Intelligence reform: why it’s 1945 all over again

Like skinny ties or handlebar mustaches, what’s old is new again. Amid the current talk of better coordination among intelligence agencies in the wake of the Boston bombings, we got a reminder of what such efforts looked like in their infancy — and it turns out, they look much the same as they do today.

Our pals at the OSS Society dug up what they say might be the first -ever memo about intelligence reform. And it sounds some mighty familiar notes.

Society president Charles Pinck discovered the 1945 missive from General William Donovan, the founder of the OSS — which was the precursor to the CIA — to President Truman, in documents from the Truman Library. In the memo, Donovan expresses concern about splintering off intelligence functions from the OSS to other agencies. “Whatever agency has the duty of intelligence should have it as a complete whole,” he writes. “To do otherwise would be to add chaos to existing confusion in the intelligence field.”


Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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