"With the start of the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress recognized the need for foreign alliances and intelligence gathering. To meet this need, the Congress created a panel called the Committee of Secret Correspondence on November 29, 1775, “for the sole purpose of corresponding with our friends in Great Britain and other parts of the world.” In addition to its stated objective of gauging European sympathy toward the American Revolution, the committee’s purpose also included intelligence work. Members of the Congress realized that forging alliances with foreign countries—secretly if necessary—would provide critical support to the American cause.
The Committee of Secret Correspondence had wide-ranging duties abroad. It conducted covert operations, devised codes and ciphers, employed operatives, funded propaganda, acquired foreign publications for use in analysis, authorized the surreptitious opening of private mail, established a courier system, and developed a maritime capability distinct from that of the Navy.
The Committee functioned alongside two other intelligence-related groups: the Secret Committee, which was formed in September 1775 and was responsible for obtaining military supplies, and the Committee on Spies, created in June 1776, for counterintelligence activities."