World War II had seen a wide variety of special operations conducted by both Allied and Axis powers -- including black propaganda, paramilitary operations, and assassinations. Nations would develop their own terminology and euphemisms for such activities. United States officials would talk in terms of "covert action," "special activities," and, in extreme cases, "executive action." In Britain one euphemism was "secret political action." In the Soviet Union there were "active measures" and "wet affairs."
However they might be referred to, such techniques would continue to be employed in the postwar era to achieve foreign policy objectives. Not only the superpowers but a variety of other nations would employ such techniques. Some operations would advance a nation's interest, others would prove to be failures, and still others would backfire in dramatic and embarrassing fashion.
When the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) convened for the first time on December 19, 1947, the battle for Europe was already under way, and it was feared that Italy and France were both vulnerable to the appeal of their Communist parties. With Secretary of State George Marshall refusing to let the State Department conduct covert activities, the council turned to the CIA. Under the provisions of NSC directive 4/A, the CIA was authorized to undertake a broad range of covert activities to prevent a Communist party victory in the upcoming Italian elections. DCI Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoeter assigned the task to the CIA's Office of Special Operations, which established a Special Procedures Group (SPG) on December 22. 1*____________________