EPIIC Archives

1988 Covert Action and Democracy

Has the Iran/Contra affair revealed a reckless interventionist U.S. foreign policy; an increasing politicization of our intelligence; and exaggerated reliance on secrecy and privatization in our international relations? Were these events abberations? Have covert operations supplanted diplomacy? Are Congressional and Executive oversight of intelligence and covert action increasingly ineffectual?

Over a decade ago, the Church Committee, concluding its Congressional investigation of abuses of power by U.S. intelligence agencies, recommended procedures that it hoped would at least make covert operations consistent with our democractic process. Yet the findings of the Tower Commission and the Iran/Contra hearings indicated that every one of these recommendations was violated. It is for this reason that our common conclusion is that the United States is at a critical political and Constitutional crossroads.

We have evaluated the efficacy and ethics of covert action in U.S. foreign policy, while also considering the implications of such secret operations for a democractic nation. We have studiously sought to remain as neutral and objective as possible, while inevitably being passionately involved in the inherent political and ethical issues.

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