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The Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) was a World War II and early Cold War intelligence agency within the United States Army. Its role was taken over by the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps in 1961 and, in 1967, by the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency. Its functions are now performed by the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command and by counterintelligence agents assigned to Army tactical units. The National Counter Intelligence Corps Association (NCICA), a veterans' association, was established in the years immediately following World War II by Military Intelligence agents who had served in every area of military and domestic operations. The organization meets annually. Its newsletter, the Golden Sphinx, is published quarterly.

U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps Special Agent Badge circa World War II


The CIC had its origins in the Corps of Intelligence Police founded by Ralph Van Deman in 1917. This organization, operating within the USA and on attachment to the American Expeditionary Force in France, at its peak numbered over 600 men. However in the post-war period, the policy of isolationism, retrenchment of military spending and economic depression meant that by the mid-1930s its numbers had fallen to fewer than 20 personnel.

World War II

The looming threat of war in the late 1930s brought an expansion of the CIP back to its World War I levels, and the entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941 brought an even greater expansion, and a new name. On 13 December 1941 the Adjutant General of the Army issued an order renaming the CIP as the Counter Intelligence Corps, effective from 1 January 1942. A new complement of 543 officers and 4,431 non-commissioned agents was authorized. The CIC recruited men with legal, police or other investigative backgrounds, and particularly looked for men with foreign language skills. Special CIC teams were created during WWII in Europe, in large part from the Military Intelligence Service personnel (see Ritchie Boys). However there were never enough of these and local interpreters were often recruited.

As most CIC agents in the field (as well as Military Intelligence Service in Europe) held only non-commissioned officer rank—corporals and various grades of sergeant—they wore either plain-clothes, or uniforms without badges of rank; in place of rank insignia, and so as not to be perceived as privates, agents typically wore officer "U.S." collar insignia. They were instructed to identify themselves only as "Agent" or "Special Agent" as appropriate, in order to facilitate their work. These practices continue among modern counterintelligence agents.

Within the U.S. the CIC, in collaboration with the Provost Marshal General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), carried out background checks on military personnel having access to classified material, investigations of possible sabotage and subversion, and allegations of disloyalty, especially those directed against Americans of Japanese, Italian or German ancestry. Despite the prohibitions in the delimitation agreement with the FBI, the CIC ended up devoting considerable effort to civilian investigations. As Volume 7 of The History of the Counter Intelligence Corps explains: "Espionage and sabotage, being enemy directed, involved more than one person. Usually there were a number in the chain extending from the agent in the United States back through cutouts and couriers to the enemy country. This inevitably involved civilians with military suspects and the case became connected with the FBI. The military aspect became minor, and major investigative effort was in the civilian community to locate the higher-ups who presumably were controlling more than one agent."[1]

However the use of informants within the Army become politically controversial, and CIC was forced to curtail its activities. In particular, the CIC was ordered to cease its domestic investigations, to destroy its investigative records, and to ship its agents out to overseas theaters.[2] The reason for this sudden and unprecedented expulsion has never been clarified. One leading theory was expressed in the official history of the Corps, “the speed [of these events] left little doubt that someone—possibly Communists who still held key positions in government—was determined to halt CIC investigative activities in the United States.”[3] Another possible explanation is that the CIC mistakenly bugged the hotel room of Eleanor Roosevelt and incurred the President’s wrath. In any event, the CIC protected the investigative records it had so painstakingly accumulated. According to Sayer and Botting (p. 47) “When the command was given to cease any investigations of known or suspected Communists and destroy all files on such persons immediately, eight of the nine Corps Area Commanders took the remarkable step of disobeying this order.” According to the official history of the Corps, this information proved highly valuable in controlling communism: “the information acquired by CIC from May 1941 to September 1945 regarding communism and its adherents played a major part in keeping communism under control in the United States ever since.”[4]

CIC units were also involved in providing security for the Manhattan Project, including duty as couriers of fissionable bomb materials from Los Alamos, New Mexico to Tinian. They also operated in 1945 at the United Nations Organizing Conference in San Francisco, over which Alger Hiss presided as secretary-general.[5] Three years later, when Alger Hiss was accused of being a Communist and filed a libel suit against his accuser, his lawyers unwittingly hired an undercover CIC Special Agent as their Chief Investigator to help prepare his libel suit.[6]

In the European and Pacific theaters of operations CIC deployed detachments at all levels. These detachments provided tactical intelligence about the enemy from captured documents, interrogations of captured troops, and from para-military and civilian sources. They were also involved in providing security for military installations and staging areas, located enemy agents, and acted to counter stay-behind networks. They also provided training to combat units in security, censorship, the seizure of documents, and the dangers of booby traps. In some cases CIC agents found themselves acting as the de facto military government on the occupation of large towns before the arrival of Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories (AMGOT) officers. As the war in Europe came to a close, CIC were involved in the Operations Alsos, Paperclip and TICOM, searching for German personnel and research in atomic weapons, rockets and cryptography. Recruits after World War II included Klaus Barbie, also known as the 'Butcher from Lyon', a former Gestapo member and war criminal.

