275. Memorandum From the Intelligence Survey Group to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Souers)0


  • Interim Report No. 2: Relations between Secret Operations and Secret Intelligence

In connection with our study of the intelligence operations of the Government, particularly those of CIA, we have been informed that a [Page 682] plan for developing certain other covert operations is being submitted to the NSC. As we understand it, such operations would be directed particularly towards affording encouragement to the freedom-loving elements in those countries which have been over-run by Communism and toward combating by covert means the spread of Communist influence.

We understand that it is suggested that a Director of Special Studies, to be nominated by the Secretary of State, and appointed by the NSC, with a staff of nine members assigned from the Department of State, the armed services and CIA, be given the responsibility to develop and give general direction to a program of covert operations as indicated above, including work in the covert psychological field, which under NSC 4a has already been initiated in CIA.

The question of policy involved in these measures is not directly within our terms of reference. However, these projects have an important bearing on the future of the intelligence operations of CIA, and, for this reason, we feel justified in commenting on this phase of the subject.

We suggest, in particular, that further attention should be given to the means for the carrying out of the special operations contemplated and the relation between these operations and the proper conduct of secret intelligence.

A central planning and coordinating staff, as proposed in the new plan, is essential, but the centralized control of operations is equally important. In this delicate field, actual control must be exercised by the Director, who should be in intimate touch not only with plans and policies but also with the details of the operations. We do not believe that these types of operation can be “farmed” out to various existing agencies of the Government without jeopardizing their effectiveness and involving serious security risks. In particular, it would be dangerous to have several unrelated and uncorrelated clandestine operations carried out in such sensitive areas as those behind the Iron Curtain. There would be duplication of effort, crossing of wires in the use of clandestine agents, and serious risk for the chains and agents used in the respective operations. In our opinion, the Director and staff, if removed from actual operations, as apparently contemplated under the proposed NSC directive, would not be able to control this situation.

In carrying out these special operations, the Director and his staff should have intimate knowledge of what is being done in the field of secret intelligence and access to all the facilities which may be built up through a properly constituted secret intelligence network. Secret operations, particularly through support of resistance groups, provide one of the most important sources of secret intelligence, and the information gained from secret intelligence must immediately be put to use in guiding and directing secret operations. In many cases it is necessary to determine whether a particular agent or chain should primarily be used for [Page 683] secret intelligence or for secret operations, because the attempt to press both uses may endanger the security of each.

The special operations contemplated will require a staff operating abroad both under State Department and other cover, as in the case of secret intelligence. Unless the personnel for both operations is under one overall control in Washington, even though a measure of insulation is provided in the field, there is likely to be overlapping of activities and functions in critical areas which will imperil security.

The Allied experience in the carrying out of secret operations and secret intelligence during the last war has pointed up the close relationship of the two activities. The British, for example, who had separate systems during the war, have now come around to the view that secret intelligence and secret operations should be carried out under a single operational head and have reorganized their services accordingly.

We recommend:

That a Director, subject to appropriate policy guidance as suggested in the proposed NSC directive, should be made responsible for all forms of covert activities, including secret intelligence, secret operations, clandestine psychological work and such other covert operations as may be assigned to the Director by the NSC.
That each branch of these covert activities should be under a chief reporting to the Director.
That the Director should be immediately responsible to the NSC or to the Director of CIA as the NSC might determine.

The practical effect of the decision reached under point 3 would be to determine whether CIA should continue to be charged with the collection of secret intelligence. It would, in any case, continue to be the recipient of all intelligence collected by the Director of Special Studies, and even if secret intelligence were removed from its control, CIA might be used as a “cover” agency for the new operations.

It had been our intention to reserve for our final report our recommendations as to whether the collection of secret intelligence should or should not continue to be a function of the CIA, as we had wished to complete our survey of the entire intelligence set-up before dealing with this key question.

However, if the NSC should now determine that a program of secret operations is to be undertaken, and desires any further views from us as to how this would affect the handling of secret intelligence, we shall be glad to submit a report on this subject.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Records of the Executive Secretariat, NSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 4. Top Secret. The NSC appointed the Survey Group in February 1948 to evaluate the performance of the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence system generally. Its members were Allen Dulles, who served as chairman, Mathias F. Correa, and William H. Jackson.