When World War II ended and Nazi Germany was beaten, the CIA fast understood that the next big threat to world peace would be from the Soviet Union.
When the Soviets divided Germany--and by extension, Europe--the West realized that it had unfairly betrayed the governments-in-exile of Poland and Czechoslovakia and the exiled monarchs of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania.
It should have stood up for them; it should have insisted on their repatriation, and put its might behind its rhetoric.
But after fighting a world war, the West lacked the will to be confrontational. It did not yet fully comprehend what the Soviet Union had in mind.
And by the time the Russians drew their iron curtain over Europe, it was too late (in the short-term) to rescue what had become Eastern Europe.
CIA's first problem was this:
Upon its creation in 1947, it possessed little information on Soviet communism. J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI knew a few things--but he wasn't about to share one shred of toilet paper with CIA, which he regarded as an interloper.
So CIA had to start from scratch.
The first place they looked was the archives of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the USA's wartime intelligence and sabotage service. The OSS had interrogated hundreds of Nazi intelligence officers during and after the war.
The Germans, CIA found, had accumulated extensive files on Soviet and Eastern European communists--way beyond what was known by Hoover, who was preoccupied with fantasies of reds under his bed.
It all pointed to one man: Reinhold Gehlen--a German general who had buried his files on Soviet intelligence in the Bavarian Alps.
Gehlen cut a shrewd deal with CIA.
He would put his files and expertise at CIA's disposal in exchange for his freedom--and a great deal of cash.
The decision to deal with The Gehlen Org was not taken lightly.
Gehlen demonstrated to CIA's satisfaction that the Soviet Union was hell-bent on global domination; that it possessed an advanced atomic program (at a time when US policy-makers believed they had no atomic program at all), and a blueprint to slip long-term sleeper agents into all democratic countries of the West, to be awakened at some future date to carry out covert warfare.
The extent of their operations convinced CIA that the Soviet Union had already become a formidable force; and that she regarded the United States as Global Enemy Number One.
With CIA's blessing, Gehlen assembled a team of "former" Nazi intelligence officers to re-organize their files--in English--and thereby establish a nucleus for agent networking and intelligence gathering on the Soviet Union.
It was akin to dealing with the devil. But it was essential for the national security of the United States to do this.
CIA left the petty, soon-redundant Hoover in the dust as it uncovered Soviet plans, methods and sources.
Some favors were granted to Gehlen in the process.
Several notorious Nazis who had nothing to do with Project Paperclip--the codename for Gehlen's operation--were allowed to slip through US Immigration with new identities, and quietly resettle in the United States.