COVERT ACTION

Generally

1990s

G - K

Godson, Roy. Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1995. JK468I6G62 New intro. Washington, DC: Transaction, 2001.

Clark Comment: Godson defines covert action as "influencing events in other parts of the world without revealing or acknowledging involvement." He defines counterintelligence as "identifying, neutralizing, and exploiting the intelligence activities of others." (p. xii) In this book, he traces the evolution of the practice of covert action and counterintelligence in the United States since 1945, develops some "ideal" principles and techniques for such practices, and analyzes the ongoing gap between principle and practice. The most disconcerting aspect of the book is the author's unusual packaging together of covert action and counterintelligence, two very different intelligence disciplines.

Nonetheless, Friedman, Parameters, Summer 1997, finds that "the combination does no violence to either. In fact the unusual combination supports the author's conclusion that appropriate use of 'dirty tricks' and effective counterintelligence enabled the United States to accomplish many important objectives that might otherwise have been unattainable by more conventional means." Cogan, I&NS 11.2, adds that the "unusual bracketing together of covert action and counterintelligence offers a different perspective from the conventional division in the intelligence business as between information-seeking on the one hand and direct action on the other."

Richelson, Proceedings 122.7 (Jul. 1996), finds the book "disappointing in its failure to confront directly the future of U.S. covert action and counterintelligence activities.... [T]here is no detailed discussion of the international environment in which future U.S. covert action and counterintelligence operations will be conducted.... Godson's book, while useful as background, unfortunately does not take the reader into the future."

For Cohen, FA 74.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1995), much of Godson's effort "is taxonomic -- describing principles of both covert action and counterintelligence -- and necessarily general." Similarly, the AIJ 16.2/3 reviewer calls the work "a methodical, rational and most informative overview." It is "an excellent primer for those who wish to study the topic[s] in context. Highly recommended."

Breckinridge, WIR 15.2, sees Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards as "a valuable contribution to writing on the unusually complex fields of counterintelligence and covert action." The author provides a "focused bibliography," but has a "tendency to cite sources uncritically." The concluding chapter on reform has been "somewhat by-passed so far as practical application is concerned."

According to Sulc, IJI&C 9.1, the "United States sorely needs strong counterintelligence and covert action capabilities as it makes its way through the post-Cold War bush. Roy Godson has taken a giant step in the right direction by producing a very readable, eminently clear explanation of the subjects." In the same vein, Barrett, APSR 91.4, is impressed by the author's "knowledge of political and intelligence history," and finds that "his treatment of the nuts and bolts of counterintelligence and covert action has great depth."

Jonkers, AFIO WIN 08-01 (26 Feb. 2001), reports the publication of a new edition of this work. Godson has added "a substantial introduction ... that looks at ways in which counterintelligence and covert action might be adapted to the new security environment, in particular the growing political-criminal nexus in many strategic regions."

Godson, Roy, with Richard Kerr [Former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence] and Ernest May [Professor of History, Harvard University]. Covert Action in the 1990s. Working Group on Intelligence Reform. Washington, DC: Consortium for the Study of Intelligence, 1992.

Goodman, Allan E., and Bruce D. Berkowitz.

1. The Need to Know: The Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on Covert Action and American Democracy. New York: Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1992. Click for Twentieth Century Fund, The Need to Know...

2. In From the Cold: The Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on the Future of U.S. Intelligence: Background Papers. New York: Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1996.

Horton, John. "Reflections on Covert Action and Its Anxieties." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 4, no. 1 (Spring 1990): 77-90.

Hulnick, Arthur S. "U.S. Covert Action: Does It Have a Future?" International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 9, no. 2 (Summer 1996): 145-157.

The author says that "the question is not whether the United States should have covert action, but how it should have it, who should carry it out, and how it should be managed and controlled."

Ignatius, David. "Openness Is the Secret to Democracy." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 30 Sep.-6 Oct. 1991, 24-25.

"[I]ntelligence collection ... needs to be strengthened, not cut. What may need abolishing is the covert action role that was awkwardly grafted onto the CIA's basic spying mission when the agency was created.... 'A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,' agrees [Allen] Weinstein [of the Center for Democracy]. The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection.... The sugar daddy of overt operations has been the National Endowment for Democracy.... Through the late 1980s, it did openly what had once been unspeakably covert -- dispensing money to anti-Communist forces behind the Iron Curtain.... Covert funding for these groups would have been the kiss of death, if discovered. Overt funding, it would seem, has been a kiss of life."

Johnson, Loch K. "On Drawing a Bright Line for Covert Operations." American Journal of International Law 89 (Apr. 1992): 284-309.

Karabell, Zachary. Architects of Intervention: The United States, the Third World, and the Cold War, 1946-1962. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

Cohen, FA 78.6 (Nov.-Dec. 1999), believes that the author "writes well and does a service by combining case studies on American intervention in Greece, Italy, Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, Cuba, and Laos. He is strongest on Iran and Lebanon, weakest on Cuba and Laos, and includes no studies of intervention by the Soviets, Chinese, British, or French." To Sullivan, I&NS 16.2, this is "a readable engaging work," the basic thesis of which is that "local elites essentially manipulated the United States into intervening in their countries to shore up reactionary forces there."

Knott, Stephen F. Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Clark comment: The focus of this work is the use by U.S. presidents of covert operations in approximately the first 100 years (1776-1882) of American history. However, the presidents who served between 1849 and 1861 are not covered. Knott finds that covert operations did not begin with the Cold War, but rather date back to the Founders. The author concludes with a section on modern-day dilemmas surrounding covert activities, and argues that it is the President who is best situated to decide on whether to pursue the covert option in U.S. foreign policy.

Secret and Sanctioned was named one of the "Outstanding Academic Books of 1996," by the editors of Choice, the publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Rozell, Choice, Jan. 1997, comments that Knott's "most valuable and well-documented insight is that covert activity has its roots in the origins of the republic, not in the Cold War.... Bolstered by meticulous research, this book stands as an effective challenge to the 'imperial presidency' thesis."

Jeffreys-Jones, I&NS 12.4, concedes that Knott has established that "covert operations are not an invention of the post-World War II 'imperial presidency.'" Nevertheless, the author has failed "to consult adequately the published historical literature," especially "some of the most significant works on the American Constitution," in his arguments regarding the intent of the Founders.

For Cohen, FA 75.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1996), part of the book "is an interesting if fairly conventional account" of covert actions from Washington through Lincoln; the remainder is "a polemic against congressional micromanagement ... of the intelligence community." This latter part is "a rehash of old debates," and the author's "preoccupation with the controversies of the present mars the book's treatment of the past." Nevertheless, the first six chapters represent "a useful account of successful cloak-and-dagger work that predates this century." Similarly, Johnson, APSR 91.1, suggests that "[d]espite the commendable value of his historical research, Knott is on less firm ground when he turns to the modern era."

Kronenwetter, Michael. Covert Action. London: Franklin Watts, 1991.

Surveillant 1.5: This is an "even-handed, fact-filled review of the origin and history of covert action by the United States.... For Grades 9-12, young readers, but packed with enough facts to interest adults."

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