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HISTORY OF THE CIA

GATHERING INFORMATION - THE HISTORY OF THE CIA 

In the brief moment of quiet that followed World War II, the United States found itself to be the only Allied power not dealing with the widespread destruction. The devastation of Europe left a power vacuum rapidly being filled by the Soviet Union. Churchill warned of an iron curtain descending across Europe analyst George Kennan poured his concerns into a long State Department telegram filled with dark warnings of Soviet intentions. To these men, the fate of the world hung in the balance. Many agreed, but agreement on the problem did not signify an agreement on the solution. Which path would lead to the proper outcome? 

In 1947, the new Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, was born to coordinate the various departments’ intelligence services and much more. 

In this series of classes, we will examine what we know of the history of the CIA. In the process we will meet an incredible group of people and review major events during this American century. We will also see some of America’s greatest enemies. It is a fascinating story and one far from finished. Join historian Russ Gifford as we walk into the shadowy world of intelligence operations to decipher the history of this pivotal organization! 

MONDAYS, OCTOBER 28, NOVEMBER 4, 11; NOON TO 2 P.M. 

Location: Cargill Auditorium, Entrance 14, Lot 4 
Fee: No charge / Max: 100
Lifelong Learning membership required 
Course #20/FY-CPDV-3008-01 

Early Years: Countering Communism 

During World War II, secret information from Europe and Asia Pacific was the lifeblood of the armed forces. Agents and agencies developed quickly on an as needed basis. As operations increased, the need for counter espionage also increased. William “Wild Bill” Donovan drove these actions forward. But after the war, information was still vital. Departments of State and of Defense each had experts within their ranks and demanded time and attention. When their prime audience, Harry Truman, the President of the United States, found he was beset with divergent views as to the intentions and capabilities of the country’s enemies and adversaries, he demanded a combined, unified briefing with information assessed and considered with a condensed output. The CIA was born. 

But what of the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Hoover would not let his power be diminished. Different styles abounded. With the coming of Dwight D. Eisenhower to the presidency, the covert arm of the Agency quickly grew as Ike certainly preferred muscular covert operations to military ones. 

Lack of oversight came home to roost: in 1960, high over the U.S.S.R., in 1962, in a muddy swamp in Cuba, and by the 1970s, in misleading quid-pro-quo dealings with a president using the agency to shield his actions from exposure. As the truth came to light in the post-Watergate era of transparency, there was much to question. 
Monday, October 28, Noon to 2 P.M. 

Transparency and Transition 

The aftermath of congressional investigations left the agency at a crossroads. The mission was no less vital, and the men and women working for “the Company” no less dedicated. It would not be long before it was leading the charge again at the behest of presidents. The rest of the 20th century would lead from a little island in the Caribbean, to Nicaragua to Afghanistan and to the ultimate frustration of the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan. The eventual confrontation of Desert Storm placed U.S. forces in the Middle East for the first time. The ominous issues of the Khobar Towers and the U.S.S. Cole provided pointers that would end at the World Trade Center as the new century dawned. 
Monday, November 4, Noon to 2 P.M. 

Later Years: Confronting Terrorism 

The attack on New York on September 11, 2001, was no less monumental than the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Both changed the direction of the country and awoke a people to utilize resources at hand to strike back. The difference was the United States was not a sleeping giant, but a behemoth with more power at its disposal than any country had ever possessed. What was lacking was a target, and the CIA would quickly identify it. While Afghanistan had frustrated the U.S.S.R. in the 1980s, the country fell quickly to U.S. forces. Some of the post war excesses lead to questions. Later, the misidentification of Iraq as a holder of weapons of mass destruction lead many to ask if the intelligence gathering arm was being misused or misled. The drone strike war, attacking people identified as targets in countries that may not have invited the U.S. to undertake such actions, continues to make many uneasy. Today the CIA, and thus by extension, the U.S., actively participates in actions in countries around the globe that frequently surprises the citizens when an attack or an ambush makes headlines. Leaks have confirmed intelligence gathering also captured information from U.S. citizens who were at home, not abroad. What are the limits? What should be the limits? And what will the future bring? 

All good questions, and the answer, as always, requires a gathering of information to make an informed decision. Join us to discuss the history of the Central Intelligence Agency, and where the roads might lead from here! 
Monday, November 11, Noon to 2 P.M.

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