Allen Welsh Dulles (1893-1969)
by Timothy S. Cooper
Born in Watertown, New York, on April 23, 1893, to Presbyterian minister Allen Macy and Edith Foster Dulles, daughter of a former secretary of State began his 51 year career in intelligence after graduating from Princeton in 1914 by being accepted as a clerk in the State Department’s intelligence service on 22 May, 1916. Dulles received formal training in spycraft from William S. Stephenson of MI6 and was assigned to Vienna, Austria on 7 July, 1916. After America declared on war on Germany on 7 April, 1917, the U.S. Legation transferred its intelligence and diplomatic operations to Bern, Switzerland, where Dulles found himself on 23 April taking over intelligence functions. Dulles later served in the State Department’s intelligence unit during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Dulles stayed on in the State Department after Germany signed the peace accords and worked in the U.S. Legation in Berlin sending back vital information regarding the social and political chaos that ensued. In May 1920, Dulles reported back to the State Department to collect military and economic intelligence on Turkey and Persian oil activities. After resigning from the State Department in the fall of 1926, Dulles got became a lawyer and worked for Sullivan & Cromwell, a Wall Street investment firm as a managing partner where he successfully engineered the largest Treasury loan ($30,000,000) to the Prussian government as well as other foreign loans and became the State Department’s point man on foreign loans during 1926–1933. During this period, Dulles became the State Department’s top arms negotiator.
In June 1940, General William Donovan recruited Dulles into his secret Coordinator of Information staff organized by Stephenson and used his influence as member of the ROOM (a private Wall Street intelligence gathering organization and forerunner of the OSS that provided covert money laundering operations abroad and supplied other field assets to American and British agents inside Germany) to assist Donovan in getting Army G-2 approval for establishing the Office of Strategic Services.
In late 1942, Dulles went to Bern, Switzerland, to become station chief for the OSS and created and organized a huge intelligence network of German double agents and expanded his operation to include Yugoslavia, Hungary and other German occupied countries to spread disinformation and forward all political and military secrets of the German High Command. His network provided critical intelligence to Allied war planners and was instrumental in negotiating with Nazi Germany’s leadership for an unconditional surrender in May 1945.
Post War Activities
After President Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947, the United States Central Intelligence Agency was created and not long afterwards, a political turf war erupted between the war-time Intelligence Advisory Board composed of the three intelligence chiefs of the Armed Services and State-War-Navy Committee (forerunner to the NSC) over who should run the CIA.
On 10 October, 1947, the new Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, acted on a recommendation by Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, Director of Central Intelligence, to form an advisory committee under the National Security Act to smooth out the interpretation of the wording and define the authority of the DCI. To supervise a survey, Allen Dulles was appointed by Sherman Kent, head of the Office of Reports and Estimates (Kent had been head of the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS) to due the survey. NSC Secretary, Admiral Sidney Sours favored Ken’s choice because Dulles would “keep the Central Intelligence Agency out of the public eye.” In April 1948, the Dulles Group (William H. Jackson and Robert Blum) completed Survey Interim Report No. 2 on secret intelligence and covert operations and soon after the survey was completed to assess the DCI and the agency. On 1 June, 1948, Secretaries Forestall and Lovett, based on Dulles’ findings decided to give the post of director of secret intelligence and covert operations to Dulles and to reorganize the personnel in the agency. The Dulles Report studied General Vandenberg’s efforts and the “difficulties” experienced by Hillenkoetter with the Intelligence Advisory Board agreed “that there was lack of full cooperation.”
The survey report had gained Dulles recognition and on 22 December, 1951, Dulles drew up his contract defining the functions and responsibilities of Deputy Director for Operations (later designated Deputy Director for Plans). The Dulles Report recommended that all offices within Operations be integrated into a self sufficient, self reliant, and semi-autonomous “Operations” Division. DCI Smith pursued this recommendation made by Dulles and asked Dulles to come into the agency for six weeks as a consultant. On 16 November, 1950, Dulles was officially on board as Smith’s consultant and remained in that position until 2 January, 1951, when he was hired officially as Deputy Director for Operations.
