The CIA’s directorate of science and technology was founded on the recommendations of the Dulles committee, the Hoover commission, and the Eberstat committee who analyzed the intelligence programs of CIA and other government agencies in 1948 and found that scientific intelligence was wanting. It has its headquarters in Langley in McLean, Virginia.
It is known by various names that include, Langley, the company, and the CIA. However, most of the important research installations are secret and some are hidden underground for security reasons (Richelson 181).
The United States government created the first central intelligence agency, the office of strategic services (OSS) during world war one. It was tasked with special operations which included espionage, sabotage, and counterintelligence among many other functions. After the war president Harry Truman disbanded OSS, and its functions taken by the war and states department. This led to the formation of the CIA.
The CIA was made more powerful by the National Security Council directive on office of special projects in June 1948 (NSC 10/2) that mandated it to attack hostile elements including states, groups, or individuals secretly to totally absolve the United States in the minds of the public eye from blame.
The central intelligence act of 1948 completely legalized the secrecy of the agency and hence it was not answerable to the public domain. The military arms of the government and the CIA had almost the same mandate because they complemented each other and sometimes it led to disagreements as in the case when the CIA put a stop to the Air Force attempt to take over a project they had initially rejected (Richelson 15)
In 1953, the CIA under Allen W. Dulles became highly innovative and many scientific breakthroughs were made through his directorship. One area he succeeded was scientific intelligence gathering. It required extensive research to develop advanced technology and the CIA was mandated to come up with the technology to collect intelligence, analyze it, and come up with fail proof strategies to safe guard the American people and their soil.
This resulted in the creation of the deputy directorate of research in 1962, which evolved to the deputy directorate of science and technology in 1963 later renamed the directorate of science and technology in 1965. Under Dulles, the most celebrated spy satellites, the U-2, A-12 and the Berlin tunnel were successfully built (Richelson 94). This was a major advancement in the espionage and signals intelligence as it gave the US the capability to analyze foreign countries weaponry.
With these technologies, USA was able to spy on foreign countries including those viewed as hostile and aggressive towards it and hence it could be able to strategically create a defense system in response to the threats against it. Intelligence gathered could prevent costly and sometimes fatal missions to gather information that was previously done by trained soldiers or civilians.
This hence explicitly showed that the future of power lay on intelligence and hence the CIA directorate of science and technology grew rapidly and became a force to reckon with. Many important medical technologies were discovered and are used extensively today including the heart pace maker.
Despite the major advances in espionage technology and weaponry, the CIA directorate of science and technology felt the need to influence other foreign nations and hence lost tract of its mandate. Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, who was the first director of the CIA, successfully supported the Christian Democrats of Italy plunging USA into the world of foreign power manipulation to achieve its own end.
This created a lot of resentment and distrust and major countries including the Soviet Union started a race to become as powerful as (or more powerful than) the United States. The CIA with its vast resources would have pioneered other projects that could have increased America’s security and sustainability.
The competition for oil supplies was another front the CIA was directly involved in, and with its finances and technology it overthrew the Iran’s Premier Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 through a coup. This was a direct provocation and most of the enmity and suspicion felt towards the United States by Arabian countries stemmed from the push to control oil resources in foreign countries notably Arabic countries.
The Kennedy administration was responsible for the failed assassination attempt of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 1961, famously known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The United States government through the CIA trained 1500 Cuban exiles; who were supposed to invade Cuba and cause an uprising which would topple the dictator.
The attempt backfired nastily and the president accepted to shoulder the blame in which some of the exiles were killed in action. The mess was a total embarrassment for the United States government and its intelligence agency as its intelligence had gone wrong. Fidel Castro became a hostile enemy of the United States and probably this rivalry would not be present had the United States kept out of the country’s affairs.
President Ronald Reagan also continued his predecessor’s footsteps and despite the United States government having several scandals, his administration secretly sold arms in the 1980s to Iran to be used against Iraq. This was despite the fact that the two countries were arch enemies.
It was alleged that the proceeds from the secrets arm deals were used to fund terrorist groups attempting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. This was against the congressional legislations and the United Nations directives. This illustrates the high handedness of the CIA as they could get away with anything despite having good legislation. These incidents clearly show that the agency was operating without restrain
In the 1970s, under President Nixon, the curtain began falling on the agency perpetuated by the Watergate scandal where President Nixon using the CIA tried to unofficially impede the federal bureau of investigations from investigating a burglary in the Watergate headquarters carried out by ex-CIA agents.
When the truth was finally out the president had to resign. Following revelations of the excesses of the CIA that included attempted assassinations, domestic citizen, spying, and other violations the congress sought to correct the problem by curtailing the powers of the CIA; through the church committee in the senate and in the House of Representatives through the pike committees. Somehow, these unfortunate incidents led the CIA to start modernizing its operations but with some delays (Richelson 234).
It is true to say that to a large extent the CIA has failed in its inherent mandate of gathering and analyzing information. Contrary to its mandate of tracking down weapons of mass destruction, it failed to predict the Indian nuclear tests in 1974, though it had prior knowledge of the developments.
In September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda managed to stage an attack in United States soil with huge losses in life and property. Lack of sharing information between intelligence agencies led to this catastrophic terrorism attack but an executive summary report indicated that the agency was not fully prepared to deal with the threats posed by Al-Qaeda.
In 1986, the CIA set up a counterterrorist center to deal with terrorism. Regrettably, some of the most dangerous terrorists that have caused havoc and loss of innocent lives were a creation of the CIA. Osama bin laden who founded Al Qaeda was financially supported and given military training by the CIA in the late 80s.
The support of his group was initially aimed at fighting covert battles for the United States but the plan backfired and Osama bin laden became an extremist sorely focused to destroy American interests. Had the CIA stuck to its mandate and avoided active roles in foreign countries, probably terrorism activity would not be of the same magnitude as it is today and the strength that Al Qaeda had was a direct result of the early influences of the CIA.
To counter terrorism, the CIA rose to the occasion and actively pursued terror masterminds whom they killed using advanced technology through drone attacks. Notably, in 1996 the CIA set up stations specifically to monitor and try to track Osama bin Laden through information supplied by Al-Fadl who defected to the CIA in 1976 a feat accomplished in 2011.
With extensive and advanced technology, the CIA can and would have led the war on drugs and human trafficking especially in the United States soil; it could have predicted and stopped the onset of genocides in Africa and other parts of the world.
The CIA should have used its resources for the betterment of humanity through research in medicine, alternative power, and environmental conservation. There are many areas in the world today that require dedicated and continued research to solve some of the emerging issues and with its capability the CIA can succeed where others have failed.
Richelson, Jeffrey. The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. Boulder, Co: West view Press, 2001. Print