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... supports Professor William Snyder's sections of National Security Law, Counterterrorism Law, and Prosecuting Terrorists at the Syracuse University College of Law.

Did the CIA have a policy making role under the National Security of Act of 1947 (and 1949)?

During our last class, student BK raised a question a question in response to this PowerPoint slide:


I can not remember exactly whether his challenge was to my contention that the CIA was not intended to have a policy making role, or whether he was just asserting that they do, in fact, have a policy making role.

If the issue is whether the CIA or the DCI did/does, in fact, have a policy making role, then the answer must be "yes," but the extent of that role varied by presidential administration.

As to whether the CIA and DCI were intended to have a role, then a little research leads me to stand by my original assertion: they were not.

From Central Intelligence: Origin and Evolution produced by the CIA's history staff in 2001:

"Thus the Central Intelligence Agency would be an independent agency under the supervision of the National Security Council; it would conduct both analysis and clandestine activities, but would have no policymaking role and no law enforcement powers; its Director would be confirmed by the Senate and could be either a civilian or a military officer" (p.5).  Also, "CIA was to stand outside the policymaking departments of the government, the better to 'correlate and evaluate intelligence relating to the national security'” (id).

Perhaps the best argument is textual.  Section 101 creating the NSC specifically mentions policy making, while section 102 creating the CIA does not.  Here from 101: "The function of the Council shall be to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the Government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security."

Here is a historical document lamenting the fact that the DCI literally won't have a seat at the table:

208. Memorandum From the Chief of the Legislative Liaison Division, Central Intelligence Group (Pforzheimer) to the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (Wright)

Washington, March 5, 1947.

  • Comments by Mr. Allen Dulles on Proposed CIG Enabling Act

Mr. Allen Dulles has submitted, under date of 10 February 1947, his comments on the draft, dated 2 December 1946, of the proposed CIG Enabling Act. The undersigned submits the following remarks in connection with Mr. Dulles' comments.

1. Dulles: “Section 1(a). The use of the term ‘national intelligence mission’ seems to me somewhat awkward. Possibly instead of ‘mission’ the word ‘objectives’ would be more appropriate.”

Comment: Either term would appear to be acceptable, but the word “objectives” can be substituted for “mission” if it is thought that it is less awkward or ambiguous.

2. Dulles: “Section 3(a). Consideration should be given to according to the Director of Intelligence the right to vote in the National Intelligence Authority, both for reasons of prestige and also to permit matters to be referred to the President under Subsection (9) in case by any chance there should be a difference of opinion between the Director and the other members of the Authority.”

Comment: This suggestion can not be adopted. Under the proposed merger bill, the Director will not sit on the National Security Council and therefore cannot vote. Provisions could be included, however, under Subsection 3(a)(9), if it is thought desirable, to allow the Director to appeal an adverse decision by the Council to the President. However, such a course of action would be extremely difficult, as it would involve the President's over-ruling at least two Cabinet members.

Note that the final act does not make the DCI a member of the National Security Council.

What do you think was Congress's intent?  Did it work out that way?  Is that good or bad?

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