1974 December 30

Hughes-Ryan Amendment Limits CIA Covert Actions


The Hughes-Ryan Act, an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (originally passed in 1961), stated that no funds could be expended for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covert actions unless and until the President certified the operation was essential to national security. The Amendment, which became effective on this day, also required that relevant committees in Congress receive a description of the operation in a “timely fashion.” The amendment reflected Congressional (and public) disgust with the Vietnam War and a concern that covert actions might embroil the U.S. in another mistaken war.

In the decades that followed, the notification requirement and the related process of oversight by Congressional intelligence committees became essentially ineffective. The CIA learned how to manipulate the process, often by failing to provide full information about planned covert actions, and intelligence committee members were reluctant to probe and question the CIA or presidents.

Learn more about the history of the Hughes-Ryan Act and its implementation: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL33715.pdf

Read: Tim Wiener, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007)

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

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