OSI At 75: The Business of Security During the Cold War

  • Published
  • By Robert Vanderpool
  • OSI Command Historian

On September 25, 1954, Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, gave a speech at the Pentagon during an orientation event for incoming staff members of Air Force Headquarters. At the time, Maj. Gen. Carroll was serving as both the Commander of the Office of Special Investigations and the Deputy Inspector General of the Air Force. The topic of the speech was the importance of recognizing individual responsibility for information security during the then ever-growing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.    

Here is an excerpt of Maj. Gen. Carroll’s speech:

“The subject of security, at this particular time, is one which is receiving the very special interest of our Secretary, and the Chief of Staff, and it is one that they expect will receive your very special interest. The main them of my discussion is that security is a most important and integral part of your responsibility as staff officers in Air Force Headquarters. Security is not, and it cannot be, the responsibility of any one office or group of offices. I know that you have seen on posters many times and have heard many times that ‘security is everybody’s business.’ I cannot overemphasize the fact that in headquarters, security is very much your business.”  

“It is axiomatic that military commanders must look to the security of their commands as a first order of business. An essential element of their responsibility is the effective denial to an enemy or to potential enemies of that sensitive information in possession of a command which, if compromised, might well jeopardize the safety of the command.”

“And yet today, because of the complexities of modern warfare, no matter how successful a particular commander may be in achieving security within his command, he is not by that very fact assured that the safety of his command is not jeopardized or his capability to perform the mission is not seriously interfered with. Much of that same information, the vast bulk of it, is available elsewhere, in the overseas commands, in other commands, in this headquarters, and even beyond that, in the Army, and in the Navy and other elements of government.”

“This situation creates a very substantial responsibility on the part of all of us in government, who by virtue of the trust which is placed in us, who are afforded access to classified information. We should remember, too, that that information has a bearing, not merely upon the individual area of activity in which we may be assigned, but it may have, if compromised, as exceedingly adverse impact upon important areas of activity many thousands of miles away.”

“These security requirements are of very special interest to the Chief of Staff, because the Chief of Staff has security responsibilities to the entire Air Force establishment, wherever the Air Force may be, and it is incumbent upon each one of us as staff officers, personally to assume a portion of that responsibility.”

“The need for maintaining military security is as old as warfare itself. Espionage is not a new problem. It has been with the world a long, long time. With thousands of years of practice, the art of espionage has progressively developed. Man’s capacity and capability in that respect has progressively improved.”   

“Today, there exists in the world, under the control of the Soviet Union and the international Communist Party, the most widespread, the most ingenious, the most insidious, and the most effective worldwide espionage system that mankind has ever known. We should never lose sight of the fact that that system has, as one of its highest target priorities, the United States Air Force.”

“In the field of espionage, the Communists have been inordinately successful. Demonstrated in the accomplishment of their mission, is an indication of a failure of accomplishment of mission on our part, because obviously, our preventative measures have been considerably less than adequate.” 

“Our main defenses are found in our security regulations. We have devised a rather complex set of rules and regulations which dictate the manner in which classified information will be handled and protected. Now, if this problem of protecting our classified information is deemed to be of such import as to require consideration, development, and approval in the highest councils of the land, surely those of us to whom they are directed should read them, try to understand them, and try to govern our official lives by them.” 

“These regulations cover your every official action, and in many respects, they tend to cover certain of your personal actions even when you are away from the office. My intent is to impress on all of you the fact that our security regulations do mean something, they are important, and they can make a vital and indispensable contribution to our national security, if you and I and people like us see to it that they are effectively applied.”

“It may be helpful to remember that the most serious security leaks that have occurred within the Air Force have been occasioned not by a person engaged in espionage, but by people such as you and I, by people who carelessly disregard the provisions of our security regulations. We all view with horror and distaste those who deliberately betrayed their country. They were guilty of a terrible crime. No one here would do anything like that. And, yet, in the final analysis, the true measure of harm which they did is found in the information which they made available to potential enemies. It should be a most sobering thought to all of us to realize that through our own carelessness we may, directly or indirectly, jeopardize the security of our nation, just as surely as did any of those people who deliberately betrayed their country.”

“International communism has an omnivorous appetite for our sensitive information, and they are engaged in a never-ending attempt to collect it. Such activities will be engaged in permanently and ceaselessly. If our internal security problems are to be properly understood, we must abandon the conventional concept that ‘wars commence when armies begin to march, that wars are always fought by a trained and uniformed soldiery, and that victory on the battlefield brings hostilities to an end and terminates the conflict.”

“In the Communist scheme of things, war is not restricted to the organized and calculated violence of the battlefields. The battleground is also in the hearts and in the minds of men, and the assault is often upon the intellect, where there is no indication whatsoever of the carnage of war. Many of the battles are fought with weapons that bear no resemblance to the conventional weapons of the battlefield, and yet it is war nonetheless.”

“All encounters, however sanguinary or bloodless, however overt or covert, which the aggressor engaged in, in total war, become only segments of the total conflict, all fitted together toward an achievement of a total end. The patriarchs of communism have all repeatedly assured that they are engaged in a revolution of permanence, to conquer the world. Today, we are at peace, but in the Soviet scheme of things there is no peace, only war. The Soviet world has completely accepted the thesis that ‘war is a continuation of politics by other means,’ but to this they added the unconventional corollary that ‘peace is a continuation of war by other means.’  The acceptance of this concept that ‘peace is a continuation of war by other means,’ requires the Soviets to find ways of waging war, even in times of peace. They are constantly in an anomalous position of being at war with those who are at peace with them.”

“The main point I am trying to get across is this: This is indeed a serious business with the Communists, and we’ve got to make it a serious business with us. They may appear from time to time to blow hot and cold in their tactics, but never blow hot and cold in the consistency of their aims and objectives. With them it is not just an 8:30 to 5:00 job or an assignment for a tour of duty. It is now and forever until the ultimate objectives are achieved.”

“This is what they are willing to do and are doing for their cause. Should we, can we if we want to survive, do less for ourselves? Regulations and procedures prescribe only the form and the character of our resistance. Our regulations are but the inanimate, bony skeleton of our wall. To become a living and a throbbing wall of resistance and protection, they must be augmented by flesh and blood, a beating heart, an alert mind, and a resolute will. That is you.”

“Remember, when you receive classified information, you are entrusted with it. You have a stewardship to account for, to the Air Force, to the nation, and to your conscience.”

“Remember, that security is truly your business all of the time.”

Editor’s Note: OSI at 75 is an installment of OSI’s year-long commemoration of its 75th Anniversary Year based on the theme: “Inspired By Our Past – OSI’s Future Starts Today.”