5. Memorandum From the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Hoover) to Attorney General Clark 0

Apropos of our conversation yesterday,1 I am attaching hereto a suggested draft of a letter to the Secretary of State relating to the matter of continuing the Special Intelligence Service operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Western Hemisphere.2 In addition, however, there have been certain developments in this situation in the last twenty-four hours, about which I wanted to advise you.

I have ascertained that General William Donovan has recently seen President Truman and is writing him a letter3 with reference to a proposed program for the operation of a World-wide Intelligence Service. It is reasonable to assume, I believe, that the plan which General Donovan will advance to the President will be similar to the one which he has heretofore advocated and about which I have advised you in detail.

From outside sources I have learned that Colonel Frank McCarthy, new Assistant Secretary of State, has discussed the FBI’s operation of the Western Hemisphere Intelligence Service with Secretary of State Byrnes. From the statements made by Mr. Byrnes to Colonel McCarthy, it appears obvious that the Secretary of State is not adequately or fully informed as to the nature, scope or effectiveness of the Bureau’s operations in this field.

Collaterally, I have received information that the State Department is engaged in the establishment of an intelligence organization to be operated by and entirely within the State Department’s control but on a world-wide basis. Apparently the planning of this program has reached an advanced stage.

I think, consequently, in view of these additional developments, that time is of the very essence in reaching a decision as to the future of the SIS program. As I have told you previously, I am not seeking for the Federal Bureau of Investigation the responsibility for world-wide intelligence system. I am firmly convinced, however, in light of our experiences during and even before the current world war, that the future welfare of the United States necessitates and demands the operation of an efficient, world-wide intelligence service. It is a fact, as you well know, that the SIS [Page 25] program operated by the Bureau in the Western Hemisphere has been completely successful. The program has produced results which were beyond our hope and expectations when we went into this field and these results were brought about without the slightest friction in the countries where we operated. Not a single incident has arisen in which the Government of the United States was subject to any unfavorable or unfortunate publicity. I think this is a rather remarkable achievement when you consider the fact that hundreds of agents operated both undercover and as open representatives of the Government of the United States throughout the Western Hemisphere, conducting thousands of investigations resulting in the acquisition, assimilation and distribution of great quantities of intelligence information. It seems to me, therefore, that taking for granted the recognition of the need for a world-wide intelligence service, it is most logical that the system which has worked so successfully in the Western Hemisphere should be extended to a world-wide coverage. As I have advised you in previous memoranda, such a step can be accomplished without the necessity for any legislative enactment creating operating agencies or empowering them to act. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Military and Naval Intelligence have ample Authority under the present operating statutes to extend the Western Hemisphere coverage to a world-wide organization. This, of course, negatives the necessity for seeking through legislative channels earmarked or otherwise readily identifiable funds for the carrying on of these operations. If, on the other hand, the General Donovan plan or even the plan presently under consideration by the State Department is accepted, it will be necessary to seek Congressional authority for the program and to obtain funds which will be earmarked for and otherwise identified as being for the operation of an international espionage organization. The resulting publicity from such a step will, of course, materially curtail the effectiveness of the proposed program. Such publicity will serve to notify other nations of the program proposed to be carried out by the United States, but other nations will not similarly publicize their own intelligence operations, to the point where the United States will be in a position of advertising its intelligence organization while other nations will operate on a most secretive basis. As a matter of fact, it is well known that the British and Russian Governments, while ostensibly discontinuing their intelligence services or even denying the existence of such organizations in individual countries, are actually intensifying their coverage.

I feel very strongly that there is a need for the establishment and operation of a world-wide intelligence service. While I do not seek this responsibility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I do believe that upon the basis of our experience of the last five years we are well qualified to operate such a service in conjunction with parallel operations of [Page 26] the Military and Naval Intelligence upon the same general basis as these operations have been carried on in the Western Hemisphere. I think that time is of the essence in reaching a decision upon this matter and, consequently, I urge that you personally take the matter up with Secretary of State Byrnes as soon as possible.


John Edgar Hoover 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 263, Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, Troy Papers, FBI Documents. Personal and Strictly Confidential. Drafted by Tamm.
  2. No other record of this conversation has been found.
  3. Not found.
  4. See Document 3.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.