The previous article showed the CIA had tasks laid out and a role that was, if not defined, at least commanded by the President and to a lesser degree the NSC. However, this concept of the role existed only for a short time after the Second World War before the onset of the Cold War. This period was characterised by a U-turn in the US-Soviet relations that had been enjoyed during the war. Relations were often in a deep freeze and both countries were entangled in an ideological struggle that was not to be played out like that between the Allies and Nazi Germany, but which would be played out on the peripheries in places like Korea, Vietnam, and also in South America. This battle of ideologies in the peripheries was distinct from that with Nazi Germany, not simply due to the places in which it was fought, but the manner. In the Second World War the Allies fought directly against the Axis powers and consequently it was a hot war. However, the Cold War remained cold as the USA and the USSR were determined to refrain from direct combat for fear of nuclear confrontation. This lead to the support of ideologically sound groups by either side, often rebels, revolutionaries and guerrillas. The changing role of the CIA post-Second World War and in the Cold War has to be seen in the broader context of the US determination to halt and even to reverse the global spread of communism, along with the increase in strength of the Soviet Union. This very factor in the Cold War changed the nature of the role of the CIA significantly.
One of the greatest threats faced by the CIA was that of its Soviet counterparts in intelligence, most notably the KGB. Paine argued in 1977 that ‘the Soviet Intelligence apparatus numbers in excess of 250,000 people. Its affiliates in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa number another 400,000.’ The CIA at the beginning of the 1950s was an organisation of around 4,000 people, but this, due to the circumstances it was involved in, and the role that it undertook, was soon to change and to increase substantially, although it would never reach the same level as its Soviet counterpart. It was largely the Korean War that brought this increase into effect. The size of the CIA tripled and many of these additional people found themselves in clandestine roles. Not all were involved directly in covert action, but the majority were employed in their support: ‘Generally they were logistical people; geographic planners, political and social scientists, and the clerical personnel such an increase required.’ This grew to an authorised maximum of 16,500 people, later 18,000 people and a budget of $750 million that also was steadily on the increase. Paine makes the claim that the undisclosed budget of the CIA was in fact closer to $70 billion dollars, however, the evidence for this information is not solid, being based only on sources labelled as ‘anonymous but knowledgeable people involved’ This information, although lacking in verification, has to be understood in the context of the 1949 Central Intelligence Act that states that the DCI can spend money ‘without regard to the provisions of law and regulations relating to the expenditure of government funds’.
Information from the DCI revealed in October 1997 puts the intelligence budget of the same date at $26.6 billion. Whether or not the expenditure of the CIA during the Cold War did reach Paine’s estimate of $70 billion is not certain, but it is clear that during the period of the Cold War the CIA saw a large increase in not only expenditure but also in manpower. This was due to the emerging clandestine nature of the role of the CIA at the onset of the Cold War.
It is quite clear that the threat faced by the CIA in the post-World War Two period and on into the Cold War was the one posed by the Soviet Union. However, this can be broken down into three areas. Firstly, and one of the most immediate threats faced by the CIA, was of ‘the threat of war in Europe’. The threat was acute, with communist governments having been established all over Eastern Europe, some through the support of the Soviet Army, and it had become clear that there was no chance of co-operation in Europe in the post-war period. Direct confrontation was certainly possible. The role of the CIA in these circumstances thus initially became espionage, to organise agents into networks that would remain in place in the event of the Soviet forces moving into the West. The CIA even effected ‘contact with Ukrainian guerrillas – a relationship that was maintained until the guerrillas were finally wiped out in the early 1950s by Soviet security forces.’