Dulles as Deputy Director for Operations
Though DCI Smith did not fulfill the recommendations as outlined in the Dulles Report, he did value Dulles for his experience as a clandestine operator and organizer of covert operations in the field. Smith also understood that Dulles knew how to run covert operations and had been doing so since he left the OSS performing coordination and funding activities throughout post-war Europe for his large intelligence network he developed and kept them alive and operating for the CIA.
Smith did read the Dulles Report chapter on “Secret Intelligence and Secret Operations,” in which Allen so graphically defined. In it, Dulles stated: “The collection of Secret Intelligence is closely related to the conduct of Secret Operations in support of national policy. These operations including covert psychological warfare, clandestine political activity, sabotage, and guerrilla activity, have always been companions of Secret Intelligence.—Italics added. The two activities support each other and can be disassociated only to the detriment of both.” Dulles’ office was adjoined to Smith’s at “The Kremlin” as it was known by subordinates and quite frequently Smith was heard yelling for Dulles, but Dulles never took the threats and chewing outs as cause for concern. Dulles was a professional and was cool all during Smith’s often nerve shattering outbursts and fits of rage that melted others.
On 26 February, 1953, Allen Welsh Dulles officially assumed the office of Director of Central Intelligence after President Eisenhower had sworn him in and took the reigns of power to wield the CIA as America’s most formidable weapon against the Soviet Union and her satellite states. He quickly acquired a “Ascham” opinion of the Agency, believing as he did, that intelligence should be at the left hand of power as did the “Ascham” or Greek for “those who stand on the left hand of the king.” Dulles likened himself and his Agency as the praetorian guard of Caesar, serving the left hand of the president—doing the dark deeds that statecraft required.
While Dulles thanked Smith for gaining respectability for the CIA, he let it be know that “The reorganization period, except for minor changes, is over.”
One of the first tasks Dulles set out for his staff was that of providing security for the CIA and its operations. Smith had spoken directly to Dulles about Soviet penetration of the U.S. government but not the CIA itself. The penetration by the Burgess, Maclean, Philby spy ring into British intelligence and the State Department had paralyzed the exchange between the U.S. and Great Britain and it would never happen again. Dulles meant to pry into every corner of the world and learn everyone’s intentions. To do this, Dulles brought in James Jesus Angleton, the notorious spy hunter and counter intelligence expert from the OSS days to create and run Counter Intelligence and the Liaison Section which became the least understood, but the most successful of all counterintelligence tasks for Operations. Dulles and Angleton had acquired General Gehlen’s German counterintelligence organization for the sole purpose of infiltrating Soviet intelligence networks established all over West Germany and Allied occupied Europe and may explain the increased interest by the CIA in UFO sighting reports shortly after Angleton became Director of Counter Intelligence.
Allen Dulles as Director of Central Intelligence
Dulles was looked upon by all in the CIA as a “father figure” and had the respect of everyone in the Agency. No stranger to covert operations, Dulles set out to make the CIA the premiere intelligence organization of the U.S. intelligence community. He did this by insulating the Agency from political opposition and military intervention by keeping alive the mutual cooperation established earlier by Vandenberg and Smith. He had the full support of President Eisenhower and that of the State Department which was run by his brother John Foster Dulles (JFD died in 1959). He was a tireless administrator often coming in to work at eight in the morning and leaving after six in the evening and his example was copied by others in the Agency. Dulles would sometimes stroll through the corridors of the East Building and speak formally with employees and exhibited a professional demeanor to female employees and secretaries.
