The Center for Grassroots Oversight

This page can be viewed at http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a47DavidBleeCIA


Context of '1947: Future Counterintelligence Chief Joins CIA'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 1947: Future Counterintelligence Chief Joins CIA. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Future CIA manager David Blee joins the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II predecessor of the CIA. (Risen 8/17/2000; Los Angeles Times 8/18/2000; Jackson 8/22/2000) During World War II, one of his missions for the OSS involves landing with other team members by submarine on islands off the coast of Thailand to monitor the Japanese fleet. (Risen 8/17/2000)

David Blee, a former Office of Strategic Services agent (see (1943-1944)), joins the CIA. (Risen 8/17/2000; Los Angeles Times 8/18/2000; Jackson 8/22/2000) Blee will go on to head the agency’s Soviet operations during the Cold War (see 1971) and will also run its counterintelligence activities (see 1978).

David Blee, a former Office of Strategic Services agent (see (1943-1944)) who joined the CIA in 1947 (see 1947), is appointed head of the agency’s Soviet Division. Thanks to his appointment, Blee replaces James Angleton as the biggest influence on Soviet policy. Angleton is an extremely controversial figure at the agency who has run counterintelligence for over two decades and views every Soviet defector as a plant. Therefore, the CIA has rebuffed many potential defectors and even imprisoned one defector under what the New York Times will call “brutal conditions.” Angleton’s theory of a “monster plot” by the Soviets against the US has also led to a witch hunt for Soviet moles at the agency, harming morale and effectiveness. For example, the agency was so blind that in 1968 it was unable to predict the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Blee rejects the “monster plot” theory and reverses Angleton’s policy. The CIA’s doors are thrown open to defectors and this greatly increases the number of spies the agency has in the Soviet bloc. This posting is the high point of Blee’s career and he will subsequently be regarded as one of the agency’s finest ever officers for it (see September 18, 1997). Former CIA officer Haviland Smith will comment, “He was the architect of the program that turned the clandestine service back on target against the Soviets after all the years of Angleton.” Former agency Deputy Director of Operations Clair George will add, “He had a greater intellectual command of overseas operational activity than any officer I ever knew.” (Risen 8/17/2000; Los Angeles Times 8/18/2000; Jackson 8/22/2000)

David Blee, a former head of the CIA’s Soviet division (see 1971), is appointed head of counterintelligence at the agency. (Risen 8/17/2000; Los Angeles Times 8/18/2000)

The CIA celebrates its 50th anniversary with a ceremony at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Director George Tenet awards special medallions to 50 past and present staff for their outstanding contributions to postwar American intelligence. One of the 50 is David Blee, a former head of the agency’s Soviet division (see 1971) and counterintelligence (see 1978), whose citation says the award is for “creating a professional counterintelligence discipline.” (Jackson 8/22/2000) In total, Blee earns two CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medals, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal for his work at the agency. (Los Angeles Times 8/18/2000)

Former CIA manager David Blee dies at the age of 83 at his home in Bethseda, Maryland. In recognition of the significance of his career (see 1971), the New York Times’s obituary calls him “a legendary American spymaster who played a critical role in dispelling the climate of paranoia that paralyzed the Central Intelligence Agency’s espionage operations against the Soviet Union in the 1960s.” (Risen 8/17/2000; Los Angeles Times 8/18/2000; Jackson 8/22/2000)


Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike