According to retired New York Times reporter David Binder in 1971, President Harry Truman’s primary motivation in signing the National Security Act of 1947 which the CIA was to prevent another Pearl Harbor.

Binder wrote: “The concept, had its origin in the failure of American intelligence services to coordinate signals warning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.” Truman believed that by coordinating government intelligence efforts, such events might be prevented in the future.

However, as we saw on September 11th, 2001, that hasn’t worked out so well. In fact, much of the time, the CIA’s right hand doesn’t even know what its left hand is doing.

So what is the CIA’s primary purpose? Essentially, to stay in business. This is according to a former CIA counter-terrorism officer and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Former intelligence agent-turned-whistleblower John Kiriakou recently wrote:

“One of the things that most observers don’t understand is that the CIA will do anything – anything – to survive. All CIA officers are taught to lie. They lie all the time, about everything, to everybody. And they justify it by trying to convince themselves that they are doing it in the national interest, for national security. From my very first day in the CIA, it was drilled into me, as it is into every other employee, that ‘the primary mission is to protect the Agency.’ That was the mantra.”

Kiriakou adds: “Couple that with the CIA’s ability to intercept and take over virtually any communications device, and you have a Frankenstein monster.” He also says that “We can say pretty much the same things about the NSA.”

In short, the CIA and NSA have gone rogue, and work only to preserve their own existence.

When former President Truman was interviewed by author and biographer Merle Miller in the 1960s, he expressed his own regrets about having created that “Frankenstein monster”:

I think [creation of the CIA] was a mistake…if I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have done it … those fellows in the CIA don’t just report on wars and the like, they go out and make their own, and there’s nobody to keep track of what they’re up to. They spend billions of dollars on stirring up trouble so they’ll have something to report on. It’s become a government all of its own and all secret. They don’t have to account to anybody.”

Truman went on to point out:

That’s a very dangerous thing in a democratic society…the way a free government works, there’s got to be a housecleaning every now and again, and when you can’t do any housecleaning because everything that goes on is a damn secret, we’re on our way to something the Founding Fathers didn’t have in mind. Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix.”

Truman wasn’t the only one to realize what he had unleashed. In the wake of the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy reportedly said that he wanted to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Two and a half years after the Kennedy assassination, the New York Times published an article entitled, “CIA: Maker of Policy or Tool?” Over fifty years ago, the Times was questioning whether or not the CIA was overthrowing foreign governments, raising armies, staging invasions, and even exerting influence over Congress and the White House to the point that it had become a “shadow government” with more power than the President.

The recent revelations from whistleblowers such as Kiriakou and the Vault 7 documents from Wikileaks are making one fact abundantly clear: the U.S. government has indeed created a monster that is now out of control.

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K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues.