Principles of Covert Action

At the outset of a new administration, it is prudent for incoming officials to bring CIA expertise in and look back at covert action, exploring what’s worked, what’s fallen short, and why.

Presidents since George Washington have come to understand that strategic opportunity sometimes lies in the shadows. Since the end of World War II, every administration has turned to the CIA to run covert action programs on behalf of the president. How a new administration comes to view covert action is based in part on how it understands its historic usefulness and the limitations of past and present programs.

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