On This Day — William E Colby Becomes the 10th Director of the CIA (September 4 1973) [Room for Debate : Do we really need the CIA?]

“We disbanded our intelligence [after both world wars] and then found we needed it. Let’s not go through that again. Redirect it, reduce the amount of money spent, but let’s not destroy it. Because you don’t know 10 years out what you’re going to face.”

William Egan Colby — Director of Central Intelligence (September 4 1973 – January 30 1976)

September 4 2020 — William Egan Colby (January 4, 1920 – April 27, 1996) was an American intelligence officer who served as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from September 4 1973 to January 30 1976. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: CIA Directors [DCI and D/CIA] — Test your “Spy Knowledge” with our Quiz! [2018]

RELATED POST: Gina Haspel Becomes First Female CIA Director

RELATED POST: Unholy Alliance: General William “Wild Bill” Donovan and Pope Pius XII

RELATED POST: CIA : “Our failures are known. Our successes are not.” [Joke]

“There have been only two kinds of CIA secret operations: the ones that are widely known to have failed—usually because of almost unbelievably crude errors—and the ones that are not yet widely known to have failed.”

Edward Luttwak

UPDATE (Sept. 4 2021) — Do we really need the CIA? If an American just raises that question today, chances are that he will be branded as unpatriotic as a consequence. And yet…

On July 26 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act which established the Central Intelligence Agency.

By 1963, President Harry S. Truman admitted in writing that he was seriously “disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment.”

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency. (…) There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.” (December 22 1963)

In October 1974, Bernie Sanders described the agency as a tool of American corporate interests that repeatedly toppled democratically elected leaders. [POLITICO — Sanders once urged abolishing CIA]

“The CIA is accountable to no one, except right-wing lunatics who use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.” He called for abolishing the spy agency altogether.

Shortly after Sanders’ comments, a special congressional panel known as the Church Committee published a series of damning reports on agency abuses like assassination attempts against foreign leaders and illegal domestic spying on Vietnam War protesters.

If the government couldn’t rein in the CIA, the committee concluded, “covert action should be abandoned as an instrument of foreign policy.”

In 1991 and again in 1995, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced bills to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department.

Over the years, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance.

The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is just one example of the agency’s many controversies. [NYT : Do We Need the C.I.A.? (Dec. 21 2014)]

Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?

PS — In 2007, the now defunct database Wikiscanner revealed that computers from the CIA had been used to edit articles on the English Wikipedia, including the article on former CIA executive director William Colby.

RELATED POST: On This Day — “What a hornets’ nest I had stirred!” [Wikipedia edited by the CIA] (July 26/27 2007) — [UPDATE : Wikipedia Editor ‘SlimVirgin’ has died. What was the shadowy figure up to?]

A spokeswoman for Wikipedia said in response that the changes may violate the encyclopedia’s conflict-of-interest guidelines.


“I will splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the wind.” 

President John F. Kennedy

In 1973, President Richard Nixon appointed William Egan Colby director of the CIA.

Getting that job was the crowning achievement for a man whose life mission was fighting Nazis and communists.

His tenure as DCI was overshadowed by the Church and Pike congressional investigations into alleged U.S. intelligence malfeasance over the preceding 25 years.

“But two years later, it seemed to come crashing down around Colby when the Nixon administration was engulfed by the Watergate scandal and the CIA disclosed hundreds of examples of purported illegality (mind control and LSD experiments on unwitting humans, attempted assassinations, etc., now known as the “family jewels”) going back to the ’50s.

The press and Congress charged the CIA with widespread allegations of overall corruption and massive abuse of power.”

On April 27, 1996, Colby set out from his weekend home in Rock Point, Maryland on a solo canoe trip. His canoe was found the following day on a sandbar in the Wicomico River, a tributary of the Potomac, approximately a quarter-mile from his home.

On May 6, Colby’s body was found in a marshy riverbank lying face down not far from where his canoe was found. After an autopsy, Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner John E. Smialek ruled his death to be accidental.

Smialek’s report noted that Colby was predisposed to having a heart attack or stroke due to “severe calcified atherosclerosis” and that Colby likely “suffered a complication of this atherosclerosis which precipitated him into the cold water in a debilitated state and he succumbed to the effects of hypothermia and drowned”.

Colby’s death triggered conspiracy theories that his death was due to foul play.

Zalin Grant’s theory and evidence presented in his article “William E. Colby: A Highly Suspicious Death” is the best information on Colby’s death.  He stated multiple flaws in the investigation.

In his 2011 documentary The Man Nobody Knew, Colby’s son Carl suggested that his father suffered from guilt due to his actions in the CIA and committed suicide.

“When he was found dead in the water nine days later, it was said that he had gone out paddling his canoe at nightfall and drowned.  I was in Paris when I read the story in the International Herald Tribune.  I knew William Colby. And I didn’t believe that for one second.”

  Zalin Grant

Talking With the Son of ‘The Man Nobody Knew’

Q – How did your father regard Nixon, who appointed him director of CIA?

A — He obeyed the President, and respected authority. Just before Nixon resigned, I remarked to him, “This president is a liar. He deserves to be thrown out.” Dad replied, “Watch what you say. You don’t call your president a liar.” Even though he probably knew more than anyone that Nixon had been lying, it was very difficult for him to accept that the President—the ultimate authority, the one who’s signing these findings authorizing CIA actions—was dishonest.

Q — What was life like for him after he left the CIA?

A — He never wanted an AARP card, or the senior discount. I remember calling to inform him that one of his Princeton roommates was found wandering under a bridge in Middlebury, Vermont, with advanced Alzheimer’s. “Oh, that will never happen to me,” he said. “Really?,” I asked. “Nope. One day you’ll hear that I was walking along a goat path on a Greek island and I fell into the sea.” I said, again, “Really?” And he replied, “Yep. That’s it.”

The Man Nobody Knew – In Search of My Father CIA Spymaster William Colby

The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby is a 2011 American documentary film exploring the life and career of former CIA director William Egan Colby.


William Colby — WIKIPEDIA

William E. Colby: A Highly Suspicious Death — Zalin Grant


On This Day — William E Colby Becomes 10th Director of CIA [September 4 1973]

On This Day — William E Colby Becomes 10th Director of CIA (September 4 1973) [2019]

On This Day — William E Colby Becomes 10th Director of CIA (September 4 1973) [2020]

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