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A Brief History of the CIA

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is one of the most well-known and controversial institutions in American history. It is also one of the least understood. This article will provide a brief history of intelligence operations in world history, specifically about intelligence operations in the United States of America, starting with George Washington's use of covert operations against the British, to covert intelligence operations during the Civil War, to the founding of the OSS during World War 2, to the workings of the CIA from the mid-twentieth century until the present day.

Intelligence operations are as old as war itself. In the ancient world, spies were used to gain information about an enemy's plans and intentions. The Bible even mentions the use of spies in the Book of Numbers. In more recent history, intelligence operations played a critical role in the American Revolution. George Washington famously used covert operations against the British, such as sending agents to gather information about enemy plans and activities and using spies and agents to deceive the British of his plans.

During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate forces used intelligence gathering to try and gain an advantage over their opponents. The Confederates even set up an extensive spy network in Washington DC. DC at the time, was home to many Southern Confederate sympathizers. The Union Army's General George B. McClellan hired a Chicago detective named Allan Pinkerton (founder of the world famous Pinkerton Detective Agency) to set up the Union's spy network.

The United States formally established an intelligence agency with the creation of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. The OSS was responsible for conducting espionage and sabotage operations against the Axis powers. After the war, the OSS was disbanded and its functions were taken over by the newly created Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The CIA started out as a small agency with a few hundred employees, but it soon grew in size and scope. The CIA played a major role in the Cold War, often working against the Soviet Union and its allies. The CIA was also involved in numerous controversial activities, such as overthrowing foreign governments, conducting secret experiments on unwitting subjects, and supporting right-wing dictatorships.

One example of the CIA's involvement in overseas nations is Panama. Panama had a military coup in 1968 that lead to a government coming into power that would ultimately lead to Manuel Noriega becoming leader of Panama. Noriega quickly established himself as a valuable asset to the CIA, providing information on communist activity in Central America as well as helping to facilitate the U.S.-backed Contra war in Nicaragua. However, by the late 1980s, Noriega's increasingly corrupt and brutal regime had made him a liability for the United States. In addition, Noriega was known to play both sides, by feeding America's enemies American secrets. In 1988, the Bush administration, largely through the CIA, began working to remove Noriega from power, ultimately culminating in the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.

Noriega was convicted of a variety of charges in both the United States and Panama. He served a prison sentence in Panama for crimes related to human rights abuses until his death in 2017.

Since the end of the Cold War, the CIA has been involved in a number of conflicts around the world. The CIA has been criticized for its involvement in activities that some believe have led to more instability and chaos.

During the War on Terror, the CIA has been accused of using torture and other illegal methods to gather information from suspected terrorists. The CIA has also been criticized for its role in the drone program, which has killed civilians in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen.

The CIA actually entered and started operating in Afghanistan in 2001 even before the US military invaded. The CIA entered Afghanistan just 16 days after 9/11 with big piles of cash to use to recruit Afghan warlords, spies, and interpreters.

The CIA is a controversial institution, but it plays a critical role in American intelligence gathering. The CIA remains one of the most powerful and influential organizations in American society today. As the world becomes more complex and global threats continue to grow, the CIA will likely only become more important in the years to come.