Secondly, the above was contributed to by the threat of ‘turmoil in the west’ made by the Soviets through their political resources in the West, namely the Communist parties and trade unions. Elections in France and Italy in 1948 and 1949, along with the civil war in Greece posed a threat that Marshall aid alone would not solve. Thus a role of the CIA through the Office of Special Projects, later to be renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), was to give clandestine support to those democratic parties that would be best suited to resist the threat of international communism. Sidney Sours a former DCI and member of the NSC supported this role of psychological operations for the CIA, writing in a memorandum to the Secretary of Defence Forrestal that there was a ‘need for psychological warfare operations to counter Soviet-inspired Communist propaganda, particularly in France and Italy’. It simply made sense to give this clandestine role to the CIA as they already had in place the networks and organisations of agents for espionage. Thus the NSC issued a directive on the 17th of December 1947 to the DCI directing him:
‘…to initiate and conduct, within the limits of available funds, covert psychological operations designed to counteract Soviet and Soviet-inspired activities which constitute a threat to world peace and security or are designed to discredit and defeat the United States in its endeavours to promote world peace and security.’
Hillenkoetter, the DCI at this time, directed the CIA’s Office of Special Operations, a department of the CIA and a precursor to the Office of Special Projects and the OPC, to carry out this directive. This was to be carried out through covert psychological operations, the use of information and persuasion. This was to be a deniable operation in which there would be separation from those overtly carried out. The OPC became the first US peacetime covert organisation. However, Washington, including the President, did not feel that this was a time of peace.
Thirdly the USA was faced by the threat of nuclear weapons. The role undertaken by the CIA in response to the Soviet Unions nuclear weapons programme was to monitor the Soviet capabilities.
These steps taken in expanding the role of the CIA into espionage and psychological warfare changed the role distinctly from that of a body that was to simply co-ordinate the intelligence activities, draw conclusions and disseminate them to the relevant government departments and agencies. Not only had it done this, but it had also expanded the role of the CIA only one step away from ‘full-scale covert political activity.’ This step was soon to be taken with the advent of the Korean War.
As the Cold War progressed further, the attack that was thought would come in Europe came in Korea and it was here that the CIA’s role evolved and transformed, as suggested above, from more than its original form of espionage, into the role of clandestine operations. Responsibility for covert action was taken fully by the CIA in 1950 and it soon began to exceed the budget and personnel that the CIA had originally been authorised for their espionage role, a trend that continued throughout the Cold War. The success of this action in Korea was questionable on some operations; however, this period had cemented the methods of clandestine military assistance and training into the role of the CIA. The nature of this type of operation was now well established by the involvement in the Korean War. The traditional role had been almost superseded by this new role, due to situations arising where ‘neither orthodox US forces nor the armed elements of the United Nations membership could operate for any one of many reasons, the CIA had hired its spies, saboteurs, infiltrators…’ It was these people, as mentioned above, who both increased the manpower and budget of the CIA.
The end of the Korean conflict for the US government and consequently for the CIA marked a point where they were no longer concerned with imminent attack by the USSR and they became more concerned with containment of international communism and the Soviet influence. This subtle difference in the nature of the threat increased both the utility of covert action and its use:
‘Mosedegh in Iran in 1953 and Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, were toppled with the help of the CIA. Anti-communist parties and groups were given aid and encouragement such as the Sumatran leaders who, in 1958 sought the overthrow of President Sukarno of Indonesia.’
To some extent the United States had not wholly realised the value of clandestine assistance. However, with Soviet victories narrowly avoided in places such as Korea, aided by the KGB, which certainly had become much more than an intelligence-gathering organisation, the US began to realise the value of making clandestine assistance part of the role of the CIA.
The NSC recognised that because of the already existing role of intelligence gathering and espionage, there was no need to create a new agency that would carry out covert operations. The CIA would be able to incorporate them with their espionage and counter-espionage operations and retain control over them all. Thus the NSC gave the CIA the role and essentially the task of taking on the KGB. Creating secretly-trained armies in communist threatened or even controlled nations or territories strained the resources of the CIA and the successes were not always visible especially when surrounded by the many failures, but it was undertaken.
Rudgers supports this assertion that the role of the CIA changed significantly, making the point that although the mindset of covert action was reminiscent of the Second World War and the OSS operatives, covert action had arisen through the circumstances of the Cold War.