Allen Dulles will probably be remembered most for the development and use of high altitude reconnaissance aircraft and satellite imagery that ushered the CIA into the space age which he endorsed completely while still relying on human intelligence or HUMINT as equally valuable sources of information. Though, he is remembered for the CIA’s mind control projects, psychological warfare operations, and his role in protecting the Agency during the Warren Commission investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Dulles also showed concern for involving the CIA in other areas as well. During the decision making period in creating the National Reconnaissance Office in August 1960, Dulles told Richard Bissell (Deputy Director for Plans), that he would not allow a CIA officer to take operational control of the NRO and run covert operations in the CIA at the same time for fear the Agency would be used as a scapegoat if something went wrong and have the DCI answer to the president or the NSC. Dulles did expand CIA operations into photographic interpretation by creating the Photographic Interpretation Division in 1953 which later became the Photographic Interpretation Center in 1958. Dulles also created a ad hoc Joint Study Group to review all aspects of U.S. foreign intelligence activities on 10 July, 1960, that led to the establishment of the National Photographic Interpretation Center which President Eisenhower later ordered Allen Dulles to absorb into CIA operations. He also maintained operational control of the U-2 spy planes, the A-12 (successor to the U-2) and the CORONA spy satellite program for the CIA.
Allen Dulles and His Final Years as DCI
President Eisenhower had begun a campaign of détente’ with the Soviet world and wanted Allen Dulles to carry out certain initiatives that ran counter to Dulles’ philosophy “America is at Peace because the CIA is at War” which put Dulles in a uncomfortable position as DCI. Eisenhower had given Army G-2 the task of protecting him from surprises and gave orders to Dulles requesting prompt action and immediate feedback. Eisenhower had the growing suspicion that Dulles did not have full operational control of the CIA and placed a series of studies, watch committees and operations control boards to encourage Dulles to exert more control on intelligence collection processes. During Eisenhower’s last year in office, the CIA was under attack by allegations that the CIA had control of Air Force UFO investigations and was deliberately using camouflage to protect classified CIA projects and forcing needless expenditures on psychological warfare operations against the Soviets. Funding for CIA operations was hidden away in appropriations for the Pentagon, State Department, and other agencies and Dulles had to go to the Hill to pitch for more money. When asked by the subcommittee of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee if he had enough money to carry out directives of the President and the NSC, Dulles would reply by saying that he had enough but if he needed more, he would ask and that would end the meeting promptly. In an effort to get quick responses to his requests, Eisenhower created the 5412 Committee known as the “Special Group” to serve as a circuit breaker between the President and “ops” and Dulles knew that the 5412 Committee would, in time, cause him embarrassment and the CIA would take the blame for any policy blunders of the President or State Department. One of these 5412 Committee actions was political assassinations of foreign leaders. One document suggested that the NSC had discussed the “removal” of Fidel Castro and “direct positive action” against Castro be moved to an “executive action capability” which everyone understood to mean the killing of selected individuals. Dulles briefed Eisenhower on the Cuban operation on 29 November, 1960, at which Eisenhower wanted it expedited at the earliest possible time to offset Democratic Party candidate John F. Kennedy’s attacks on communism and the “missile gap” that Dulles knew didn’t exist. The 5412 Committee was briefed by Dulles and expressed the opinion that the Trinidad Plan would be successful. The U-2 crash over the Soviet Union became a breaking point with Eisenhower and Dulles which caused great consternation to the White House and exposed the CIA to a tongue lashing by the press which came at a most precarious moment for Dulles. What Dulles had feared came true.
Allen Dulles and President Kennedy
The New York Herald Tribune had printed Dulles’ epitaph by printing “The general expectation within the Kennedy administration has been that Mr. Dulles…would step down in 1961….” Just three days after the election, President Kennedy called Dulles at his office and bluntly told him that he was moving quickly to announce his “reappointment” as soon as possible and that Dulles would remain as DCI which pleased him greatly. Kennedy wanted to immerse himself in the intelligence gambit and Dulles and Bissell had briefed him on sensitive areas but held back on specific items regarding the CIA invasion plan for Cuba and proposed direct actions against Castro until Kennedy was firmly acquainted with all the Eisenhower approved projects.
