Appointed by President Harry S. Truman
on 23 January, 1946, Souers was the first serving Director of Central Intelligence
. At the time (before the 26 July 1947 National Security Act, which brought the CIA
into existence) the DCI
was (under the authority of the executive branch
) the head of the Central Intelligence Group
and a member of the National Intelligence Authority
Souers was born in Dayton, Ohio on the 30th of March, 1892. He'd attended Purdue University and Miami University (Ohio) gaining his B.A. in 1914. In his civilian life, he was a banker and businessman in St. Louis. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve in 1929, volunteered himself for active service in July 1940, and achieved the rank of Rear Admiral
in 1945, when he was also made deputy chief of Naval Intelligence.
After he resigned as DCI on the 10th June, 1946, he enjoyed a further spell in the Intelligence Community, as Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, from 16 September, 1947 until the 15th January, 1950. After this, he took up his business career once more, and died on 14th January, 1973.
After the cessation of immediate hostilites in WWII, in 1945, the OSS, conceived as exclusively a wartime operation, was intended by Roosevelt to be scaled down dramatically, if not abandoned altogether. However, a massive beaurocratic infight took place in Washington, and the new president (Harry S. Truman), perhaps worried by the new perception of a Soviet threat (it's maintained that the Russkies kept their troops in Europe on active status long after the war had ended), perhaps inspired by the "Iron Curtain" - first mentioned by Winston Churchill in a speech that year, or perhaps, just possibly, seeking to make the most out of the situation in terms of extending the political powerbase of the executive, had reversed these plans of Roosevelt's, laying the groundwork for the creation of the CIA, and inaugurating the creation of the Central Intelligence Group (the CIG) by means of a directive on 22 January 1922 (which Souers had helped draft.)
This was intended to be collaborative effort between the State Department, the War Department, and the US Navy, and it set in stone the resolution of the beaurocratic struggle over the future of peacetime intelligence: the 'intelligence community' as we know it today was essentially put in place - an interagency clearinghouse for intelligence information, under the control of the Presidential Office, and under the directorship of a Director of Central Intelligence,
reporting to the president.
The day following this historic directive, Truman appointed
Souers as DCI, and installed him in the desk used by Bill Donovan as director of the OSS. (Truman held a mock inauguration cermeony for Sours in the White House, handing him a dark cloak and a toy wooden dagger, and declaring him "director of centralised snooping".) Souers was reticent about his intentions in the role. When asked by a journalist what his intentions were, as the new DCI, he said "I want to go home". Truman, who was bogged down in multitudinous briefings from the various intelligence agencies, used him as a filter, getting Souers to deliver the executive summaries which subsequent Presidents have come to expect from their DCIs. The first daily briefing was delivered to Truman about four weeks after he assumed his position.
Behind the scenes, Souers was fighting it out in the inter-agency turf wars for control of the newly created grouping. The CIG was staffed almost entirely with personnel on loan from the military, and, perhaps because of this mix'n'match staffing, the various bodies whose efforts he was to co-ordinate were less than co-operative: the armed services openly refused to provide details of their own intentions and capabilities. OSS director Donovan, and Truman himself, were pushing strongly for the creation of an entirely civilian agency, perhaps as a solution to the interminable squabbling between the intelligence wings of the various armed forces. Souers set to work investigating the possible legal and statutory implications of this, and appointed lawyer Lawrence Houston (on loan from the Strategic Services Unit) as the CIG's first general counsel to help iron out difficulties.
Houston later stated:
We went to the books and found there was a statute which said there could not be an organization set up in the executive branch for more than one year without statutory background. There was no statutory background at all. That February we started to go to work and put together what might be legislation for an [OSS-]equivalent peacetime organization.
One day after Souers' resignation (after his agreed six month term) Houston's report was submitted to new DCI Hoyt S. Vandenberg
. It set out most of the conditions which were necessary (and later enacted) for the creation of the peacetime intelligence agency which would replace the CIG - always intended as a transitional organisation, in any case - the CIA
Information and quotes from John Ranelagh's quasi-official apologia for the CIA: The Agency, Sceptre, 1988, and