Post-war operations

In the immediate post-war period, the CIC operated in the occupied countries, particularly Japan, Germany and Austria, countering the black market, and searching for and arresting notable members of the previous regime. Despite the problem of demobilization, with many experienced agents returning to civilian life, CIC became the leading intelligence organization in the American occupation zones, and very soon found themselves facing a new enemy in the emerging Cold War.

The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 meant that CIC was once again involved in a military conflict, and it underwent a major expansion. However this proved to be CIC's last chance to enjoy resources and recruits.

The proliferation of intelligence agencies had meant duplication of effort and disputes over responsibility, so in 1961 the CIC ceased to exist as an independent organization, as it was rolled into the Army's new Military Intelligence Branch.

While serving in the U.S. Army in the 1960s, Christopher H. Pyle learned that “Army intelligence had 1500 plain clothes agents watching every demonstration of 20 people or more throughout the United States.” Pyle’s disclosures led to Congressional investigations and a crackdown on what was regarded as the Army’s investigative excesses. This ended what advocates regarded as the peak of counterintelligence efficiency: “At the height of the disturbance period, a CIC agent could get a report from the street to Fort Holabird HQ in 20 minutes, from practically any city in the U.S., seconds or brief minutes later the report was in Operations Center in a lower basement of the Pentagon.”[7]

The "ratline" controversy

One of CIC's operations in post-war Europe was the operation of a "rat-line" – a conduit for spiriting informants and defectors out of the Soviet Zones of Occupation to safety in South America, via Italy, with false identities paid for by CIC. However in 1983 the arrest of former SS officer Klaus Barbie in Bolivia raised questions as to how the "Butcher of Lyon" had escaped. It was then revealed that Barbie had worked for CIC from 1947, and in 1951 had been provided with the means of escape in return for his services as an agent and informant.

A Department of Justice investigation also uncovered the CIC's dealings with Father Krunoslav Draganović, a Croatian cleric based in Rome, who while working for CIC, also operated his own clandestine rat-line to transport Ustaše war criminals to Latin America. A further report in 1988 also examined the CIC's use of Nazi war criminals and collaborators as informants in the years after World War II, "In June 1988, Office of Special Investigations within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice issued a public report which revealed that at least 14 suspected Nazi war criminals, a number of whom likely were involved in the murder of Jews in occupied Europe, had been employed as intelligence informants by the CIC in Austria".[8]


  1. The quotation is on p. 1093. For an account of CIC encroachment into territory designated by the delimitation agreement to belong to the FBI, see Joan Jensen's chapter World War II: Expanding the Boundaries.
  2. On 5 November 1943 the Army ordered all CIC agents out of Washington, D.C. On the following day, the Army Inspector General submitted a devastating report on the CIC. In February, 1944 the position of Chief, Counter Intelligence Corps was abolished and CIC Headquarters was dissolved.
  3. The History of the Counter Intelligence Corps, p. 70.
  4. The History of the Counter Intelligence Corps, volume 7, p. 1123.
  5. For the account of one agent working under cover at the San Francisco conference and photos of fellow agents there, see Special Agent Leonard L. (Igor) Gorin "United Nations Formation 1945—CIC Security Role". Golden Sphinx, Serial Issue #2004-3, Winter 2004-5, pp. 16–20.
  6. See "Bringing Alger Hiss to Justice" by Stephen Salant and the documentation posted at
  7. The quotation is from Ann Bray, one of the contributors to the The History of the Counter Intelligence Corps. At the time of her death, she was writing a book on the Corps and this passage from its last chapter is quoted in Duval Edwards' account on pp. 281–2.

See also


Further reading

  • Edwards, Duval A. Spy Catchers of the U.S. Army in the War with Japan (The Unfinished Story of the Counterintelligence Corps). Red Apple Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-880222-14-0
  • Jensen, Joan M. Army Surveillance in America: 1775–1980. Yale University Press. 1991. ISBN 978-0-300-04668-7.
  • Koudelka, Edward R. Counter Intelligence: The Conflict and the Conquest: Recollections of a World War II Agent in Europe. Ranger Associates, 1986. ISBN 0-934588-09-0
  • Melchior, Ib. Case by Case: A U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent in World War II. Presidio, 1993. ISBN 0-89141-444-4
  • Mendelsohn, John (1989). The History of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). New York: Garland,. ISBN 0-8240-7960-4. 
    • Published as part 11 of Covert Warfare: Intelligence, Counterintelligence and Military Deception During the World War II Era
  • Milano, James V., and Patrick Brogan. Soldiers, Spies, and the Rat Line: America's Undeclared War Against the Soviets. Potomac Books (2000) ISBN 1-57488-304-6
  • Sayer, Ian, and Douglas Botting. America's Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counter Intelligence Corps. Grafton Books, 1989. ISBN 0-246-12690-6
  • Selby, Scott Andrew. The Axmann Conspiracy: The Nazi Plan for a Fourth Reich and How the U.S. Army Defeated It. Berkley (Penguin), Sept. 2012. ISBN 0425252701

External links

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