1948 June 18

CIA Gets Covert Action Authority


National Security Council Directive 10/2, regarding the Office of Special Projects, on this day gave the CIA formal authority to conduct covert actions overseas. The CIA had been already conducting covert actions since it was established in 1947, but this directive made it official. Some of its most important early covert actions involved providing secret financial support to centrist and anti-Communist political candidates in Italy and France in 1947 and 1948.

The CIA also engineered a coup that overthrew the government of Iran in 1953 and then the government of Guatemala in 1954. And as documented by the Senate Church Committee (created on January 27, 1975) in 1975-76, the CIA also plotted the assassination of a number of foreign leaders .

In the War on Terrorism under President George W. Bush, the CIA engaged in the torture of terrorist suspects. The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a blistering report on the CIA abuses on December 9, 2014.

Directive 10/2: “5. As used in this directive, ‘covert operations’ are understood to be all activities (except as noted herein) 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 uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them. Specifically, such operations shall include any covert activities related to: propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world. Such operations shall not include armed conflict by recognized military forces, espionage, counter-espionage, and cover and deception for military operations.”

Read the full Directive 10/2: http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1945-50Intel/d292

Learn more about the history of the CIA: Tim Wiener, A Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007)

Learn more about CIA covert actions: John Jacob Nutter, The CIA’s Black OPS: Covert Action, Foreign Policy, and Democracy (2000)

Documents and analysis of CIA covert actions are available at the National Security Archive: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/

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