1947 September 18

National Security Act Creates CIA, National Security Council


The National Security Act, which took effect on this day, created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council (NSC). The law had been signed by President Harry Truman on July 26, 1947.

The CIA has been responsible for a long history of secret and illegal activities during its history, and violated the civil liberties of thousands of Americans in different ways. The CIA’s abuses, along with those of other federal agencies, were documented by the Senate Church Committee reports (see below).

One of the notorious CIA actions involved Operation Chaos, in which the agency spied on Americans in violation of its charter which prohibited any activity within the U.S. Operation Chaos originated with an order by President Lyndon Johnson (see August 15, 1967), who believed that the anti-Vietnam War movement was supported by foreign governments. In response, the CIA delivered four reports to Johnson, none of which supported his view: November 15, 1967; December 22, 1967; January 5, 1968; and September 4, 1968. The New York Times exposed Operation Chaos in a sensational front-page story on December 22, 1974.

The Times’ story provoked national outrage and led to two congressional investigations of the intelligence agencies: the Senate Church Committee (created on January 27, 1975) and the House Pike Committee (February 19, 1975), both of which exposed in detail the abuses by the various agencies.

In the War on Terrorism under President George W. Bush, the CIA engaged in the torture of terrorist suspects. The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a blistering report on the CIA abuses on December 9, 2014.

Learn more about the CIA: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007)

Read the Church Committee report on CIA activities: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book1.htm

Read the CIA report on CIA plots to assassinate foreign leaders: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_ir.htm

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