The United States Intelligence Community (IC) is believed to have been brought into existence by the challenges of intensification and expansion of the Cold War between 1950 and 1960. However, several factors such as the need to gather, produce and disseminate intelligence information as well as support for military’s special activities led to the formation of intelligence bodies in the early 20th century.
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It is worth to point out that the US intelligence began with the formation of the republic. The latter was widely used in the late 19th century by General George Washington’s spy rings and agents through a secret correspondence. It also gathered and analyzed intelligence information on the movement of British forces. T
he early 20th century saw the establishment of the Justice Department of Bureau of investigations in 1908 that later expanded to domestic intelligence (Finley 1995, 310). Nonetheless, it lacked the capability to provide foreign intelligence that was critical for supporting military operations and shaping policies.
Brown and Rudman (1996, 118) observe that when the First World War began, the US government had realized poor coordination of its intelligence system. The German and British intelligence units were so sophisticated that the US had to rely on the intelligence of the latter to declare war against Germany.
The authors note that due to the gap “the first U.S. signal intelligence agency was formed within the Army… and the agency was charged with decoding military communications and providing codes for use by the U.S. military” (Brown and Rudman 1996, 216). This was later made a State Department after the First World War.
It worked with other intelligence bodies (such as the Justice Department Bureau of Investigation). There was growing aspiration by the US government to gather more intelligence on events that were taking place before the beginning of the Second World War.
Hence, President Franklin Roosevelt used Human Intelligence to gather information regarding the activities of the Italian dictator Mussolini and the developments in Britain. By 1942, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) were formed “to coordinate and develop methods of subterfuge and covert warfare” (Brown and Rudman 1996, 29). The former was significant in providing intelligence capacity required to support the US fighters.
The Cuban missile crisis and the Iraq War on WMDs share vast similarities and differences. It is worth noting that just before the onset of the war against Iraq in 2003, the agenda for the conflict went beyond Iraq’s possession of WMDs (Finley 1995, 192). The former Washington deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz outlined that President George Bush’s team had agreed to address the problem holistically.
The main agenda would be to dislodge President Saddam Hussein from power because he was alleged to be a direct actor in the manufacture of WMDs. In addition, Saddam Hussein acted as a clear platform for supporting terrorism across the globe (Finley 1995, 197). The war on Iraq was further justified through intensive demand to liberate the Iraqi people.
Therefore, Operation Iraq Freedom was carried out by a combined force of the US and UK troops without the consent of the United Nations (Krizan 1999, 65). Hence, the aftermath of the war was not put into consideration at all. It is also crucial to mention that “the intelligence agencies knew so little about Iraq’s nuclear plans…” (Finley 1995, 329). The latter was apparently a major setback in the intelligence gathering system of the US authorities.
Brown, Harold, and Warren Rudman. 1996. Preparing for the 21st Century: An Appraisal of U.S. Intelligence. West Port: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Finley, James. 1995. U.S. Army Military Intelligence History: A Sourcebook. New York: U.S. Army Intelligence Center.
Krizan, Lisa. 1999. Intelligence essentials for everyone. Washington DC: Books for Business.