Author: William J Daugherty
Publisher: Manas Publications
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170492262
Since its inception in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency has been vital to maintaining national security. Yet the covert action programs managed by the intelligence agency at the behest of American presidents have often been misunderstood and the agency itself deemed suspect in its operations and priorities. In Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency, William J Dougherty, a seventeen year veteran operations officer with the CIA, explains the nature of the intelligence discipline of covert action and presidential decision making process since World War II. By examining the agency’s history in this way, he establishes and clarifies the role of covert action as necessary tool of presidential statecraft.
Daugherty refutes the widespread notion that the CIA often behave, in the words of the late Idaho senator Frank Church, like a rouge elephant rampaging out of control, initiating risky covert action programs without the knowledge, much less the sanction, of either Congress or the White House. Daugherty illustrates how these and other misperceptions about covert action is a legitimate foreign policy option and examines the congressional and legal oversight of these actions.
Citing congressional investigations, recently declassified documents, and his own experience in covert action policy and oversight, Daugherty demonstrates that the CIA’s covert addition to explaining how covert programs transform presidential foreign policy into reality, he details how each president conducted the approval, oversight, and review processes for covert action and examines specific instances in which US presidents have expressly directed CIA covert action programs to suit their broader policy objectives.
A former Marine Corps aviator with a combat tour in Vietnam, Daugherty’s first tour with the CIA was in Iran, where he was one of fifty-two Americans held hostages for 444 days during the carter administration. Combining unique inside perspectives with sober objectivity in judging the true nature and scope of CIA covert actions during the last half century, Daugherty revels an agency whose essential functions are necessary in a complex and often dangerous modern world.
Daugherty has done us all a tremendous service by attempting to rescue the agency from the myths, both well-meaning and malevolent, that shape our understanding of it, This book ought to dispel some of the fog that obscures our understanding of the CIA and that prompts the gigantic mood swings in our attitude toward intelligence gathering and covert actions.
-Mark Bowden, from the foreword
Readers of this timely and occasionally revelatory account may be surprised to learn President Carter approved a covert action program to attack the internal legitimacy of the Soviet system, and that he repeatedly relied on covert action to achieve his foreign policy aims.
This is a hard-hitting, balanced, and highly successful effort to deal with the issue of presidential responsibility for covert action. Daugherty’s experiences and background give him insights to this process which may be controversial, but are solidly grounded in the reality of policy/ decision making.
-John D Stempel, Patterson School of diplomacy, University of Kentucky