1953 August 19

CIA Coup in Iran


In probably the most famous covert action in its history, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on this day engineered a coup that overthrew the legitimate government of Iran. Although of little interest to the American public at the time, the coup aroused deep hostility to the U.S. that became a factor in anti-American feelings among Iranians, as evidence by the 1979 hostage crisis, when Iranian militants seized and held hostage 52 Americans.

From a civil liberties standpoint, the coup was only one of many covert actions by the CIA — many of which violated the principles of American democracy — that were conducted with essentially no meaningful Congressional oversight. The CIA gained official approval to conduct covert actions on December 17, 1947, and June 18, 1948; and on June 20, 1949, Congress made the agency’s budget secret. The full extent of secret CIA activities did not become widely known until the investigations by the Senate Church Committee (created on January 27, 1975) and the House Pike Committee (created on February 19, 1975).

Read about the history of the CIA: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007)

Read the Senate Church Committee report on CIA assassination plots: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_ir.htm

Watch a documentary on CIA covert actions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJZ8THm_0Jo

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