The US Covert Action Essay Paper Assignment

The US Covert Action
The US Covert Action

The US Covert Action

Order Instructions:

Please use two sources per question

Question 1:
George Kennan authored a policy document—NSC 10/2—that characterized covert action as those activities “so planned and conducted that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the U.S. government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them” (Scott and Rosati 2007).

Is this a realistic expectation for any covert action? Meaning, can we really expect the U.S. hand to remain “hidden” even if the action is discovered? If this is not realistic then why continue with the policy of plausible deniability? Or are there measures that can be put in place to make it a continued viable policy?

Question 2:
Compare any two of the cases discussed in the course (except the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Tunnel). Base your analysis with the questions provided in the “Lecture Notes” for Week 1:

(1) What was the objective of each operation? Was there an overriding policy imperative or were they missions to gain access to the adversary’s information?

(2) What oversight or legal review occurred during their planning?

(3) Who or which organizations were accountable for the operations? What turf issues arose prior to or during the operations?

(4) What resources were necessary to successfully carry them out?

(5) What was the cost/benefit analysis of each operation? Weigh their risks, especially when they are publicly exposed.

(6) In evaluating each operation, what objectives were achieved and what unintended consequences occurred?

For question 2, please use Congo assassination against Partice Lumumba and the Iran-Contra arms embargo in the 1980s whereby the US sold weapons to Iran through the Israelis to fund the Nicaraguan COntras as the two covert operations.

Question 3:

Please review this hypothetical situation and indicate whether covert action is appropriate (b) identify the risks and benefits of a covert action identify legal hurdles and decide whether the President should inform all the relevant Congressional intelligence committees or limit knowledge to the “Gang of Eight.” Take into consideration political ramifications and possible blowback.

Concern has built up over Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power and his actions against the Syrian opposition. Through a variety of sources, the CIA believes it has a reliable asset inside the regime that could either organize a coup or “eliminate” the leader. The President has asked you to give him an honest assessment on the possibilities for both.


The US Covert Action

Question one

On June 18, 1948, a new directive given from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) came up with a new directive, NSC 10/2, which superseded the NSC 4-A. The NSC 2/10 gave directives on a new operation called covert action rather than the mere physiological operations as they were used and defined in the NSC 4-A.  The covert actions were defined as those activities and operations, which were conducted or sponsored by the U.S. Government against hostile foreign states or groups in support of friendly foreign states or groups, but which are so planned and executed that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered, the U.S. government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility. It is not possible for any military operation to be carried out without them getting known to the public that it is the U.S. government behind those operations [1].

The design of the communications and flow of directives gives room or gaps for the leakage of the information. First, the directive requires the creation of a new Office of Special Projects during any covert operation. The office shall be run by a Chief Officer who shall be appointed by the joint committees of security, CIA and National Security Council. The officer shall be reporting to the director of CIA who shall also report to the National Security Council. The NSC is responsible for holding meetings and making decisions that are to be followed by the Chief of the office of Special Projects.  These series of communications and decision-making has involved so many people that we cannot trust anybody along the line of communication for keeping the information secret. There are officers who may not be satisfied with such operations and in turn will have to expose the operations to the enemies. There have been so many U.S. army officers who have left operations because they have felt that what the country is doing is not right, and such people have ended up exposing the government [2].

Army operations cannot just be carried out in an imaginary manner, since they are real. The U.S. is one of the world’s strongest countries and its form of attack is unique from the others. This is very evident in the kind of weapons that they use and the way they carry their operations. Therefore, the country cannot support another country in the fight without getting noticed; they shall be notice, the news will be all over the world, and it will be too easy to deny.

Deniability of action is not the best form of defending our country from retaliatory form of attack, but rather installing proper security systems will be very important. Proper measures need to be put in place in order to keep the covert actions very secretive. One of this is to ask the U.S. government never to involve themselves directly in the field as fighters. This will help in hiding the direct identity by the enemies. The possible action that can be taken is to offer financial support to the nations that the U.S. supports so that they can buy the weapons by themselves without giving out its weapons to those nations.

Secondly, whenever the operations are carried out, it is very necessary to remove very length bureaucracies that are unnecessary. The communication line should involve as few people as possible. Long communication lines provide loopholes along the communication through which the information can leak out to the enemies [2]. For instance, the CIA director does not have to report to the NSC for decisions affecting the CIA, let all the decisions be made within CIA. Let the operations be very dependent they should not be monitored with other security agents. The appointment of the Chief of Special Projects let it be done in a very secretive manner and the appointment of the soldiers should be done through thorough scrutiny for the most trustworthy soldiers [2].

Question two

The selling of arms to foreign countries was banned in the early 1980s, but during that time, there were a series of protests in Iran where there were demonstrations carried out against the then president Shah. Shah was one of the closest friends to the United Nations in that time. The demonstrations were so violent and so many U.S. citizens were taken to captivity by the revolutionists. The Nicaraguan rebels also arrested great U.S. government officials and took them captive. This prompted the U.S. to act in order to save the captives. In a bid to save the situation, the then U.S. president Reagan initiated the Boland amendments that prohibited the Defense department, The CIA and any other government agencies, from providing military aid to the contras from December 1983. The Reagan administration circumvented these limitations by using the National Security Council (NSC), which was not so much recognized in the law, to issue arms to the contras [3]. Reagan approved the plan for the sale of weapons to the Iranians. The first missiles were sent from Israel to Iran and after that, American hostage Benjamin was released. In the second plan, they negotiated on the release of Major General Richard. The second load of missiles was released and Major General Richard was released. The funds from the sale of the missiles were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras through a second enterprise. Reagan authorized the transfer of arms to Iran through the enterprise in order to remove U.S from liability. After that, they took for the third transaction for the release of U.S. citizen who were held hostage. On February 1986, US sent 1000TOWs to Iran but then things did not work out because they were not released. Later, the story got exposed by a Lebanese newspaper and the transaction was stopped after the hostages were released. This destroyed the relationship between the U.S. and Iran [3].

