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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

DS History: Mid-Century

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The '40s
With the outbreak of World War II, the office expanded again to manage interning and exchanging diplomatic officials of enemy powers and screening Americans, or those claiming American citizenship, after they were forced to leave occupied territories.

After the war, Secretary of State Edward Stettinius undertook a complete reorganization of the Department that directly affected the Chief Special Agent's office. The Secretary requested the FBI review and make recommendations on physical and personnel security. One important result of that report was the separation of security functions in the Department.

A new security office was set up, separate from the Chief Special Agent's office. This new Office of Security (SY) had a program of regional security staffs in the United States and, for the first time, security officers at missions overseas. Later, security functions were merged and, in 1948, Foreign Correlations (an intelligence service) was incorporated into the office, bringing in that aspect of security. Also in that year, the Marine Security Guard Program was inaugurated at U.S. embassies.

The '50s
The discovery of a listening device in the Great Seal at our Moscow mission was the catalyst for developing countermeasures technology. By the end of the '50s, hundreds of listening devices planted by foreign intelligence services were found in our embassies. Also during this decade, a special assignments staff was created to investigate possible misconduct and contact with foreign intelligence services by Department personnel. This staff worked closely with CIA and FBI counterintelligence. Reacting to the crisis in electronic surveillance, SY upgraded its technical security program and began hiring engineers. The assignment of Seabee teams to search for listening devices in our Moscow and Warsaw embassies led to the Seabee program within the Department.

SY assumed responsibility for the security of Department of State domestic facilities which included information security, building passes, and the physical security of our facilities.

The '60s
Beginning in the late '60s, several ambassadors and Department officials were kidnapped or assassinated. These actions highlighted the possible exploitation of U.S. diplomats for political purposes. To meet this new threat, SY increased its protective capabilities.

[Continue on to The New Age of Terrorism]


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