1947 July 26

President Truman signs National Security Act – Creates CIA


As part of his anti-Communist crusade abroad (see the Truman Doctrine, announced on March 12, 1947) and at home (see the Federal Loyalty Program, which he announced on March 21, 1947), President Harry Truman on this day signed the National Security Act. The law created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council (NSC). The CIA, which inherited the remnants of the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS), became the first peacetime intelligence agency in American history. It began functioning on September 18, 1947. The subsequent Central Intelligence Act of June 20, 1949, explicitly granted secrecy to the CIA by exempting it from various laws.

The full scope of the abuses by the CIA, including plots to assassinate foreign leaders and illegal surveillance of  U.S. citizens, was not fully known by the American public until it was exposed by the Senate Church Committee in 1975–1976 (see its reports, below).

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

Read the Church Committee report on CIA assassination plots: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_ir.htm

Learn more: Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008)

Learn about the CIA’s mail cover program (pp. 559–536) and spying on Americans (pp. 679–730): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

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