Magazine article The Nation

A Mini-C.I.A

Magazine article The Nation

A Mini-C.I.A

Article excerpt

The Reagan Administration asserts that the Boland amendment does not cover the National Security Council because the N.S.C. is not engaged in intelligence activities. Yet in 1981 President Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, which states the "NSC shall act as the highest Executive Branch entity that provides review of, guidance for, and direction to the conduct of all national foreign intelligence counterintelligence and special activities and attendant policies and programs."

"Special activities" is a euphemism employed for covert operations like those the N.S.C. carried out in support of the contras. The order is clear: The N.S.C. is to direct not only intelligence gathering but covert operations as well. That brings it squarely under the Boland amendment as an agency "involved in intelligence activities."

In retrospect it is also clear that authorizing N.S.C. direction of, and deeper involvement in, covert action was one of the purposes of the executive order. President Reagan's directive replaced President Carter's Executive Order 12306. Under the Carter order, the N.S.C. oversaw all national foreign and counterintelligence activities; President Reagan added to its responsibilities the "direction" of "special activities" an"attendant policies and programs."

Other changes made by Reagan in the Carter order are equally important. Under Executive Order 12306, a Special Coordination Committee was to make recommendations to the President on each proposed covert activity. Neither the President nor any of his close personal advisers were on this body. No covert operations could be approved except at a designated meeting attended by the committee's members.

President Reagan, on the other hand, did not activate such a committee. In fact, the only group he set up to oversee covert operations was the National Security Planning Group, and its members include the President and his personal advisers, making it the most powerful body ever created to direct covert operations. …

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