The Central Intelligence Agency today celebrates its 70th anniversary, marking seven decades of silent service to America. The National Security Act of 1947 established CIA as an independent intelligence agency charged with ensuring that U.S. policy makers have a comprehensive picture of the threats and opportunities facing our country in times of war and peace.
The United States has carried out intelligence activities since the days of George Washington, but only since World War II have they been coordinated on a government-wide basis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed New York lawyer and war hero, William J. Donovan, to become the first Coordinator of Information in July 1941. The Office of the Coordinator for Information constituted the nation’s first peacetime, non-departmental intelligence organization.
After the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt appointed General Donovan to lead the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942. The OSS – the forerunner to the CIA – had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information. After World War II, however, the OSS was abolished along with many other war agencies, and its functions were transferred to the State and War Departments.
It did not take long before President Truman recognized the need for a postwar, centralized intelligence organization. To make a fully functional intelligence office, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 on July 26, 1947, establishing the CIA. The National Security Act charged the CIA with coordinating the nation’s intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating and disseminating intelligence affecting national security. CIA formally came into existence on September 18, 1947.
More information on the origins of CIA can be found at https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/history-of-the-cia/