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Forefathers of the CIA: Sir William “Intrepid” Stephenson
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Forefathers of the CIA: Sir William “Intrepid” Stephenson

Many know the basic story by now. The dark days between Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor, getting the United States into the war was seen as a vital necessity. Winston Churchill sends the “quiet Canadian” from Winnipeg, William Stephenson, to expand the British intelligence presence in North America. The Passport Control Office becomes British Security Coordination (BSC). [At its zenith during the war, the BSC offices in Rockefeller Center in New York employed at least a thousand people—over seven hundred of them Canadians.] Stephenson “intrigues” to get “our man in Washington” William Donovan in as the chief of U.S. central intelligence with establishment of the Coordinator of Intelligence (COI) office in 1941.
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“…What surprised me in Hyde’s story of ‘the quiet Canadian’ was the revelation of a hitherto unknown British dimension to the story of CIA’s origin. What intrigued me was the oh so subtle suggestion that, at least initially, Donovan, our CIA hero, had been London’s ‘man in Washington.’” (Wild Bill and Intrepid, Thomas Troy, pp. 4-5)[/COLOR]

COI becomes the OSS in 1942, and the remnants are assembled in 1947 as the CIA.

In the 1970s a CIA staff officer, Thomas Troy, is assigned to write a CIA history. At first he can’t find anything on Sir William Stephenson. Then he discovers the 1962 book The Quiet Canadian by Montgomery Hyde. It soon becomes apparent that what Troy calls the Casey and Dulles version of history is bogus.

“As revealed by Montgomery Hyde, it all began quite differently than in the Casey and Dulles account. The creative role was played not by Donovan but by ‘the quiet Canadian…’ Then Stephenson, under his SIS cover as director of British Security Coordination (BSC), convinced both Donovan and FDR of the need for establishing COI, maneuvered Donovan into heading the new agency, and thereafter played intelligence schoolmaster to him and his fledgling organization.”(Troy, p. 5)

Troy sets out to write a better history, becomes friends with Sir William. Also meets Sir William’s WWII assistant Dick Ellis, and he is ordered by his CIA superiors not to meet with him again, and he must evade him on a trip to London. He clears much of this up with publication of Wild Bill and Intrepid: Donovan, Stephenson, and the Origin of CIA in 1996. Interestingly enough, this vital book does not catch on in the JFK research community. The Casey-Dulles version of history still holds sway.

The British created American central intelligence.

“...the British may have taught us everything we know [about intelligence] but not everything they know.” (New York super lawyer Ernest Cuneo quoted in Troy, p. 141)

Why was this such an explosive secret?

“This strange ignorance struck me later as having a simple explanation: The Stephenson-Donovan collaboration in the year leading up to the establishment of COI was a truly clandestine affair, one to which very, very few outsiders, if any, were personally privy... It was so clandestine that, more than any other factor, it left the field clear for the rise and sway of the Casey and Dulles version of history.” (Troy, p. 5)

For all intents and purposes the CIA is the American Tory branch of the British SIS.

The story of how Sir William Stephenson became one of the leading intelligence operatives of the 20th century is a fascinating story, especially as told in a book that must still be largely unknown, The True Intrepid: Sir William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents by Bill Mcdonald. I will try and write up more on that in another post.

Ron Williams
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