The OPC and essentially then the clandestine and covert operational role of the CIA grew throughout the period of 1949 to 1952, especially with China falling to the communists. The Korean War, in which the Chinese and Soviets were involved, increased this expansion. The OPC saw a marked increase in both personnel and budget during this period. It went from 302 to 2812 members with as many additional members contracted overseas, and the budget expanded from $4.7 million to $82 million. This was intended to place a maximum strain on the Soviet resources, which went hand in hand with attempts to win the hearts and minds of the people in these areas of operation so that they were better able to resist the Soviets, often through covert guerrilla movements.
During this early period of CIA history there was friction between the different offices and departments as they competed for resources and manpower while struggling to find their specific roles in an evolving agency and international system. However, this friction was ended when General Walter Bedell Smith became DCI late on in 1950. He took a greater command of intelligence and the CIA, centralising its operation. All of this, in conjunction with the Eisenhower Presidency and the rest of the Cold War period, meant that the CIA was able to extend its clandestine role even further. This role became ingrained in the CIA especially under Dulles. Many of the people involved in shaping the direction that the CIA took at this time, such as Sidney Souers, Clark Clifford and George Kennan have since expressed their amazement at how far this role was expanded. They expressed the idea that the CIA had so far extended the clandestine operations that it was able to draw secrecy around itself and avoid oversight of its operations, and also that the CIA had deviated far from its originally intended role and purpose.
The above is a clear demonstration of the change in role of the CIA in response to the threats that were levelled at the USA by communism and by the USSR. However, this change in role was aided by, and ran alongside, the technological change that was happening throughout the intelligence community and especially the CIA. The turning point for technology within the role of the CIA was the development of the U-2 spy plane. This proved to be successful despite the incident where Gary Powers was shot down over the USSR. This new technology revealed more about the development of Soviet military capacity and capability than the US thought it would, forcing estimates of the Soviet situation to be rethought. This was a turning point of technology within the role of the CIA because the U-2 established how valuable new and advanced technology was to them in fulfilling that role. This led to increased budgets for technological research and development.
 Fain, T. ‘The Intelligence Community: History, Origins, and Issues’, Public Documentary Series, (1977), R. R. Bowker Co. UK. P. 13
 Paine, L. The CIA at Work, (1977) Robert Hale London, UK. P. 22
 ‘Covert Action’ is defined as ‘An operation designed to influence governments, events, organisations, or persons in support of foreign policy in a manner that is not necessarily attributable to the sponsoring power; it may include political, economic, propaganda, or paramilitary activities.’ CIA, Consumer’s Guide to Intelligence, (1995), USA. P. 38
 Op Cit. Paine, L. P. 22
 Ibid. P. 23, 27
 Ibid. P. 22
 Ibid. P. 28
 Jeffrey-Jones, R. ‘The CIA Con-trick’, History Today, (December 2001) Volume 51, Issue 12. P. 21
 Op Cit. Fain, T. P. 16
 Ibid. P. 16
 Ibid. P. 16
 Ibid. P. 16
 The definition of ‘Psychological operations’ is: ‘Planned psychological activities in peace and war directed towards enemy, friendly, and neutral audiences in order to create attitudes and behaviour favourable to the achievement of political and military objectives. These operations…encompass those military, economic, ideological, and information activities designed for achieving a desired psychological effect.’ Department of Defence, Dictionary of military and Associated Terms, (1974), USA. P. 264
 Rudgers, D. ‘The Origins of Covert Action’, Journal of Contemporary History, (April 2000) Volume 35, Number 2. P. 251
 Ibid. P. 251
 Ibid. P. 252
 Ibid. P. 252 – 253
 Ibid. P. 258
 Op Cit. Fain, T. P. 17
 Op Cit. Rudgers, D. P. 253
 Op Cit. Fain, T. P. 17
 Op Cit. Paine, L. P. 23
 Op Cit. Fain, T. P. 18
 Ibid. P. 18
 Op Cit. Paine, L. P. 26
 Op Cit. Rudgers, D. P.254
 Op Cit. Paine, L. P. 26
 Op Cit. Rudgers, D. P. 249
 Ibid. P. 258
 Ibid. P. 260
 Op Cit. Fain, T. P. 18-19
Sam Hunter is the author of fiction novel Makaveli’s Prince.