Relationship between President Kennedy and Dulles began on a cordial note and things seem to be on the right track but Dulles knew that he would have to convince Kennedy that the Cuban Plan would work and not put the United States in a bad light in world opinion. On 16 April, 1961, the 1,200 Cuban Brigade began their beach assault at the Bay of Pigs with air support and the island defenders easily overpowered and captured the few who made it ashore. Somewhere along the CIA chain of command, the air strikes were not coordinated and insufficient to do any damage to Castro’s ground forces and coupled with aging light bombers and mechanical failures, the strikes were called off, the transports were ordered back to Florida and future air strikes were cancelled leaving the CIA trained Cubans stranded and trapped. Immediately the press were printing headlines that the U.S. had failed in a illegal invasion of Cuba and repercussions were evident everywhere in the White House. Reeling from the disaster and embarrassment of the failed invasion, Kennedy quickly ordered an investigation only to learn that it was an Eisenhower plan which he had embraced and disregarded the Operations Coordinating Board and took control from 5412 and ran the operation within his own staff. General Charles P. Cabell, Allen Dulles, and Richard Bissell became the scapegoats of this debacle shortly after Kennedy publicly apologized and Kennedy issued a National Security Action Memorandum that transferred all covert paramilitary operations to the military and set in motion the dismantling of the CIA. On 28, April, 1961, The New York Herald Tribune printed a piece that was prophetic by saying: “President Kennedy had planned an overhaul of the Central Intelligence Agency after its Director, Allen W. Dulles, retired at the end of this year or early next year, it was learned today.” What followed was unmistakable to all in the Agency, “The timetable for the review of the CIA was moved up as a result of last week’s ill-fated invasion of Cuba by rebel forces. The President last Saturday named General Maxwell D. Taylor (Ret.) to investigate U.S. intelligence capabilities, including the CIA.”—Italics added.
Dulles would now have to think about how to protect the Agency that he had labored for so long to build up and his own future. The strain on the once cordial understanding that existed between Kennedy and Dulles had broken down and it is reported that Kennedy bluntly told Dulles that he had to go. Dulles was not one to trifle with and supported Kennedy’s active measures to assassinate Castro and set up the machinery to launch Operation MONGOOSE but it failed even though Kennedy gave approval to the CIA to use mafia assassins to do it.
The final tribute to Dulles came on 28 November, 1961, with the formal ceremony to dedicate the new $50,000,000 CIA headquarters building at Langley, Virginia, officiated by President Kennedy. Kennedy said:
“I know of no man who brings a greater sense of personal commitment to his work, who has less pride in office than he has. Your successes are unheralded—your failurestrumpeted. I sometimes have that feeling myself. But I am sure you realize how important your work is, how essential it is, and how in the long sweep of history, how significant your efforts will be judged.”—Italics added.
On 29 November, 1961, Allen Dulles formally relinquished his office and retired from the intelligence business. As with all retired professionals, Dulles made speeches and wrote books. Among them were The Craft of Intelligence, which became a best seller. Dulles also lectured at universities and attended private meetings to discuss the abandonment of National Intelligence Estimates by President Kennedy known as the Gun Club.
Allen Dulles and The Warren Commission
After President Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November, 1963, the newly sworn in Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, asked Allen Dulles to be a member of a the Warren Commission tasked by President Johnson to investigate JFK’s murder and report back to him with their findings.
There has been a lot of speculation and rumors regarding Johnson’s decision to pick Allen Dulles as a member of the Warren Commission and became a focus point by conspiracy theorists. One theory is, that Allen Dulles could act as a back channel source to the CIA appraising those concerned on the progress—or lack thereof in determining the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused trigger man. Another, that Dulles knew of the conspiracy and steered the panel away from any CIA connections. And still another, that Dulles had a secret running dispute with Kennedy over disclosure of classified UFO intelligence collected by the CIA and Kennedy threatened to make such disclosure at Dallas in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce. Whatever the reasons, it is believed by many that Allen Dulles conspired to set the President up for a coupe orchestrated by a secret intelligence cabal who wanted Kennedy out of the way.
