Who Was Cia Director Under Kennedy

1.Background Information

John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States; during his time in office, his administration set out to build a strong CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). The CIA was created in 1947, to conduct espionage operations and intelligence-gathering activities in foreign countries. Although the CIA had existed for fourteen years prior to Kennedy’s administration, it was during this time that the agency saw a major boost in personnel and resources. Kennedy was committed to the development of the CIA, appointing influential and experienced officials to head the agency.

2.Allen W. Dulles

Kennedy appointed Allen W. Dulles as the CIA director under his administration on the 19th of February, in 1961. Dulles was a veteran of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA. His long-standing career in intelligence saw him hold positions such as a Legal Adviser for the Department of State and a Chief of the Plans Division for the OSS. As CIA Director, he had been mostly successful in the positions he had held before his appointment.


Under Dulles’ direction, the CIA’s reach extended into Latin America, particularly in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. He approved some controversial and highly unethical activities during this time, such as the training and funding of Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. Dulles was also responsible for the creation of the U-2 spy plane, which flew reconnaissance missions at an extremely high altitude. Dulles also led a covert plan to plant a microphone in Castro’s office in 1960.

4.Perspectives From Experts

Experts believe that Dulles was an integral figure in Kennedy’s CIA, pushing it to achieve great successes. He was not averse to taking risks and pushing the boundaries of intelligence. He also viewed Kennedy’s administration as a chance to extend the reach of the CIA, especially in Latin America. Despite the many successes the CIA achieved during his time, the agency’s role in the Cuban missile crisis has been a subject of disagreement.


Dulles, as the CIA director under Kennedy’s administration, was a firm believer in covert operations, and believed that the CIA was the best tool to get the job done. He promoted the use of tactics such as espionage and assassination, which is controversial to say the least. However, it is undeniable that the CIA directed by Dulles achieved some significant successes, including the U-2 spy plane and the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

6.My Insight

While Dulles’ methods may have been debatable, his vision was unwavering. He saw the CIA as a tool to achieve great successes, and he made sure that this ideology was implemented under Kennedy’s watch. Dulles put the CIA on the path to becoming an established and respected intelligence agency, allowing it to be a cornerstone of the defense strategy of Kennedy’s administration.

7.Educate And Engage

Kennedy’s decision to appoint Dulles was a shrewd one—Dulles had the experience and vision to bring success to Kennedy’s CIA. Despite the controversy surrounding his tenure, it is indisputable that Dulles was a major driving force behind the successes achieved by the agency. Dulles’ work in shaping the CIA enabled it to become the global power it is today, and Kennedy’s wise appointment was key in this regard.

8.Contribution Under Kennedy

Dulles’ tenure as CIA director under Kennedy allowed the agency to extend its reach, particularly in Latin America. His aggressive approach to intelligence-gathering can be seen in plans such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was an unsuccessful, but daring attempt to cripple Fidel Castro’s regime. Dulles was also responsible for the creation of the U-2 spy plane, which allowed the agency to conduct aerial reconnaissance operations.


Although Dulles and Kennedy largely agreed on the vision and outlook of the CIA, there were some disagreements between them. For instance, Kennedy differed from Dulles on the Cuban Missile Crisis and wanted to take a softer approach to dealing with the situation, whereas Dulles was more aggressive and wanted to take a hard-line stance. Ultimately, Kennedy’s approach prevailed and a diplomatic resolution to the conflict was achieved.


In conclusion, Dulles was a valuable asset to Kennedy’s CIA, advancing the agency to new heights. Despite some disagreements between them, Dulles respected the president’s opinion and supported his decisions. Dulles oversaw some significant successes during his time as CIA Director and was undoubtedly an important figure in the success of the agency during Kennedy’s presidency.

11.Operation Mongoose

Operation Mongoose was a covert operation sanctioned by Kennedy and overseen by Dulles, in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba. The operation took place from 1961 to 1962 and involved extensive sabotage operations, as well as the proposed assassination of Castro. However, the operation was unsuccessful and only served to further sour the relations between Cuba and the United States.

12.The Bay of Pigs Invasion

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a military invasion of Cuba, approved and led by President Kennedy, under the direction of Allen W. Dulles. The invasion, which was launched in April 1961, aimed to overthrow Fidel Castro and establish a pro-United States government in Cuba. The operation was ultimately unsuccessful because of a lack of support and a strong Cuban resistance.

13.The U-2 spy plane

Dulles was responsible for the creation of the U-2 spy plane, which was a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The plane was used for intelligence-gathering operations in foreign countries, and its capabilities exceeded the capabilities of other aircraft of its time. For example, it was capable of reaching an altitude of over 60,000 feet, due to its advanced design.


Although Kennedy and Dulles disagreed at times on the approach to be taken by the CIA, their efforts ensured the success of the agency under Kennedy’s presidency. Dulles was influential in pushing the agency to its limits, and his legacy as CIA Director is an important one. His vision for the agency set the foundation for its subsequent successes and achievements.

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Rosemary Harrold is an accomplished writer and researcher who is both passionate and knowledgeable about the world of secret services. She gained an MSc in International Relations in 2017 and has since built on her expertise with numerous publications on intelligence agencies, their practices, and recent developments. Rosemary has been writing about IBM, CIA and FBI activities since then, as well as providing in-depth analysis on intelligence-related topics.

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