Tuesday, June 2, 2020

First In War, Peace And Espionage: Franklin And Washington Were America's First Spymasters

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on Ben Franklin and George Washington, America’s first spymasters.

Edward J. Larson has written a dual biography of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington called “Franklin & Washington: The Founding Partnership” (William Morrow).

“Their relationship gained historical significance during the American Revolution, when Franklin led the diplomatic mission in Europe and Washington commanded the Continental Army,” Mr. Larson writes in the book’s preface. “Victory required both of these efforts to succeed, and their success required coordination and cooperation.

“Their successful collaboration during the Revolution, especially when coupled with their role as two of most prominent delegates at the Constitution Convention, helped to found a nation and propel a global experiment with individual liberty and republican rule.”

Mr. Larson goes on to note that despite differences in their public images and private style, there are striking similarities. Both were successful businessmen and political leaders. Both commanded Colonial militias during the French and Indian War. Both were early supporters of independence. Both were leaders in the framing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

There was another similarity between the two that Mr. Larson did not cover in the book. From the British point of view, both Franklin and Washington committed the crime of espionage against the Crown. Franklin and Washington were America’s first spymasters.

In an unclassified CIA historical document, Benjamin Franklin was called the “Father of American Covert Action.” The unsigned historical document noted that prior to the war, Franklin was a scientist of distinction, a seasoned diplomat, a world-class thinker, and a talented public servant.

“He utilized all of these skills to carry out covert actions successfully,” the document stated. “During the war, Franklin served as an agent of influence, a propagandist, a manager of covert French aid to the American Revolutionaries, and director of American paramilitary activities against the British.”

… “As a founding father, Benjamin Franklin understood that intelligence is as vital an element of national defense as a strong military,” the historical document stated. “He also knew the importance of secrecy for conducting effective intelligence operations. Franklin used his intellect and humor to win friendships and build French support for the American independence struggle.”

In another unclassified CIA historical document, George Washington was called the “First Director of Central Intelligence.” According to the document, he was a key practitioner of military intelligence during the Revolutionary War.

“General Washington was more deeply involved in intelligence operations than any American general-in-chief until Dwight Eisenhower during World War II,” the historical document noted. “His skills in the “black arts” helped secure key victories, hastened the end of hostilities, and significantly contributed to the United States’ winning its independence from Great Britain.”

You can read the rest of the column below or via the below link:

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