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Waldheim, Kurt, Secretary General of the United Nations
Xuan Thuy, Chief of the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to the Paris
Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai), Premier of the People's Republic of China
Note on U.S. Covert Actions
In compliance with the Foreign Relations of the United States statute that requires inclusion in the Foreign Relations series of comprehensive documentation on major foreign policy decisions and actions, the editors have identified key documents regarding major covert actions and intelligence activities. The following note will provide readers with some organizational context on how covert actions and special intelligence operations in support of U.S. foreign policy were planned and approved within the U.S. Government. It describes, on the basis of declassified documents, the changing and developing procedures during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford Presidencies. Management of Covert Actions in the Truman Presidency
The Truman administration's concern over Soviet "psychological warfare" prompted the new National Security Council to authorize, in NSC 4A of December 1947, the launching of peacetime covert action operations. NSC 4-A made the Director of Central Intelligence responsible for psychological warfare, establishing at the same time the principle that covert action was an exclusively Executive Branch function. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) certainly was a natural choice but it was assigned this function at least in part because the Agency controlled unvouchered funds, by which operations could be funded with minimal risk of exposure in Washington.
The CIA's early use of its new covert action mandate dissatisfied officials at the Departments of State and Defense. The Department of State, believing this role too important to be left to the CIA alone and concerned that the military might create a new rival covert action office in the Pentagon, pressed to reopen the issue of where responsibility for covert action activities should reside. Consequently, on June 18, 1948, a new NSC directive, NSC 10/2, superseded NSC 4-A.
NSC 10/2 directed the CIA to conduct"covert" rather than merely "psychological” operations, defining them as all activities “which are conducted or sponsored by this Government against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups but which are so planned and executed that any US Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if un
NSC 4-A, December 17, 1947, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1945–1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment, Document 257.
covered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them."
The type of clandestine activities enumerated under the new directive included: “propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberations [sic] groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world. Such operations should not include armed conflict by recognized military forces, espionage, counter-espionage, and cover and deception for military operations.
The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), newly established in the CIA on September 1, 1948, in accordance with NSC 10/2, assumed responsibility for organizing and managing covert actions. The OPC, which was to take its guidance from the Department of State in peacetime and from the military in wartime, initially had direct access to the State Department and to the military without having to proceed through the CIA's administrative hierarchy, provided the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was informed of all important projects and decisions. In 1950 this arrangement was modified to ensure that policy guidance came to the OPC through the DCI.
During the Korean conflict the OPC grew quickly. Wartime commitments and other missions soon made covert action the most expensive and bureaucratically prominent of the CIA's activities. Concerned about this situation, DCI Walter Bedell Smith in early 1951 asked the NSC for enhanced policy guidance and a ruling on the proper "scope and magnitude" of CIA operations. The White House responded with two initiatives. In April 1951 President Truman created the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) under the NSC to coordinate government-wide psychological warfare strategy. NSC 10/5, issued in October 1951, reaffirmed the covert action mandate given in NSC 10/2 and expanded the CIA's authority over guerrilla warfare.* The PSB was soon abolished by the incoming Eisenhower administration, but the expansion of the CIA's covert action writ in NSC 10/5 helped ensure that covert action would remain a major function of the Agency.
As the Truman administration ended, the CIA was near the peak of its independence and authority in the field of covert action. Although the CIA continued to seek and receive advice on specific projects
2 NSC 10/2, June 18, 1948, is printed ibid., Document 292.
3 Memorandum of conversation by Frank G. Wisner, "Implementation of NSC-10/2," August 12, 1948, is printed ibid., Document 298.
4 NSC 10/5, “'Scope and Pace of Covert Operations,” October 23, 1951, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1950–1955, The Intelligence Community, Document 90.
from the NSC, the PSB, and the departmental representatives originally delegated to advise the OPC, no group or officer outside of the DCI and the President himself had authority to order, approve, manage, or curtail operations. NSC 5412 Special Group; 5412/2 Special Group; 303 Committee
The Eisenhower administration began narrowing the CIA's latitude in 1954. In accordance with a series of National Security Council directives, the responsibility of the Director of Central Intelligence for the conduct of covert operations was further clarified. President Eisenhower approved NSC 5412 on March 15, 1954, reaffirming the Central Intelligence Agency's responsibility for conducting covert actions abroad. A definition of covert actions was set forth; the DCI was made responsible for coordinating with designated representatives of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense to ensure that covert operations were planned and conducted in a manner consistent with U.S. foreign and military policies; and the Operations Coordinating Board was designated the normal channel for coordinating support for covert operations among State, Defense, and the CIA. Representatives of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the President were to be advised in advance of major covert action programs initiated by the CIA under this policy and were to give policy approval for such programs and secure coordination of support among the Departments of State and Defense and the CIA.5
A year later, on March 12, 1955, NSC 5412/1 was issued, identical to NSC 5412 except for designating the Planning Coordination Group as the body responsible for coordinating covert operations. NSC 5412/2 of December 28, 1955, assigned to representatives (of the rank of assistant secretary) of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the President responsibility for coordinating covert actions. By the end of the Eisenhower administration, this group, which became known as the “NSC 5412/2 Special Group” or simply “Special Group," emerged as the executive body to review and approve covert action programs initiated by the CIA. The membership of the Special Group varied depending upon the situation faced. Meetings were infrequent until 1959 when weekly meetings began to be held. Neither the CIA nor the Special Group adopted fixed criteria for bringing projects before the
5 William M. Leary, editor, The Central Intelligence Agency: History and Documents (The Cniversity of Alabama Press, 1984), p. 63; for text of NSC 5412, see Foreign Relations, 1950–1955, The Intelligence Community, Document 171.
6 Leary, The Central Intelligence Agency: History and Documents, pp. 63, 147–148; Final Report of the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, Book I, Foreign and Military Intelligence (1976), pp. 50–51. For texts of NSC 5412/1 and NSC 5412/2, see Foreign Relations, 1950–1955, The Intelligence Community, Documents 212 and 250.