Among the findings found in The Warren Commission Report: The Official Report of The President’s Commission On the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the report stated in regards to official contact with Oswald, that contacts were “made in the regular exercise of their different responsibilities.” The CIA did indicate in their response for information on visa applicants into the Soviet union that Oswald “obtained permission to remain within one or two months”” and when the Warren Commission asked if this was “normal procedures,” CIA responded by saying, “It is impossible for us to state any “normal” procedures.” Allen Dulles would have been in a position to know this and he may have warned the CIA to not be specific in their response to the question. It is now known that the CIA did maintain a 201 personnel file on Oswald declassified in 1992 through the CIA Historical Review Program and released to the National Archives. The whereabouts of Lee Oswald were suppose to be unknown until 23 February, 1963, but internal Counter Intelligence documents relate to queries regarding Oswald’s return from the Soviet Union in 1960. There are no references to Oswald’s 201 files in the entire 26 volumes of the Warren Commission Report and Dulles might have had a hand in keeping this vital information from the commission members as well.
When New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrsion had long-time CIA operator Clay L. Shaw arrested in 1967 as a conspirator in President Kennedy’s murder, Garrison attempted to have the United States Attorney’s Office serve a subpoena on Allen Dulles regarding Oswald, black ops, and Shaw, but was declined. On 29 January, 1969, Allen Dulles died in his house from an acute influenza infection. On 1 March, 1969, Clay L. Shaw was acquitted.
Allen Welsh Dulles and His Legacy
What can be said about Allen W. Dulles and his life as a intelligence officer, lawyer, investigator, writer, diplomat, and keeper of state secrets? Dulles was not a brash, swash buckler, cloak and dagger spy so stereotyped in spy novels and films. Dulles was an educated man and wary of political trappings and two-stepping in statecraft. Dulles was more of an opportunist and politician when confronted with difficult choices and always sought the high ground for an overall view of the problem. He was a consummate communicator who loved to throw tidbits out to inquiring minds but never disclosed vital secrets. His informed opinions were viewed by those who knew him as gospel and enjoyed the satisfaction that his CIA was the best intelligence agency in the world. His demeanor was that of a “old school” gentleman and commanded the respect of everyone in the Agency he loved so much.
Lately, his name has been associated with a secret intelligence cabal known as MJ-12 who has steered UFO policy and deception for over 50 years. This has not been proven, but Dulles did like using the old OSS alphabet prefix for black operations code words such as MK-ULTRA. He did acknowledge that UFOs were top secret and he did authorize the Domestic Collection Division to interview UFO witnesses and assumed the responsibility from his predecessor, General Walter B. Smith, as DCI to coordinate all UFO intelligence within the U.S. intelligence community. Dulles had associations in every branch of government, the press, and possessed classified knowledge from foreign intelligence sources regarding military and civilian reports.
In matters relating to covert operations, Dulles was a master of disinformation and propaganda and used these tools to keep hostile powers off balance and guessing about their own security. He was skillful in the art of persuasion and subtleties that convinced presidents and diplomats that he was always one step ahead of the game and was in control and could be relied upon to provide critical answers when the occasion required it. His philosophy that covert operations were not meant to be seen nor heard, but felt, were largely successful and altered the checks and balances of world power for 40 years. His willingness to listen to others gave him perspective and insight which allowed him to draw information without the person being aware of it without giving away too much. He enjoyed being around people and lavished the attention he drew. He made any conversation interesting when puffing on a pipe and giggling to make one feel at ease. He never showed anger nor raised his voice but chose to interject thoughts and solutions as opposed to cutting remarks. Dulles liked to win.
Dulles was a interesting and complex study of a man who knew secrets and kept them very well. Perhaps, and most importantly, Dulles was a cold warrior and a spy, and believed that as long as the CIA was at war, America was at peace. He once said that he was the only man in government among the free world who could send men out to die in peacetime and perhaps, it is this silent war that Allen Dulles will be remembered for.