In Congo, there were mixed interests in the mineral rich country. The U.S. was keeping close watch on it, and the Soviet Union too was watching the country closely [4]. The country was colonized by the Belgium by then but in the fight for freedom, Patrice Lumumba became the first prime minister for the Congo Republic. The economic interest in the country by the US saw the country blown down to pieces with a series of fights. Upon taking office, Patrice Lumumba started to fight against the Belgium in an effort to end the European control over the mineral rich country. Lumumba’s government wrote to the UN to help them in the fight but their requests were turned down because the US was interested in the country. Congo turned to Moscow for help who responded by offering military planes that flew the Lumumba’s troops to Katanga province, which was one of the country’s richest province that was totally controlled by the Belgium troops [4]. The US sent in the CIA for a covert operation to end the Lumumba regime. The CIA had to meddle into the Congolese politics to influence the politics so that they can achieve their aims. It was one of the most expensive covert actions with a series of unsuccessful attempts of murdering Lumumba. However, it was one of the very successful covert actions in which the US never engaged in direct attacks with the Soviets and China military. The CIA in coordination with the Belgian intelligence subsidized two opposition senators to pass a vote of no confidence with the government of Lumumba. After the passing of the vote of no confidence then they were to nominate one of the senators as the new prime minister. They also funded the demonstrations, labor movements and propaganda against Lumumba. The move by the CIA faced a lot of drawbacks and at last, the CIA found Mobutu who they used to turn against Lumumba [5]. Mobutu took over and Lumumba was arrested and provided protection under the UN troops. Later on, he was shot dead at Katanga. In terms of cost benefit analysis, this covert operation was very expensive unnecessarily. The government spent a lot of money in the attacks against the Lumumba government. At last, they achieved the objective of dominating the Congo politics and influencing the mineral rich country.

Question three

The covert actions do not demonstrate the elements of respect to democracy and human rights [6]. The covet actions especially after the cold war are signs of lack of democratic growth in the way the US government intervenes in the operation of security in other countries. The covert actions have led to demonstrations in which friends and relatives have lost their loved ones. The covert actions have been conducted through the funding of the opposition leaders of the countries in question so that they can rally against the government of the day. A democratically elected government is removed from power in a democratic manner, which is the rule of democracy. The use of money and power to influence the actions of other nations around the world are actions of the late centuries, which were very beneficial during the time of the cold war and the world war. In this era, these methods are cannot be tolerated in US which is believed to be one of the worlds democratic countries [6].

The use of the covert action has led to the loss of several US soldiers in the name of keeping the interests of the country in other countries. This has brought a lot of discomfort in the security of the nation in the fear of retaliatory attacks from the enemies. There have been several measures that have been put in place in order to ensure that the country is safe, some of these methodologies have caused a lot of discomfort to the citizens of the nation. In fact, the covert actions have seen the US making a lot of enemies instead of friends a trend which is totally unacceptable in the global world [7].

Another disadvantage of the covert action is the amount of resources, both financial and weapons, that are utilized in the conduct of the covert actions. These resources should be utilized in running other beneficial projects that can help improve the life of the Americans.

In essence, the only benefit that the US gains in all these covert actions is the respect as a supper powerful country of the world. They have continually gained control and maintained their selfish interests in the countries where these actions have been carried out. The country has benefitted so much in terms of trade but this trade is only exploitative to those countries. This has seen the economy of the US kept on top if the world map but from unfair and exploitative means of controlling governments for their benefits [7].

In the case of the Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power and his actions against the Syrian opposition, the US government should come in a friendly party interested in ending the situation under question. The president should seek more democratic and official means of ending conflicts in a country. These can involve mediations and negotiations to be carried out. The two opposing parties should be able to come to the agreement and live a peaceful life together. The president should organize for a convoy that will reunite the Syrian government in a democratic manner without causing any side effects. This will ensure respect to democracy and human rights. This is the best way for the US president to intervene; humanity and peace for the Syrians should prevail against economic interests of the US.


[1] U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967: Note on U.S. Covert Actions. Retrieved from

[2] Corke, S. 2006. George Kennan and the Inauguration of Political Warfare. Journal of  Conflict Studies. vol 26, No 1 (2006): Dalhousie University

[3] Isenberg, D. (1989). The Pitfalls of U.S. Covert Operations. Policy Analysis for Iranian case. Retrieved from on 26th October, 2014.

[4] Slattery, L. (2001). The Congo: How and why the West organized Lumumba’s assassination.

Review of two BBC documentaries: Who Killed Lumumba?, and Mobutu. Retrieved from

[5]What really happened in Congo? (2014, October 26). Retrieved from on 26th October 2014

[6] Best, R. (1996). Covert Action: An Effective Instrument for U.S foreign Policy? CRS Report

for Congress on Foreign Affairs and National Defence Division. Retrieved from on 26th October, 2014.

[7]Bennett, Edward Moore (1985), Franklin D. Roosevelt and the. Search for Security:

American–Soviet Relations, 1933–39, Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources, p. 24, ISBN

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