In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed William Donovan as head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), an organization that was given the responsibility of espionage and for helping the resistance movement in Europe. He was helped in this by William Stephenson and Britain's MI6 chief, Stewart Menzies.
Donovan was given the rank of major general and during the Second World War he built up a team of 16,000 agents working behind enemy lines. The growth of the OSS brought conflict with John Edgar Hoover who saw it as a rival to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As soon as the Second World War ended President Harry S. Truman ordered the OSS to be closed down. However, it provided a model for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that was established in September 1947. Its role was to evaluate intelligence reports and coordinate the intelligence activities of the various government departments in the interest of national security.
In 1953 Allen Dulles became director of the CIA. Under his leadership the CIA had success in assisting right wing coups in Guatemala and Iran.
Dulles had less success in Cuba and in January 1959 General Fulgencio Batista was ousted by Fidel Castro. In its first hundred days in office Castro's government passed several new laws. Rents were cut by up to 50 per cent for low wage earners; property owned by Batista and his ministers was confiscated; the telephone company was nationalized and the rates were reduced by 50 per cent; land was redistributed amongst the peasants (including the land owned by the Castro family); separate facilities for blacks and whites (swimming pools, beaches, hotels, cemeteries etc.) were abolished.
Some of Castro's new laws also upset the United States. Much of the land given to the peasants was owned by United...