The Shadow War

By Parrini, Michelle; Williams, Charles F. | Social Education, September 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Shadow War

Parrini, Michelle, Williams, Charles F., Social Education

"There is always a possibility that a secret police may become a menace to flee government and free institutions because it carries with it the possibility of abuses of power which are not always quickly apprehended or understood."

--The Church Committee Report, 19767 (1)

The recent London subway bombings drew renewed attention to the difficulties facing government attempts to uncover and intercept terror plots; though there may now be more awareness of the issue, nations have been trying to learn their enemy's secrets since the beginning of recorded history. Spies appear in Homer's Greek epic, the Iliad. Ancient Roman writings are filled with accounts of intrigue and assassination plots. Caesar's secret agents looked out for his interests in Rome. Sun Tzu's The Art of War (500 BC) describes espionage and the use of human intelligence as key to successful warfare. An extensive political intelligence system served Elizabeth I. And both British and American forces employed secret agents, ciphers, and codes, during the Revolutionary War. George Washington's coordination of spies and evaluation of their intelligence information is credited with giving the Americans the strategic advantage to overcome the superior military power of the British.

However, it wasn't until the twentieth century that the United States established a single independent government agency devoted to gathering human intelligence. American support for both intelligence and counterintelligence efforts has waxed and waned, depending on the perceived national-security threats. A poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States found that public support for increased spending to gather intelligence on other countries increased 39 percent between 1998-2002. (2) Public and congressional opinion about the appropriate scope of covert government activities, and perceptions that intelligence practices have at times been excessive, have also influenced voters' support for intelligence methods. For instance, in the mid-seventies, congressional inquiries uncovered the FBI's COINTELPRO (an acronym for "COunter INTELligence PROgram") and the CIA's "Operation CHAOS" domestic intelligence practices, marring the reputation of both agencies. According to the congressional report known as the Church Report:

   COINTELPRO began in 1956,
   in part because of frustration
   with Supreme Court rulings
   limiting the Government's
   power to proceed overtly
   against dissident groups; it
   ended in 1971 with the threat
   of public exposure. In the intervening
   15 years, the Bureau
   conducted a sophisticated vigilante
   operation aimed squarely
   at preventing the exercise of
   First Amendment rights of
   speech and association, on
   the theory that preventing the
   growth of dangerous groups
   and the propagation of dangerous
   ideas would protect the
   national security and deter violence
   ... Many of the techniques
   used would be intolerable
   in a democratic society even
   if all of the targets had been
   involved in violent activity,
   but COINTELPRO went far
   beyond that. The unexpressed
   major premise of the programs
   was that a law enforcement
   agency has the duty to do whatever
   is necessary to combat perceived
   threats to the existing
   social and political order. (3)

Congressional investigations also revealed CIA covert operations to help overthrow elected left-wing governments in Guatemala (1954) and Chile (1973). U.S. intelligence agencies were allegedly involved in attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic), and Ngo Dinh Diem (Vietnam). According to the Church Report:

* The CIA illegally opened and photographed mail to or from American citizens for 20 years (1953-1973), generating a computer database of 1.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Shadow War


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?