The Logic of Covert Action

Because the United States and the Soviet Union are no longer competing in Third World proxy wars, the rationale for most traditional covert action has disappeared. However, new threats such as terrorism and proliferation may sometimes require the

Issue: Spring 1998

Few U.S. government activities are as controversial as covert action.
Americans may disagree about the specifics of trade policy or defense
spending, but covert action is controversial to the core. Many covert
operations, if carried out by different persons and under other
circumstances, would be plainly and seriously criminal. The process
for reviewing and approving such operations tests the limits of
democracy. It is not surprising, therefore, that while some officials
and pundits are firmly of the opinion that we need to maintain covert
action as an option, others insist that the United States has no
business carrying out such operations in any circumstances.

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