Covert Action



Covert action refers to a tool of foreign policy used to advanceparticular national interests. Granted, it is selectively deployeddepending on the conditions in target countries. Covert action isusually used upon approval by the President (Turner, 2005).Subsequently, Congress oversees all operations and procedures toensure that the nation`s mission is accomplished. In some instances,policymakers prefer to use secret means to perform military,economic, and political tasks. Consequently, covert operations maskthe role of the perpetrators and hence grant the government plausibledeniability (Johnson, 2015). Nevertheless, the CIA`s responsibilityof carrying out covert action does not create a conflict of interestwith regards to the collection of information for strategicintelligence analysis.

The National Clandestine Service (NCS) was formed in 2005 as a branchof the CIA (Turner, 2005). It was created to address pertinentshortcomings in the collection of human intelligence. The importanceof having clandestine services eliminates the seeming conflict ofinterest created by having the CIA gather intelligence from itsagency. The value of the NCS is highlighted through a considerationof several factors. Firstly, solving transnational problems requiresthe input of individual components across different countries.Inevitably, trade and commerce interconnections create thepossibility of having shared complications (Johnson and Wirtz, 2008).In this regard, the difficulties experienced in one country spread toother states within a short period. Therefore, clandestine operationsare essential to creating secret alliances that foster internationalcollaboration.

Furthermore, clandestine operators possess the ability to infiltratemultinational corporations and exploit any weaknesses. Otherintelligence units lack the capabilities of the NCS in handlinginternational issues of diplomacy. Moreover, clandestine operationshave future-oriented policies that seek to tackle probable issues ofinsecurity. Clandestine operators have the skills required to conductmissions in regions where terrorist networks and other criminalelements thrive (Kinzer, 2008). In addition, the NCS will remainsuccessful against future targets. Therefore, the actions of the CIAin allowing the agency to thrive cannot be categorized as a conflictof interest.

Moreover, human society is replete with different types ofcommunities and organizations. Rulers in foreign governments have themandate to make decisions that impact their citizens in various ways.For example, some leaders may adopt a lax attitude towards securitymeasures such as background checks. Subsequently, radicalizedindividuals may become emboldened to aim their attacks towards theU.S (Johnson, 2015). Therefore, clandestine operations are essentialsince they help to reveal underhanded initiatives that pose a threatto national security. The CIA would not knowingly jeopardize any ofits missions since public safety is paramount.

Espionage has the utmost suitability with regards to discoveringdeliberations, intentions, and plans. A trained spy would know how toacquire hidden intelligence. The NCS utilizes a network ofconditioned spies to gather information from identified targets.Other branches of the CIA would customarily focus on more discernibletypes of intelligence. For example, agents could observe themovements of enemy troops to establish the best times for launchingattacks (Johnson and Wirtz, 2015). Communication taps could also beused to listen to discussions of criminal plots. Furthermore,detection technology could be utilized to highlight the presence ofbiological and chemical weapons. Notwithstanding the effectiveness ofother intelligence units, spies make greater contributions tonational security. Consequently, the collaborative efforts of all CIAunits eliminate any assumptions of conflict of interest.

Global developments have lessened the work of intelligenceoperations. In many societies, information has been made availablethrough social media and other Web 2.0 platforms. In this respect,the proliferation of the Internet has ensured the availability ofmore information than at any other period (Johnson, 2015).Consequently, previously closed cultures and societies have beenexposed to the public. Also, economic and political integration haveimproved international relations. In fact, some countries activelyparticipate in exchange programs for students and expatriates.Frequent collaborations occur in scientific missions to shareinformation and technology. Moreover, people can move freely overvast distances. In some instances, sensitive documents have beenposted on online platforms by unscrupulous reformists (Tenet, 2007).Therefore, the increased transparency of information has nullifiedthe seeming conflict of interest in the CIA’s covert actions.

Granted, fundamental challenges continue to be posed bycounterespionage individuals and groups. Hostile intelligence unitsseek to undermine the government’s mandate by spreading slanderouspropaganda. In this respect, they utilize the CIA’s clause ofplausible deniability to create vagueness (Johnson and Wirtz, 2008).The exposure of ongoing operations endangers the lives of activeagents. It also forces the intelligence agencies to halt theiractivities regardless of the mission’s goals. Notably, a long chainof command increases the likelihood of information leaks. Under suchcircumstances, the CIA would be required to raise the levels ofclearance in the case of high-ranking officials. Restricting theaccessibility of intelligence frustrates the persons who reapfinancial benefits from selling confidential government documents andstatements. In many instances, attempts to share information withother agencies lead to leaks whenever communication is intercepted bycriminals (Johnson and Wirtz, 2008). Consequently, the CIA’sprograms of covert action lack a conflict of interest.

In addition, the overwhelming success of covert operations seems tojustify the actions of the NCS and the CIA. In recent decades, theFederal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has investigated espionagecases arising from covert operations (Johnson, 2015). The high numberof penetrations into foreign criminal networks has provided plenty ofactionable intelligence. Granted, latest executive orders havefocused on increasing intelligence analysis. Nonetheless, theinformation acquired from clandestine operations will continue to beimportant in the fight against terrorism (Kinzer, 2008). Furthermore, clandestine operators have outstanding potential toguarantee the success of future intelligence-gathering initiatives.In this respect, the intelligence community relies on the NCS tofoster its clandestine operations and increase the likelihood ofpreventing cyber-attacks. In fact, clandestine operators contributeto the success of cryptographic systems since they can compromisecodes while maintaining anonymity (Tenet, 2007). Therefore, the CIA’sclandestine operations cannot be referred to as conflicts ofinterest.

Indeed, the CIA’s duties with regards to covert operations do notcreate situations of conflict of interest. The U.S. government usescovert action as a foreign policy in particular countries. Covertactions are used to cause military, economic, and political effectssuch as regime change. The CIA formed a clandestine wing in 2005 toassist with the effort to collect intelligence. The limitations ofthe intelligence network led to the formation of the NCS. Thefuture-oriented policies of the NCS make it crucial for nationalsecurity. In this regard, the organization works to collectinformation that would be useful to the American government. Althoughother sources of intelligence are sufficient for visible changes inenemy nations, the NCS uses spies to discover secret plots.Consequently, the benefits of the NCS justify the CIA’s action touse covert operations.


Johnson, Loch K. Essentials of strategic intelligence. SantaBarbara, California: Praeger, 2015.

Johnson, Loch K and James Wirtz. Intelligence and NationalSecurity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah`s Men: An American coup and theroots of Middle East terror. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley &ampSons, 2008.

Tenet, George. At the Center of the Storm. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Turner, Stansfield. Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIADirectors, and Secret Intelligence. New York: Hyperion, 2005.