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Covert Action and the Pike Committee: 1975-76

Covert action played a more limited role in the Pike Committee's inquiry. The committee initially told the Agency it wanted information on covert actions generally over the previous 10 years and planned to look specifically at three recent ones: assistance to certain political parties in the Italian elections of 1972, assistance to the Kurds in northern Iraq from 1972 to 1975, and ongoing activities in Angola.

At first, the committee insisted on discussing these programs in open hearings, but when it met resistance from the Agency, it agreed to have its staff delve into them instead. At its public hearings on covert action, the committee confined itself to examining the public policy issues such programs raised and to looking at the process within the executive branch for approving them.

In its final report, the committee concluded, "All evidence in hand suggests that the CIA, far from being out of control, has been utterly responsive to the instructions of the President and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs." While Agency officials welcomed this conclusion - which appeared intended to offset Senator Church's earlier characterization - they objected to the committee including within its final report, its findings with respect to the three covert action programs it had looked into. The committee refused to take the references to the programs out of its final report, however, and ultimately they were made public as part of the material that was leaked to journalist Daniel Schorr.

Overall, based on its inquiry, the committee concluded that covert actions "were irregularly approved, sloppily implemented, and, at times, forced on a reluctant CIA by the president and his national security advisors." But, apart from assassination attempts, it did not recommend abolishing them altogether. It did recommend that DCIs notify the committees in Congress responsible for the CIA of all covert actions within 48 hours of their implementation.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 00:03:13 ZULU