History : President Truman "Limit CIA Role" (NEVER PUBLISHED)

President Truman "Limit CIA Role" (NEVER PUBLISHED)

(This was supposed to appear in the Washington Post exactly one month after JFK's assassination, but Dulles had a talk with Truman, and although Truman never recanted, the Wa-Po chickened out and never published this)

Limit CIA Role To Intelligence by Harry S Truman

The Washington Post
December 22, 1963 - page All

Harry Truman Writes ;

Limit CIA Role
To Intelligence

By Harry S Truman

Copyright, 1963, by Harry S Truman

INDEPENDENCE, MO., Dec. 21—1 think it has become necessary to take another look
at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency— CIA. At least, I would
like to submit here the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency
during my Administration, what I expected it to do and how it was to operate as an arm of the

I think it is fairly obvious that by and large a President's performance in office is as
effective as the information he has and the information he gets. That is to say, that assuming
the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our
institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs to have
available to him the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on
everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger
spots in the contest between East and West. This is an immense task and requires a special
kind of an intelligence facility.

Of course, every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many
intelligence agencies already in existence. The Departments of State, Defense, Commerce,
Interior and others are constantly engaged in extensive information gathering and have done
excellent work.

But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting
conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established
positions of a given department. This becomes confusing and what's worse, such intelligence
is of little use to a President in reaching the right decisions.

Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all
intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as
President without department "treatment" or interpretations.

I wanted and needed the information in its "natural raw" state and in as comprehensive a
volume as it was practical for me to make full use of it. But the most important thing about
this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead
the President into unwise decisions— and I thought it was necessary that the President do his
own thinking and evaluating.

Since the responsibility for decision making was his— then he had to be sure that no
information is kept from him for whatever reason at the discretion of any one department or
agency, or that unpleasant facts be kept from him. There are always those who would want to
shield a President from bad news or misjudgments to spare him from being "upset."

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original
assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the
Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several
explosive areas.

I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime
cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have
experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President
has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister
and mysterious foreign intrigue— and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.

With all the nonsense put out by Communist propaganda about "Yankee imperialism,"
"exploitive capitalism," "war-mongering," "monopolists," in their name-calling assault on the
West, the last thing we needed was for the CIA to be seized upon as something akin to a
subverting influence in the affairs of other people.

I well knew the first temporary director of the CIA, Adm. Souers, and the later permanent
directors of the CIA, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and Allen Dulles. These were men of the
highest character, patriotism and integrity— and I assume this is true of all those who
continue in charge.

But there are now some searching questions that need to be answered. I, therefore, would
like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the
President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field— and that its
operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.

We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to
maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been
functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to
correct it.