The onset of the Cold War convinced President Harry S Truman that his government needed to bring back a spy agency like the war-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS). So in 1947, the CIA was born. The agency, and its predecessor, have had an array of colorful -- and sometimes controversial -- spy chiefs who left a lasting imprint on the agency. They include:
William Donovan, OSS, 1942-45. “Wild Bill” gave the intelligence agency its enduring stamp: Eastern Establishment, dashing and glamorous. America's most celebrated spymaster, he founded the OSS and inspired the CIA. Beyond his reputation for derring-do, Medal of Honor winner Donovan organized covert efforts in five war theaters that were especially effective in running underground operations, breaking codes and providing tactical intelligence to the military.
Allen Dulles, CIA, 1953-61. His brother was secretary of State, and he had the complete trust and backing of President Eisenhower. Dulles oversaw the heyday of the CIA's covert acts, including the toppling of the Iranian government in 1953 and the Guatemalan government in 1954. He was also in charge during the CIA's most embarrassing failure: the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba in 1961.
John McCone, CIA, 1961-65. The first director to see the future of technology, McCone improved the agency's analysis -- and that helped him play a pivotal role in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But on his watch the CIA plotted the assassination of at least two world leaders -- Cuba's Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo -- and carried out illegal surveillance of more than 10,000 Americans.
Richard Helms, CIA, 1966-73. The first agency professional to become director, Helms was the model of the well-informed, professional manager of agent networks and case officers. “There will be no Bay of Pigs or U-2s under Helms,” he promised. Helms oversaw the CIA's destabilization campaign against Chilean President Salvador Allende in the early 1970s. He is also remembered for resisting attempts by the Nixon White House to involve the CIA in the Watergate cover-up.
William E. Colby, CIA, 1973-76. Colby took the helm of the CIA in the midst of Watergate. During his tenure, the agency's illegal domestic surveillance was revealed, triggering the beginning of congressional oversight and greater public scrutiny of the CIA.
Stansfield Turner, CIA, 1977-81. Like his boss, President Jimmy Carter, Adm. Turner possessed the naval officer's view of the world, in which systems and facilities are most important. Turner accelerated the shift from human spies to spy satellites and electronic eavesdropping. But in the process of reining in the agency's covert operations, Turner fired a number of seasoned professionals and left the agency staff fractured and demoralized.
William Casey, CIA, 1981-87. Probably the most controversial spy chief, Casey is credited with rebuilding the agency and reinvigorating its covert operations. However, he personally helped lead the Reagan administration into the Iran-contra debacle. Most experts feel Casey's efforts to circumvent the nation's laws seriously damaged the agency's credibility.