Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions [Updated January 28, 2008]   [open pdf - 100KB]

"This report examines the statutory procedures governing covert action and associated questions to consider. Published reports have suggested that in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon has expanded its counter-terrorism intelligence activities as part of what the Bush Administration terms the global war on terror. Some observers have asserted that the Department of Defense (DOD) may be conducting certain kinds of counterterrorism intelligence activities that would statutorily qualify as 'covert actions,' and thus require a presidential finding and the notification of the congressional intelligence committees. Defense officials assert that none of DOD's current counter-terrorist intelligence activities constitute covert action as defined under the law, and therefore, do not require a presidential finding and the notification of the intelligence committees. Rather, they contend that DOD conducts only 'clandestine activities.' Although the term is not defined by statute, these officials characterize such activities as constituting actions that are conducted in secret, but which constitute 'passive' intelligence information gathering. By comparison, covert action, they contend, is 'active,' in that its aim is to elicit change in the political, economic, military, or diplomatic behavior of a target."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33715
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