Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency

Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency

Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency

Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency

Synopsis

Since its inception in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency has been vital to maintaining national security. Yet the covert action programs managed by the intelligence agency at the behest of American presidents have often been misunderstood and the agency itself deemed suspect in its operations and priorities. In Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency, William J. Daugherty, a seventeen-year veteran operations officer with the C.I.A., explains the nature of the intelligence discipline of covert action and presidential decision making processes since World War II. By examining the agency's history in this way, he establishes and clarifies the role of covert action as a necessary tool of presidential statecraft. Daugherty refutes the widespread notion that the C.I.A. often behaves, in the words of the late Idaho senator Frank Church, like a "rogue elephant" rampaging out of control, initiating risky covert action programs without the knowledge, much less the sanction, of either Congress or the White House. Daugherty illustrates how these and other misperceptions about covert action have seeped into the public consciousness. He argues that covert action is a legitimate foreign policy option and examines the congressional and legal oversight of these actions.

Excerpt

Those of us who have lived long enough ought to be able to summon a sense of humor regarding the country’s current impatience with the quality of its Central Intelligence Agency. Ever since the Islamo-facist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the nation’s attitude toward its intelligence community has been one of disappointment, if not scorn. Why didn’t we know? Why hadn’t we acted more aggressively to prevent the attacks? Why were we so unprepared to respond? Why did we lack the language skills, contacts, influence, and ability to infiltrate the deadly cells of our enemy? Just yesterday (as I write this in April 2004) George Tenet, the current besieged cia director, provoked gasps of disbelief by stating that it will take five years for the Agency to build a global human intelligence network suitable for combating ongoing terrorist threats.

I can remember a time when the idea of expanding the CIA’s reach and power would have provoked outrage. in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate and the revelations that various presidents have spied on the American people, a venerable posse was formed that damn near lynched the entire intelligence community. the very idea of spying and acting covertly became disreputable. Conspiratorialists found evidence of cia meddling under every rock. For most of my adult life, any mention of the spy Agency has prompted suspicion of unlawful meddling, dirty tricks, scandal, and a kind of bullet-headed redneck American approach to foreign policy.

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