regarding the CIA such as investigating the abuses. This was boosted by the selection of new oversight committees and intensified efforts to pass reform laws on CIA particularly in covert operations and management. In regards to abuse investigation, the lawmakers relied mainly on reports from the media and the public which they then investigated but changed (Richelson, p. 44).

Exogenous Events

The exogenous events were instrumental in propelling the CIA evolution. These events included war, threats, incursions and scandals. As noted above, the prevalence of the Cold War and other alarming was on the way contributed to the evolution and development of CIA. All these events catalyzed formation of covert activities. By the late 1940s, the American foreign policy adopted covert operations as one of the major weapons of war.

In regards to war, the Cold War was the primary war that influenced the creation of covert operations. However, other wars like the Korean War played a part. Indeed, the Korean War contributed to CIA expansions on a fourfold coupled with newer emphasis about the paramilitary operations. According to Ray Cline, former Deputy Director of CIA it is during the Korean War that the CIA gained total authority, funding and real CIA mercenaries (Richelson, p. 44).

CIA operations were faced with many scandals. The Soviet threats contributed to uncovering the dirty tricks and scandals in the CIA. This puts CIA into the spot from where the covert operations were highly questioned particularly in these three events; Bay of Pigs, 1970s scandals and Iran-Contra.

However, none of these events affected the CIA covert activities but rather intensified their use. Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union did not affect the CIA covert operations. Instead, the agency’s operations remained intact and shifted priority to other areas (Richelson, p. 47).

Increasing of CIA’s Effectiveness

Since the inception, the CIA had been continually furnished to improve its effectiveness. To begin with, the CIA would have been more effective by embracing the latest technologies. This highly helped the CIA to adjust to the environment impacted by advances in science and technology. 1963 saw the creation of the Directorate for Science and Technology (DDS&T). This helped to enhance the CIA’s work with new technologies and by centralizing it to one department unlike previous when it was scattered amongst other three directorates.

Proper funding of the CIA could have enhanced the efficacy. The CIA was poorly funded, not until during the Korean War. Another effort that could have boosted the CIA’s effectiveness is good staffing. Furthermore, minimizing the disclosures of the CIA’s abuses to the press and the larger public could have a good impact as President Ford proposed. Lastly, eliminating interference from other organs and engaging policy makers’ appropriately (Richelson, p. 47).


The CIA has undergone through a revolutionary journey since the inception onwards. This is coined towards various aspects. It all started with a provision in the NSA which laid the ground for the development. Other aspects came in later; the political actors and events, but immensely spearheaded growth. Additionally, other forces have been seen to lower the momentum for CIA development. All in all, the CIA has stood out of date.


Richelson, Jeffrey. The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 2002. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)." December 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/central-intelligence-agency-cia/.


IvyPanda. "Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)." December 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/central-intelligence-agency-cia/.


IvyPanda. 2018. "Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)." December 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/central-intelligence-agency-cia/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'. 19 December.

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